Terror has a new name in Assam — Adivasi National Liberation Army (Anla).
In a state where older, bigger outfits such as the Ulfa and NDFB grab most of the attention, lesser groups often have to make an explosive statement to announce their arrival. The Anla chose the Rajdhani Express on Thursday to make that statement.
The Anla began with minor blasts earlier this month. On December 4, they damaged the headlight of the Dibrugarh-bound Kamrup Express near Bokajan in Karbi Anglong district. Three days later, another blast singed the Arunachal Express between Harisinga and Tangla in Darrang district.
After the Kamrup Express blast, senior Assam Police officials said the execution was amateurish, indicating it was not the handiwork of Ulfa or other “professional groups”. Going by that, it took a little over a week for the Anla to turn professional.
The group is a rag-tag outfit of rebellious plantation workers formed a little more than a year ago. According to intelligence officials, the Ulfa — it has in recently years been inducting Adivasi “soldiers” — allegedly patronised the ANLA. The NSCN (Isak-Muivah) too, stands accused of backing the predominantly Christian Anla, providing arms and training to its 150-odd members in the interiors of Karbi Anglong district, adjoining Nagaland.
Anla was formed ostensibly to fight for the rehabilitation of tea plantation workers in Assam whose ancestors were brought from northern India by the British. Another major demand of the group headed by David Tirkey is that the community be given Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
Restricted to kidnapping and extortion until recently, the Anla reared its head after the November 24 violence in the city during which two Adivasi activists were killed and a 16-year-old girl stripped. “Anla is presumably trying to cash in on the anger among the 60 lakh Adivasis inhabiting the tea belts of Assam,” said a senior intelligence officer.
Following Thursday's blast, a man identifying himself as David Tirkey called up media houses claiming responsibility for the attack. The call was made from a landline number bearing the Jharkhand code. Earlier this week, Anla deputy commander Raj Munda told the police that Tirkey runs the show from Jharkhand.
Munda and six others were caught here on Monday.
Other than the Anla, authorities are wary of backlash from the Adivasi Cobra Force. Though it is under a ceasefire agreement at present, the outfit has reportedly been co-ordinating with the Jharkhand Disom Party for an economic blockade on Assam.