India: Residual Irritants In Assam – Analysis


By Giriraj Bhattacharjee

Led by its ‘chairman’ Longsoder Senar, 568 United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) militants, including 22 women cadres, laid down arms at a function organized at Diphu stadium in Karbi Anglong District on December 14, 2011. The militants deposited a huge quantity of arms and ammunition, including 85 AK rifles, 177 other sophisticated weapons, 18,000 rounds of ammunition, 322 magazines, 18 pistols and 32 rifles at the mass surrender ceremony. The UPDS has also declared that it is disbanding as an underground outfit to join the mainstream of society. Earlier, on November 25, the Union Government had signed a memorandum of settlement (MoS) with UPDS. According to the MoS, the UPDS was to dissolve itself as an organization within a reasonable time (six months) to pave the way for implementation of other clauses in the peace agreement.

Five Karbi People’s Liberation Tiger (KPLT) militants also laid down arms at the function.


Separately, 32 insurgents of the anti-talks factions of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-ATF) and a United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-ATF) militant surrendered before the Army and deposited their arms, ammunition and explosives on December 10, 2011. The surrendered weapons included three AK series assault rifles, 24 pistols, nine hand-grenades and a large quantity of ammunition and explosives.

Earlier on August 3, 2011, 19 Dimasa National Democratic Front (DNDF) militants had surrendered at a ceremony jointly organised by Dima Hasao District Police and the Indian Army at Haflong in Dima Hasao District. The militant group laid down 17 different types of arms and ammunition, including AK-series rifles, 1,400 rounds of live ammunition and 11 grenades.

In total, 644 militants have surrendered in 2011 (all data till December 18) in Assam. The surrendered militants primarily belonged to UPDS (568), NDFB (47), and DNDF (19). The number of militants who surrendered through 2010 was 452.

In addition, 403 militants were arrested in 2011, as against 425 in 2010. Of the militants arrested in 2011, NDFB accounted for 79; ULFA, 70; Adivasi People’s Army (APA), 26; KPLT, 16; and Hill Tiger Force (HTF), 11.

Prominent among those arrested were:

November 14: Security Forces (SFs) arrested three KPLT militants, including ‘foreign secretary’ Maniram Rongpi from Morigaon District.

November 13: SFs arrested nine HTF militants, including ‘commander-in-chief’ Benjamin Jaolin Zaute and ‘finance secretary’ Alex Thiek, from the deep jungles around the Arda village of Dima Hasao District.

July 16: SFs arrested APA ‘vice-president’ Silvister Tirki alias Rajiv alias Silva Orang, at village Uttarpar near Baganpara in Baksa District, while another two APA militants, Stephen Murmu and Sagar Lakra, were arrested at Angarkata near Kumari Kata in Baksa District.

April 28: The ‘commander-in-chief’ of Rabha Viper Army, Sunil Rabha alias Chinese, was arrested for the third time by SFs in Goalpara District.

April 20: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) took into custody the ‘vice-chairman’ of NDFB, G. Rifikhang, from the India-Bangladesh border in Assam.

May 24: The ‘commander-in-chief’ of the banned Adivasi Cobra Military of Assam (ACMA) was arrested from Gossaigaon in Kokrajhar District.

The number of surrenders and arrests are an index of the increasing control exercised by the SFs over various militant groups operating within and around Assam’s frontiers. Apart from ULFA-ATF, NDFB-ATF, and UPDS, which have been under the SFs’ radar for long, new groups have also borne the brunt of intensified SF pressure. For instance, counter-insurgency (CI) operations kept the KPLT, which emerged as a new threat in 2011, on the run through the year. Similarly, United Democratic Liberation Army (UDLA) and its splinter groups, such as the United Democratic Liberation Front-Barak (UDLF-B), were brought under sustained fire. Another new outfit, the HTF saw its operational capacities neutralized.

Further, APA, an Adivasi (tribal) militant group advocating the formation of Adivasi Autonomous Council and Scheduled Tribes (ST) status for Adivasis, declared a ceasefire in July and sent feelers to the Assam Government. Another Adivasi militant group, the All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA), declared a unilateral cease-fire with effect from September 1, 2011.

Unsurprisingly, the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database records a 43.03 per cent decline in militancy-related fatalities in 2011, as compared to the previous year. More importantly, a 35 per cent drop was evident in civilian killings in 2011 as compared to 2010, indicating considerable improvement in the security scenario in the State. Notably, while a total of 92 persons, including 45 militants, 31 civilians and 15 SF personnel, were killed in 65 incidents in 2011, total fatalities in 2010 stood at 158, including 98 militants, 48 civilians and 12 SF personnel, in 100 incidents.

Fatalities in Terrorist Violence in Assam: 2005-2011

Source: SATP, *Till December 18, 2011

While there was a steep decline of 36 per cent in incidents of killing in 2011 as compared to 2010 [2011 witnessed 64 incidents of killings as against 100 in 2010], the total number of violent incidents, including killing, explosions, abduction and extortion, witnessed a decline of a mere 6.47 percent, from 433 recorded incidents in 2010, to 405 in 2011.

Figures available with the Assam Police indicated that, till May 2011, over 3,000 abduction cases had already been reported with various Police Stations in the State, compared to 3,250 cases reported in the entire year of 2010. The number of abduction cases reported in the first five months of 2011 had already surpassed the total for 2009. Most of these cases had direct or indirect involvement of surrendered militants. An unnamed Assam Police official was reported as stating: “It is not just in abduction, their (surrendered militants’) involvement has been found in other serious crimes too. We are doing our best to keep a track of them and their activities.”

Extortion remained rampant through the year. 28 incidents of extortion were recorded in 2010 (only a fraction of such incidents are reported, with silent compliance to a majority being the rule), rising to 35 in 2011. Media reports suggest suspected militants from NDFB-ATF and AANLA recently issued extortion demands to at least five senior doctors of Biswanath Chariali Civil Hospital in Sonitpur District.

2011 began with the Rabha-Garo ethnic clashes (between January 1 and 10), which claimed 27 lives. 1,550 houses were torched, rendering about 50,000 people of 32 villages homeless, with the Rabhas bearing the brunt of losses. The Government later said the clashes appeared “well-planned” and did not rule out the hand of “underground groups.”

The year also saw the revival of the demand for a Bodoland State by the All Bodo Student Union (ABSU). Significantly, on the concluding day (February 4, 2011) of ABSU’s 43rd Annual Conference, ABSU president Pramod Boro stated that the group would revive its movement for a separate Bodoland State “as the State Government does not meet our demands despite repeated pleas”. He further said, “Most of the major clauses of the BTC [Bodoland Territorial Council] Accord are yet to be implemented. We are compelled to revive the movement for a State on the basis of the opinions of the delegates and the people of the region. We will join hands with other organizations and parties supporting the cause of Bodoland.”

There were apprehensions of electoral politics playing the spoiler again, even as CI gains consolidated in the State. Both the ruling Congress Party as well as other political parties in the State made allegations and counter allegations of covert deals with militant groups, in the hope of securing some electoral gain during the two-phase Assembly Elections for 126 seats in Assam on April 4 and 11. The Congress Party once again emerged the winner, and Chief Minister (CM) Tarun Gogoi was reelected as Chief Minister.

More worryingly, reports indicate that the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) has made strong inroads into the State. The stretch from Sadiya in Tinsukia District in Assam to the Dibang Valley and Lohit in Arunachal Pradesh has emerged as the preferred area of operation for the Left Wing extremists (LWEs). The Maoists are suspected to be behind at least two incidents of arms snatching in the State. Significantly, suspected Maoists on October 4, 2011, shot at four Assam Police personnel, injuring two, and snatched their guns at Sadiya in Tinsukia District.

Meanwhile, the split in ULFA was formalized with the reconstitution of both the groups. ULFA–ATF, on November 23, 2011, announced a new 16-member ‘central committee’, with Abhijeet Barman as ‘in-charge chairman’; Paresh Baruah as ‘commander-in-chief’ & ‘vice president’; and ‘colonel’ Jiban Moran as ‘assistant general secretary’ and ‘in-charge finance secretary’. The outfit is also reported to have recruited more than 120 new cadres and was extorting money from leading business houses in Assam. The Pro-Talks Faction of ULFA (ULFA-PTF) formed a new 35-member committee called the “Central and Naba Niraman Kendra Steering Committee,” in October 2011, which would oversee every aspect of the peace process.

Conspicuously, the split in militant groups, both new and old, have caused some problems in the peace talks, which have been going on for long in the State. Taking note of this, Union Home Minister (UHM) P. Chidambaram on September 15, 2011, noted that some splinter groups continued to hold out and refused to accept the offer of talks. UHM also indicated that a large presence of SFs in the North Eastern States remained a necessity, in view of the residual militancy, despite the gains of the recent past. Clearly, at the present juncture, with a number of factions continuing underground and declaring their irreconcilable opposition to the Indian state and Constitution, the relative stability and tranquility which has been restored in Assam can only be sustained by a continued ground offensive against the residue of extremist violence in the State, even as peace processes are pushed forward with groups that have sought accommodation.

Giriraj Bhattacharjee
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management


SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).

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