Over 3,000 people from the Karbi and Rengma Naga tribes have been taking shelter in relief camps in the Bokajan area of central Assam’s Karbi Anglong hills district since December 27 after they were forced to leave their homes due to violent clashes between the ethnic insurgent Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers (KPLT) and the Rengma Naga Hills Protection Force (RNHPF).

Karbi Anglong Superintendent of Police Mugdhajyoti Mahanta told The Hindu that as on Monday, 3,131 people had been taking shelter in nine relief camps. Of them, 1,683 are Rengma Nagas and 1,448 are Karbis.

On Monday, three Ministers — Environment and Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain, Animal Husbandry, Veterinary and Hill Areas Minister Khorsing Ingti and Water Resources Minister Rajib Lochan Pegu met the inmates.

The recovery of decomposed bodies of nine Karbi persons, with hands tied, eyes blindfolded and bullet mark on heads, near Chumukedima in Nagaland on January 3 has sparked fresh tension.

During the clash, six Rengma Naga villagers including five women were gunned down by KPLT militants in the Bokajan police station area of Karbi Anglong. Karbi Anglong police received reports of three KPLT miltants gunned down by the RNHPF. However, there was no official confirmation as the bodies of the KPLT militants were not recovered.

Statehood demand

The KPLT is a breakaway faction of the ethnic insurgent Karbi Longri N.C. Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF). The KLNLF is demanding a separate State comprising two hill districts — Kabri Anglong and Dima Hasao — and is now engaged in talks with the Centre and the State government. When the KLNLF signed the Suspension of Operation agreement with the Centre and the Assam government, about 20 cadres of the outfit parted ways and formed the KPLT in 2010. The KPLT has been demanding the creation of a Hemprek Kanthim (self-ruled homeland) for the Karbi people. The KLNLF was a breakaway faction of the erstwhile insurgent outfit United People’s Democratic Solidarity.

The RNHPF was formed in 2012 for protection of the Rengma Nagas from KPLT attacks. The outfit has been demanding the creation of a regional council for the Rengma Nagas of Karbi Anglong.

Security expert G.M. Srivastav, who served as the Director-General of Police in Assam and Tripura and is now the Security Adviser to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, described the clashes as a “fallout of attempts by the KPLT to establish its control over traditional Rengma Naga areas and attempts by the insurgent National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak Muivah) to establish its control in Assam’s two hill districts — Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao — to assert their claim over Naga-inhabited areas.” “Rengma Nagas have become a victim of the battle of supremacy between the NSCN(I-M) and the KPLT while innocent villagers from both the Karbi and Rengma Naga tribes have become soft targets,” he said.

Mr. Srivastav said a visible reason behind the clashes was the KPLT serving extortion notices to growers belonging to the Rengma Naga tribe and issuing threats of dire consequences if their demands were not met. Earlier in June 2013, the Rengma Naga-inhabited areas of Karbi Anglong witnessed exodus when the KPLT issued quit notices to the Rengma Nagas. People from three Rengma Nagas villages took shelter in areas under the Chakihola police outpost.

Killings condemned

Naga organisations have condemned the killing of the nine Karbis near Chumukedima, about 25 km off Dimapur. The Angami Students’ Union (ASU) has assured the safety of the Karbis in Kohima. The Naga Hoho also condemned the brutal killings and urged the Nagaland government to immediately apprehend the culprits. The Naga Hoho appealed to all sections of society to shun violence and maintain a peaceful coexistence.

The Karbi Anglong Peace Forum of all civil, students, and church organisations of Karbi Anglong, while condemning the killings and arson, upon the KPLT and the NRHPF to immediately stop all confrontation with each other.