Assam government rejects rebel group’s ceasefire offer (Lead)

May 20th, 2008 - 6:44 pm ICT by admin  

Guwahati, May 20 (IANS) The Assam government Tuesday rejected offers by a tribal separatist group for a unilateral ceasefire in the North Cachar Hills district and instead accused members of the district’s autonomous council of having links with militants. “We have evidence to prove that members of the Autonomous Council have nexus with militants of the Jewel Garlosa faction of the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD-J). We shall institute an enquiry soon to find out more on this, besides (there are) serious charges of council funds going into the hands of the militants,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told journalists.

The DHD-J, popularly known as the Black Widow, announced a truce with the government until June 25 and called upon railway authorities and truckers to resume services to the district of North Cachar Hills where its cadres killed about 25 people in the past one week.

“We would monitor their activities instead of jumping at the ceasefire offer. Our experience in the past was bad when we found that militant groups often use the ceasefire period to regroup and carry out extortion,” said Gogoi.

A loose band of fighters, the Black Widow was formed in 2003 after a faction headed by rebel commander Jewel Garlosa broke away from the parent group, the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD).

This happened after the DHD entered into a ceasefire with the government and agreed to begin peace negotiations.

The Black Widow, fighting for autonomy for the Dimasa tribals in southern Assam, stepped up violence during January and February, killing and kidnapping people, before it announced an informal truce March 25.

“We would continue to launch a massive anti-insurgency operation in the district and deal with militancy with a firm hand,” said Gogoi.

Political parties across the state have mounted pressure to accept the rebels’ fresh offer for cessation of hostilities.

“There has been a food shortage after trains and trucks have stopped plying. The government must reciprocate the truce and start peace talks with the Black Widow leaders,” said Depolal Hojai, chief executive member of the North Cachar Hills Autonomous District Council.

Ten railway workers were among the 25 people killed by the rebels since May 10, forcing the railways to stop train services to the area and evacuating over 1,200 of its personnel working in 13 railway stations in the district.

Truckers joined the railway men in stopping services to the area after four trucks were waylaid and ten of its occupants, most of them drivers and their assistants, were shot dead May 15. They have now demanded that the government pays the kin of the dead compensation of Rs.1 million each, besides providing security.

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