Last NDFB faction in Assam calls truce

Two of its most-wanted top guns, however, remain at large

Updated - January 17, 2020 10:10 pm IST

Published - January 17, 2020 03:03 pm IST - GUWAHATI

File: A security personnel keeps up vigil in a deserted street in Kokrajhar district of Assam in 2016.

File: A security personnel keeps up vigil in a deserted street in Kokrajhar district of Assam in 2016.

The last faction of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) has called a truce. But two of its most-wanted top guns remain at large and within “sniffing distance.”

On Thursday, the Central and Assam governments and the NDFB’s Saoraigwra faction, or NDFB-S, signed a tripartite agreement in New Delhi for the cessation of operations. The NDFB-S is the third and last faction of the outfit that was formed more than three decades ago for establishing a sovereign homeland for the Bodos – the largest plains tribe in the northeast.

The truce was signed within a week of 50 members of NDFB-S crossing over to India from their hideouts in Myanmar.

Security forces officials entrusted with law and order in areas along the India-Bhutan border, where the NDFB-S had carried out some of the deadliest activities, say peace could be elusive unless the outfit’s army chief G. Bidai alias Bishnu Goyari and his deputy Batha alias Binod Mushahary come on board too.

The security forces had come close to capturing Bidai and his loyalists during an encounter inside the Manas National Park bordering Bhutan on May 8, 2017.

“We are hopeful of Bidai and Batha joining the peace process. We have reports that the two have been changing locations along the India-Bhutan border,” Hiren Nath, Inspector-General of the State police’s Special Branch, told The Hindu .

Bhutan used to be the base of the unified NDFB until December 2003 when a joint India-Bhutan military operation flushed their cadre out, along with those of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO).

“The peace deal with NDFB-S leaves the ULFA-Independent as the only recognised extremist group in Assam. There are very few members of KLO still at large with their leader Jiban Singh, while the PDCK is more of a group of miscreants,” Mr. Nath said.

The ULFA-Independent is headed by Paresh Baruah, who is believed to be operating from the Ruili area on the Myanmar-China border.

The People’s Democratic Council of Karbi Longri (PDCK) has some presence in central Assam’s Karbi Anglong district. The outfit is led by Ingti Kathar Songbijit, a Karbi tribal who used to head the NDFB-S once.

Songbijit’s luck with the primarily Bodo tribal organisation ran out in 2016 when he quit and formed the PDCK miles away from the NDFB-S domain. The outfit he left behind continued to be called the NDFB-S as B. Saoraigwra, a former leader of the All Bodo Students’ Union, took over as chairman.

Saoraigwra, whose real surname is Basumatary, hails from Dangsamari village in western Assam’s Chirang district. The village is close to the border with Bhutan.

The NDFB-S metamorphosed from the NDFB (Anti-Talks Faction) in 2009 when the outfit split into two. The pro-talks faction called itself the NDFB-Progressive, which is now headed by B. Sungthagra.

The anti-talks group continued to be headed by NDFB founder D.R. Nabla or Ranjan Daimary and came to be called the NDFB-R after him. Songbijit became powerful following Daimary’s arrest in 2012 and the faction carried out attacks against migrant Muslims and Adivasis.

The NDFB-S carried out the massacre of more than 80 Adivasis in north-central Assam’s Sonitpur district in December 2014. Songbijit, intelligence officials then said, had entrusted Bidai and Batha with the carnage.

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