By Jhumur Deb
An Indian court sentenced 10 alleged militants to life imprisonment Wednesday, after convicting them for taking part in bombings that killed dozens of people in northeastern Assam state in 2008, officials said.
Among those sentenced was Ranjan Daimary, chief of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) rebel group, who was arrested in Bangladesh in 2009 and handed over to India in 2010.
“The convicts are sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for life
for committing the offenses punishable under the explosive substance
act of 1908,” Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Special Judge
Aparesh Chakraborty said in his ruling.
As police led him away, a visibly angry Daimary told reporters that he would appeal the decision.
“Bodoland will be created as we continue to serve our jail sentence,” he said.
On Monday, the CBI found the 10 men and five others guilty of involvement in 18 bombings that ripped across the state, killing 87 and wounding 540 others in October 2008.
Three others were released upon paying a still unspecified court fine, while two others who had been detained since 2009 would be freed after the court determined that they had served enough time in prison, D. Goswami, a public prosecutor and legal advocate, told BenarNews.
Prosecutors, who sought the death penalty, said all 15 men were
linked to the NDFB, a secessionist ethnic tribal insurgent organization
seeking an independent state for the Bodo group in Assam since 1967.
After the sentencing, the NDFB called for a 12-hour business shutdown in Assam on Thursday, according to a statement issued by B. Ohnjalu, the NDFB general secretary.
The verdict would likely affect peace talks between the Indian government and Bodo militants, security analyst G.M. Srivatsava told BenarNews.
The Bodo group’s movement for a separate land turned into an armed conflict in 1986 after the formation of the Bodo Security Force, a militant group rechristened as the NDFB in 1994.
But the NDFB has suffered serious setbacks with the recent arrests of its senior leaders, Srivatsava said.
“The group indulged in hit-and-run operations on security forces, explosions in public places and targeted innocent people,” he said.
Authorities ordered beefed up security across the state and especially in the Bodoland Territorial Area districts after Wednesday’s court ruling, police said.
Ranjan Daimary’s sister, Anjali, an activist, said the verdict would undermine the ongoing peace talks.
“How can the NDFB carry on with the peace process when its chief is in jail to serve a life term,” she told BenarNews.
The NDFB struck a ceasefire agreement with Assam state and the Federal Government in May 2005.