Insurgency in Assam on a downswing; only two major outfits are active

Feb 06, 2022 05:28 PM IST

In the past five years, 16 small and big outfits have laid down arms and joined the mainstream. Only the United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) and Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) remain active.

A day after Republic Day celebrations, 246 militants from two terrorist outfits of Assam, Tiwa Liberation Army (TLA) and United Gorkha Peoples Organisation (UGPO), formally surrendered and laid down arms before Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in Guwahati.

An insurgent handing over arms to Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma at Guwahati last month. (TWITTER/@Himanta Biswa Sarma.)
An insurgent handing over arms to Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma at Guwahati last month. (TWITTER/@Himanta Biswa Sarma.)

Members of both the outfits deposited 277 various types of arms, grenades and 720 rounds of ammunition at the function. While 77 cadres of TLA, which was formed in 2014, surrendered and laid down arms, the rest 169 were from UGPO, which came into existence in 2007.

The ceremony was like several others the state has seen in the past two years. Cadres of terror outfits of various kinds have surrendered, laid down arms and taken rehabilitation packages to join the mainstream.

“In last two years we have managed to have all major militant groups surrender arms and join the mainstream. I urge United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) and Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), the two remaining major extremist groups, to come forward and sit in peace talks with Government of India,” CM Sarma after the January 27 event.

Insurgency in Assam started in April, 1979 with the formation of ULFA—as an offshoot of the anti-foreigner’s agitation against inflow of illegal immigrants to the state from Bangladesh (former East Pakistan). The stated aim of the outfit was to create an independent Assam.

A decade later, Bodo Security Force (BSF) was formed in the areas of lower Assam. The outfit, which represented the Bodo community, sought to create an independent Bodo nation.

This was followed by emergence of many outfits of different communities with diverse goals. As per South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP), at one point Assam had 60 different terror outfits.

While a peace deal was signed by Centre with BSF in 1993, other Bodo outfits like National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), which has several factions and Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) emerged, which continued its activities in the Bodo areas for many years.

In February, 2011, ULFA split into two groups—one group led by chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa that decided to give up its violent past and sit for talks with Centre without any condition and another led by commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah, which decided against talks and rebranded as ULFA-Independent.

“NDFB came under ceasefire in 2005 and another faction gave up arms in 2010. The discussions were going on with other NDFB factions, but the problem remained,” said Additional DGP (Special Branch) Hiren Chandra Nath.

“In 2020, all three remaining factions of NDFB surrendered and a new peace deal was signed with Centre and Assam government. As per the deal, all of them disbanded themselves and deposited all their arms. Now those surrendered rebels are being rehabilitated. In past two years, over 4,000 of them have been rehabilitated,” he added.

In January 2020 prior to signing of the peace deal 644 rebels from eight different outfits surrendered and 1615 cadres of the three NDFB factions gave up arms after signing of the deal the same month.

In December 2020, former self-styled deputy commander-in-chief of United Liberation Front of Asom-Indpendent (ULFA-I) Drishti Rajkhowa and 62 other rebels from four insurgent outfits of the region laid down arms.

One of the most dreaded and wanted militant leaders of Assam, Ingti Kathar Songbijit, who headed the Peoples’ Democratic Council of Karbi Longri (PDCK), a militant outfit from the Karbi Anglong laid down arms in February last year. .

Along with Songbijit, 1039 other militants belonging to five militant outfits of Karbi Anglong--PDCK, Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF), United Peoples Liberation Army (UPLA), Karbi Peoples’ Liberation Tiger (KPLT) and Karbi Liberation Front (KLF), laid down arms.

“Recently, Dimasa National Liberation Army (DNLA) came over ground and deposited all their weapons. They surrendered in three batches and all the outfits leadership and cadres totaling 117 persons gave up arms,” said Nath.

“Splinter groups of Reangs in Barak Valley, Gorkhas in Bodo areas, Kuki groups in Karbi Anglong, Rabha groups in Korajhar-Dhubri, two Adivasi groups, one Bengali group. In all 16 groups, big and small, have surrendered, disbanded and signed peace deals. Now ULFA-I and KLO are the only active groups,” he added.

Significantly, citing COVID19 as a reason, ULFA-I declared unilateral ceasefire for the first time in May 2021 and extended it three times. While the ceasefire continues, the outfit didn’t urge public to boycott last year’s Independence Day and this year’s Republic Day celebrations, the first time in many years.

Since assuming office in May last year, CM Sarma has been urging ULFA-I to come for peace talks and the outfit has also shown positive overtures. Sources said that discussions are also on with the KLO leadership to bring them for talks.

The changing scenario has also reflected in the activities of terror outfits in the state. A datasheet prepared by SATP shows that while 565 persons (183 civilians, 76 security personnel and 287 terrorists) died in the state in 2001, the figure was 29 (10 civilians, 19 terrorists) last year.

“We have noted that violent crimes, those perpetrated by insurgent outfits, have come down in past few years. The recruitment drive of these outfits has also come down to a trickle and the support, which they used to get from a section of the public, has decreased. The security scenario is much better than what it was till few years back,” said a retired IPS officer from Assam cadre on condition of anonymity.

Get Latest India Newsalong with Latest Newsand Top Headlinesfrom India and around the world.

    Utpal is a Senior Assistant Editor based in Guwahati. He covers seven states of North-East India and heads the editorial team for the region. He was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
My Offers
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Register Free and get Exciting Deals