By Anshuman Behera
At least 24 persons, including 18 non-locals (mostly Hindi-speaking people), were killed in 11 separate attacks across five Bodo dominated Districts of Assam, by the militants of the anti-talks faction (ATF) of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), between November 8 and November 10, 2010.
On November 8, the NDFB militants killed 19 people and left at least another 11 injured in seven strikes within three hours, commencing at 5.30 in the evening. The strikes were carried out in the Sonitpur, Kokrajhar and Baksa Districts.
On November 9, the terrorists killed two non-local traders in Kokrajhar District and a local cycle mechanic in Chirang District. A civilian injured in the November 8 attacks also succumbed to his injuries during the day.
The militants struck again and shot dead a Hindi-speaking woman in Kokrajhar on November 10.
These have been the worst attacks in the Assam since October 30, 2008, when 87 persons were killed and about 200 injured in nine near-simultaneous blasts in the State capital Dispur and the adjoining Guwahati city and another three Districts – Kokrajhar, Barpeta, and Bongaigaon.
Ostensibly, the latest round of killings was in retaliation to the killing of a NDFB-ATF cadre on November 8, 2010 by the 51 Gorkha Regiment of the Indian Army. An unnamed leader of the NDFB on November 9 stated, “We killed these people in retaliation to the killing of an innocent Bodo youth by the Army on Monday [November 8, 2010] morning. The Government should not take us lightly.” Meanwhile, the ‘Organising Secretary’ of the outfit, B. Naison, issued a fresh threat on November 11 to all communities residing in the Bodo belt, Security Forces (SFs) or “other Indian communities”, warning of more “heinous and horrible results” if they make “any mistake or crime against the NDFB.” He also urged the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), the Bodo Sahitya Sabha (BSS), the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) and other Bodo organisations to protest alleged killings of ‘innocent’ Bodos by the Police and SFs.
Earlier, on November 1, 2010 the ‘Deputy Chief’ of the NDFB-ATF, ‘Lieutenant’ B. Jwngkhang, had issued a warning to the State Government:
From today onwards, if any innocent NDFB cadres were killed by the Indian Army in the name of fake encounter, the armed wing of the NDFB will take action against any Indian. An innocent Bodo will be equal to 20 Indians or maybe more and we don’t care who they are, maybe Indian civilian or Indian Forces. Anytime and any moment we are ready to strike. Remember this warning, and be serious before killing any innocent Bodo people.
This warning had come in the aftermath of the killing of an NDFB anti-talk faction militant by the SFs at Singirmari under Kazigaon Police Station in Parbhatjhora subdivision of Kokrajhar District on October 29, 2010.
Following the November 1 warning, a media report quoted intelligence sources as stating, “The retaliation line is only for public consumption… it is actually a much larger and old game plan – of a homeland for the Bodo community which it can achieve if they attain majority status in areas they have in mind for the separate state or silence those likely to oppose. This is borne out by the systematic attacks on non-Bodos.” Soon after, security was beefed up in the State. The NDFB-ATF, nevertheless, managed to carry out the killings.
Ever since the ‘President’ of the NDFB-ATF, Ranjan Daimary, was handed over to the Indian Administration by the Bangladesh Authorities on May 1, 2010, second rank leaders of the group have been trying to make their presence felt. P. K. Dutta, Superintendent of Police of the Kokrajhar District, on May 24, 2010, quoted a senior leader of the NDFB-anti-talk faction who was arrested on May 16, 2010, as disclosing, “There is no instruction or information coming from the leaders after the arrest of Daimary, which has resulted in confusion among the members on their roles. The NDFB [-ATF] was still well-equipped with sophisticated weapons and can strike hard. Though its chairman was arrested the organization still has top leaders like I.K. Songbijit, the chief of the NDFB [ATF] ‘army staff’, to carry forward the organization in Daimary’s absence”.
The NDFB-ATF has also been involved in at least five failed attempts to engineer a major terrorist incident by carrying out bomb blasts in major cities in Assam since May 31, 2010, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database:
October 14: A portion of a railway track was damaged when suspected NDFB-ATF militants triggered a blast near Singimari, five kilometers from Kokrajhar railway station in Kokrajhar District.
September 8: A goods train carrying food grain from Rangia to Lakhimpur was derailed by NDFB-ATF militants exploding an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
August 25: The SFs foiled an attempt by the NDFB-ATF militants to blow up the railway track between Kamakhya and Jogighopa railway stations following recovery of a powerful bomb from a group of NDFB-ATF cadres.
July 8: The Garib Rath Express from Guwahati to Kolkata was derailed because of a powerful explosion caused by the militants of the NDFB-ATF in Kokrajhar District resulting in the death of one civilian and injury to six others.
July 6: The SFs foiled a plan by NDFB-ATF terrorists to carry out blasts in different places in Assam following the recovery of a huge quantity of explosive materials in Udalgiri District. The recovered consignment included 30 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, 24 batteries and a bundle of flexible wires.
It was on January 1, 2009, that the NDFB split into two. On this day, the NDFB expelled its founding ‘President’, Ranjan Daimary alias D. R. Nabla, replacing him with B. Sungthgra alias Dhiren Boro as its new chief. The new NDFB ‘President’, Sungthgra declared that the NDFB would have no truck with the former chief and his accomplices. The NDFB statement further declared,
The NDFB, in a unanimous decision of the national council, has expelled D. R. Nabla and his associates with immediate effect as a disciplinary action. We are shocked and surprised that Mr. D.R. Nabla alias Ranjan Daimary, as per the statement of Ajay Basumatary, who has been recently arrested along with three others in Goalpara District, is proved to be directly involved in a series of bomb blasts in Assam on October 30 where many innocent civilians were brutally killed without any reason. The killing was inhuman and unfortunate which reveals nothing but his love for sadism. He not only committed crimes against humanity but also violated the ceasefire which he himself declared unilaterally on October 8, 2004. The act is undoubtedly an act of terrorism and can never be part of revolutionary struggle.
Later, the Ranjan Daimary faction constituted its new ‘executive committee’ with Ranjan Daimary as the ‘President’, Dinthi Gwra Narzary as ‘General Secretary’, ‘Captain’ Sangbijit as ‘Commander-of-Staff’, Barbai Basumatary as ‘Assistant Publicity Secretary’ and Rifikhang Goyary as ‘Finance Secretary’. Since then, the Daimary faction has been involved in as many as 134 violent incidents, in which at least 223 persons, including 150 militants, 61 civilians and 12 SF personnel have been killed. Some of the major incidents involving the outfit include:
October 3, 2010: The Police shot dead four NDFB-ATF militants during an encounter at a thickly forested area at Dekatan in Dhemaji District and rescued an abducted trader, Cotton Nandy.
July 26, 2010: Four Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) personnel, including an assistant commander, were killed and three others were injured in an ambush by NDFB-ATF cadres at Amlaiguri under Panbari Police Station in Chirang District along Bhutan border.
October 4, 2009: At least 11 persons were killed in a attack carried out by suspected NDFB-ATF terrorists at Balichand area under Biswanath Chariali Police Station in Sonitpur District. At least 10 others were injured in the attack.
May 19: SFs shot dead six NDFB-ATF cadre in a jungle under Dokmoka outpost of Howraghat Police Station in the Karbi Anglong District.
The NDFB-ATF’s killing spree is backed by a campaign of abduction for extortion. According to a July 30, 2010, report, the Tea Association of India (TAI) sent a distress message to the Assam Government seeking security in the wake of extortion notices being served by the faction and by the All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA), to several of its member gardens in Sonitpur and Darrang Districts. Sources in TAI, which has around 90 member gardens in Assam, disclosed that the NDFB-ATF had recently served extortion notices to some executives of the Chikonmati and Panbari tea estates. A few days earlier, militants armed with pistols and revolvers had abducted a staff member of the Panbari Estate, head clerk Kamal Das. Das was, however, released the next morning on payment of ransom, the sources added.
Leaders of the NDFB-ATF are also reported to have toured Nepal to examine prospects of setting up bases there to carry forward their armed movement for a ‘sovereign’ Bodoland, just months after setting up their ‘general headquarters’ in Myanmar. An August 5, 2010, report claimed that available documents indicated that the NDFB-ATF’s ‘general meeting’ held in July had decided on the move. A six-member group under the leadership of ‘Lieutenant’ G. Onthao then visited Nepal for a ‘survey’. “The outfit has already set up its ‘general headquarters’ in Myanmar some time ago with the help of Manipur-based insurgent outfit Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL),” a senior Police official disclosed. George Basumatary, a key accused in the October 30, 2010, serial blasts in the State, is currently looking after the ‘general headquarters’ at Myanmar with about 40 cadres.
Amidst these developments, the ‘President’, Ranjan Daimary, has constantly been changing his stand. On May 4, 2010, he declared, “I am ready for talks with the Government… I have been rigid (over the sovereignty demand), but now I have to do a rethink.” On November 2, 2010, however, possibly encouraged by his group’s capacities to strike even in his absence, he backtracked, stating, “Right now, I cannot say anything on that.”
There are indications, however, that his position may have been somewhat eroded within the NDFB-ATF. On November 2, 2010, when asked to explain his stand on the threat issued by the outfit on November 1, he confessed, “I have no links with other leaders of my organization for the past few months. I cannot say anything on the issue now. “B.J. Mahanta, Inspector General of Assam Police (Law and Order), claimed, on November 10, 2010, “Daimary had literally lost control over the outfit and some of its cadres had been carrying out mayhem in the State. The recent attacks by the outfit were done under the leadership of some of its top cadres like B. Jwngkhang alias John, the ‘deputy commander’ of the Bodoland Army, ‘army commander’ Songbijit and senior cadres like Sagrid, Bidai, Jwmwi and Sotbangsa”.
It is evident that the NDFB-ATF will have to be dealt with sternly. In an official statement issued after Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram reviewed the situation on November 13, the Union Government acknowledged, “The anti-talk faction of the NDFB claimed responsibility for the killings. Its leader Ranjan Daimary is in judicial custody, but seems unwilling to control the criminal actions of his faction.” Sending out a strong message, the statement added that the Central and Assam Governments would not countenance any group that engages in wanton criminal acts.
A second faction of the NDFB is already formally in talks with the Central Government and the Government of Assam. Other Bodo organizations, such as the BPF, BSS and ABSU, will have to be taken into confidence well before the Bodo National Convention to be held on November 18-19, 2010, if the NDFB-ATF is to be successfully isolated and delegitimized. The succession of massacres by the NDFB-ATF are not only evidence of a security failure, but also the a persistent failure of political management that has given a continuing lease of life to an otherwise discredited movement.
Anshuman Behera, Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management