Black Widow: Assam’s rebels with cause
A spree of killings and extortion suggests DHD-J is out to prove a point. It’s latest target: Neepco power plant in Assam, reports Anupama Airy.india Updated: May 03, 2009 23:18 IST
The Union government-owned North East Electric Power Corporation (Neepco) has raised an alarm over a possible terrorist attack by the Dima Halim Daogah-Jewel (DHD-J), or the Black Widow.
Neepco said its 275 MW (mega watt) Kopili hydel power project in Umrangso in Assam’s North Cachar Hills autonomous district is being targeted by the militants.
In a letter to the power ministry, Neepco authorities said the DHD-J had been demanding a huge ‘tax’ from the company and 100 per cent employment for youth from the dominant Dimasa tribe there.
Dimasa militancy is a fairly recent phenomenon. The United Liberation Front of Asom and National Socialist Council of Nagaland — leading militant outfits in the Northeast — helped create the Dimasa National Security Force (DNSF) in the early 1990s. The aim was to fight for a homeland for the Dimasa tribesmen. But the DNSF surrendered en masse in 1995, except for its commander-in-chief Jewel Garlossa, who launched the Dima Halim Daogah (DHD), seeking parts of adjoining Karbi Anglong autonomous district in Assam and Dimapur in Nagaland.
On January 1, 2003, the DHD, too, declared a ceasefire. A year later, a new leader, Pranab Nunisa, took over the group. Garlossa went underground and formed the more aggressive DHD-Jewel, or Black Widow.
North Cachar Hills has only two major industrial units — the private sector Vinay Cements and Neepco’s Kopili project. Both are in Garlossa’s sight for extortion. On May 15 last, DHD-J militants ambushed a convoy of trucks carrying cement and killed eight persons. A similar attack in April this year left six dead.
The Kopili project came under attack last year. On January 14, 2008, militants raided the plant and killed eight employees and contract labourers. On February 11, they attacked two escort parties, killing five.
“Following last year's attacks, security was increased manifold and a deputy inspector general of the Assam Police was even been posted there,” a Neepco official said on condition of anonymity.
But Neepco sources, who didn’t wish to be named, said although Dispur, the seat of power in Assam, had always ignored the district, the state government has woken up this time as the project produces the cheapest power in the country at 60 paise per unit. A snag or closure would force the state to buy power at Rs 9 per unit.
After last year’s attacks, Kopili was shut down for 10 days, resulting in a loss of Rs 2 crore for Neepco. For the Assam State Electricity Board, the loss was much bigger at Rs 46 crore.
A senior power ministry official, who refused to be identified, said Neepco’s concern were conveyed to the authorities.