Assam insurgents brace up for 'new life' post Bodo pact

After laying down arms, Assam insurgents brace up for 'new life'

B Binai and B Ansuli, two women cadres of NDFB, an insurgent group in Assam, in Guwahati on January 30. (Photos by Sumir Karmakar, Guwahati)

Forty-year-old Sanjoy Brahma and his wife Semali are expecting their first baby in April. The residents of Dotma, in western Assam's Kokrajhar district, got married in 2018. "It was a late marriage. But we had no option. We were busy in the jungles of Bhutan when youths of our age were getting married. Even when we came overground in 2014, I was reluctant to get married before a final decision was taken about our movement," Brahma, a cadre of Ranjan Daimary faction of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), a militant group told DH on January 30.

Like Sanjoy, 300 cadres of the group laid down their arms before Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal here as part of the new accord the government signed with Bodo groups including all four factions of NDFB on January 27. A total of 1,615 cadres of the NDFB, which launched an armed movement for "sovereign Bodoland" in 1986, officially surrendered and decided to give up arms and start life afresh. 

"I want to take a loan to start a small business. Some other cadres, who laid down their arms earlier are now doing businesses. I also want to lead a normal life like them," Brahma said.

Also read — Bodo pact welcome, implementation key

The Bodo Accord promised proper rehabilitation of the cadres through skill development programmes and even recruit those not having heinous cases in security forces.

Another woman NDFB cadre, D Binai, left her Kerimari village in Sonitpur district in 2008 and joined the armed movement. A mother of a three-year-old daughter now, Binai is trained to use an AK47 rifle and semi-automatic weapons. She has spent years in their hideouts in Bangladesh before coming overground in 2014. "Since it promised to address the cause for which we had taken up arms, we just hope the accord brings our normal life back," said Binai, as she sat with another woman cadre, B Ansuli. Both of them had left their studies to join the rebel group. 

Similarly, another 644 cadres of eight militant groups also laid down arms on January 23 here before Sonowal. 

Siblal Mardi, a cadre of National Santhal Liberation Army -- an armed group of the Adivasis formed in 2006 following the Santhal-Bodo ethnic clash in 1996 -- too wished to start his life afresh. "I want to start a small business if the government gives a little financial support," newly married Mardi told DH. Mardi, a resident of Similijora village in Kokrajhar district (bordering West Bengal), had lost his grandfather in the conflict. He had spent years in relief camps before joining the armed group in 2008. "But if the government does not fulfil the demand for Scheduled Tribe status, Adivasi youths may again take up arms," he said. 

Under the Centre's revised insurgents rehabilitation scheme 2018, a surrendered militant is offered Rs 4 lakh as fixed deposit and Rs 6,000 per month for three years and self-employment support, after detailed scrutiny. The state government has started a scheme named Swabalamban under which it has set a target to provide self-employment support to 1,800 surrendered militants in agriculture, horticulture, rural transport, handloom and handicrafts, animal husbandry and small business.

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