There’s no business like extortion-driven militancy in the Northeast. The reported birth of a new outfit in the North Cachar Hills district of Assam, coinciding with the process of surrender of a dreaded tribal outfit, makes this apparent.
Earlier this month, 373 of some 450 members of Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel) outfit deposited their weapons and moved to designated camps. It raised hopes of peace returning to ethnically volatile NC Hills, but the reported emergence of another tribal outfit – Halam National Liberation Front (HNLF) – has somewhat dented the peace process.
The DHD (J) is partial to the Dimasas, the largest of 12 major ethnic groups in NC Hills. The HNLF represents the Hrangkhols, who number some 4,000 in and around district headquarters Haflong.
According to Intelligence officials, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) has been propping up HNLF as a bulwark against the DHD (J) and its parent group DHD (Nunisa), which had surrendered a few years back.
Both DHD factions are opposed to the Naga militants’ presence in NC Hills and their perception of a Dimasa homeland includes parts of Nagaland. The NSCN (I-M), on the other hand, wants a large chunk of NC Hills to be included in its map of Greater Nagaland.
“The NSCN (I-M) had inducted 21 Hrankhol youths and trained them in its Hebron Camp near Dimapur (in Nagaland) to ensure a share of the extortion and arms dealing market in NC Hills,” reports quoting Special Branch and a former Assam police chief said.
However, NC Hills superintendent of police Anurag Tankha said he was not in the know of any new outfit floated by the Hrangkhols. “We would certainly be looking into these reports,” he told Hindustan Times from Haflong.
Johnny Paithong, spokesman of an apex body of Hrangkhols, too denied NSCN (I-M) links with youths of the community. “The Hrangkhols are a peaceful community, but at the same time we are committed to protecting our interests,” he said.
Non-Dimasas, notably, have been at the receiving end in NC Hills since 2003. For several months that year, Dimasas clashed with Hmars in certain pockets. Attacks and counter-attacks by Dimasa and Karbi militants on villages of each other’s communities followed. The latest ethnic violence – between March and August this year – saw the Dimasas and Zeme Nagas pitted against each other, claiming over 50 lives.