Militant group’s decision to contest polls stirs political waters (News Analysis)

December 17th, 2008 - 2:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Dec 17 (IANS) The decision by the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), blamed for the October bombings in Assam, to replace its Bangladesh-based chairman with a new leader and contest parliamentary elections next year could have far reaching political ramifications in the state. The NDFB, operating a ceasefire with New Delhi since 2005, was one of the prime accused in the wave of bombings in Assam Oct 30 where close to 100 people were killed and 300 more wounded.

On Monday, the NDFB general assembly replaced its founder president Ranjan Daimary and appointed his deputy Dhiren Boro as the chairman. In the same meeting, the NDFB announced its decision to contest the parliamentary polls either “directly or indirectly”.

The two major decisions by the NDFB, fighting for an independent homeland for the Bodo tribe in Assam since its inception in 1986, have stunned political observers and community leaders.

“The sudden decision for a leadership change by removing its founder chairman is surprising. There could be some internal problems or misunderstanding within the outfit that led to such a decision,” Chanikya Brahma, a Bodo community leader, said.

Analysts, however, see the leadership change as a ploy by the NDFB to clear itself of charges levelled by the government for triggering the serial blasts.

“It could be possible the NDFB was trying to distance itself from the terror charges by replacing Ranjan Daimari,” Nani Gopal Mahanta, coordinator of the peace and conflict studies at the Gauhati University, said.

“Moreover, the ceasefire with the government expires Dec 31 and by effecting a leadership change and vouching to carry forward the peace process, the NDFB could well try to get a further extension of the truce.”

NDFB publicity chief B. Sangjarang told journalists that the government should not try to brand the entire outfit responsible for the explosions.

“The entire NDFB should not be blamed if one or two people did the acts. We do not encourage violence and want the ceasefire to continue,” the rebel leader said.

Similar views were echoed by the new NDFB chairman Dhiren Boro.

“We want the peace process to continue and are looking for a permanent solution to the Bodo problem,” he said.

But what has stunned most is the NDFB’s decision to participate in the elections.

“It would be interesting to watch if the NDFB fields its own candidates or supports other parties or individuals in the parliamentary polls,” said Rabiram Narzary, president of the Bodo People’s Progressive Front (BPPF).

“The NDFB’s decision to participate in the electoral system could have a major impact on Assam’s politics, particularly in the Bodoland areas,” Brahma said.

There is, however, no legal bar on the NDFB to contest the polls despite being an outlawed group.

“There are no legal bars and as individuals also the NDFB members can contest elections unless they are convicted by the court,” Bijon Mahajan, a senior legal expert, said.

Another rebel outfit, the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), now disbanded after it reached a peace accord with the central government in 2003, is a coalition partner of the ruling Congress government in Assam. The NDFB and the former BLT are engaged in a bitter turf war with fratricidal clashes claiming scores of lives in recent months.

“Let us only hope the decision for a leadership change in the NDFB does not lead to escalation of violence,” said Arun Narzary, another community leader.

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