Monitor activities of Assam ultras

The attacks by Bodo militants on Tuesday and counter-attacks against them which together took a toll of over 70 lives in two districts of Assam are the latest in the gory history of insurgent violence in that state.

The attacks were made by the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) in villages in Sonitpur and Kokrajhar districts against Adivasis of the area. Adivasis and Bengali-speaking Muslims have been targets of attacks by the Bodos who want a sovereign or autonomous area of their own.

Earlier this year, over 60 people were killed in a similar attack. Two years ago, another carnage had resulted in over 100 deaths and large-scale migration of people from the area. The Bodo Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) area has seen about 40 militant attacks this year and the NDFB (S) militants, who are thought to have been involved in them, are active on the borders with Bhutan.

There are tripartite talks going on among the Central and state governments and two other factions of the Bodo militants. The BTAD was formed in 2003 after an agreement with the main militant faction but some other factions were left out of the accord.

The agreement was difficult to implement also because the BTAD area contained more non-Bodos than Bodos. While the present round of talks involves the more prominent Bodo groups, the NDFB (S) has hardened its position.

It has opposed the talks and demanded sovereignty, like the more militant faction of the United Liberation front of Asom (ULFA) led by Paresh Baruah. Whenever talks are held, it should be the effort of the government to include as many groups as possible in them.

There should also be monitoring of the movements and activities of the militant groups, whether they are part of the talks or not. It would not have been impossible to track the activities of the NDFB (S) as it is a small group with only 300 members.

There are administrative lapses too which made the attack possible. Intelligence inputs had pointed to the attacks, and the state police chief had, in fact, warned about them.

But the administration did not take the warning seriously and even some provocative incidents on the day before the attacks did not spur it into action.

The administration and the security forces should not be lulled into inaction and complacency even when talks are going on with the militants. Assam’s mainstream politics has links with militancy, and this is adding to the problem in the state.

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