Assam rebel group on truce threatens to go underground

July 17th, 2008 - 12:34 pm ICT by IANS  

By Syed Zarir Hussain
Guwahati, July 17 (IANS) A frontline tribal separatist guerrilla group in India’s northeastern state of Assam Thursday threatened to pull out of a three-year-old ceasefire and take to arms once again, accusing New Delhi of dragging the peace process. “The central government appears to be insincere towards resolving our grievances and if there is no forward movement in the peace process we shall be forced to go back to the jungles,” Gobinda Basumatary, general secretary of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), told IANS.

The NDFB, an influential rebel group fighting for an independent homeland for the Bodo tribe, had entered into a ceasefire with New Delhi in May 2005.

Formal talks are yet to begin although the outfit had submitted its charter of demands that includes their demand of sovereignty or independence.

“In the last three years of our ceasefire, the response from New Delhi was muted and we have not seen any seriousness on their part to hold talks or discuss our demands,” the rebel leader said.

After the ceasefire, more than a thousand NDFB militants were sheltered in three government-run designated camps in parts of western Assam.

“The cadres are obviously getting restive with the government dragging the peace process,” Basumatary said.

The rebel leader was in Guwahati to hold meetings with various ethnic groups to discuss how other communities could cohabit together in the Bodo heartland in western Assam.

At least a dozen odd separatist groups in the northeast are operating independent ceasefires with New Delhi, six of them from Assam alone.

There are some 30 militant groups active in the northeast with demands ranging from secession to greater autonomy and the right to self-determination.

The threats for calling off such ceasefires and going back to the jungles are becoming strident. Most of the groups cite the example of the dragging peace talks with the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) since August 1997.

“It is 10 years now and there are no signs of a solution. Revolutionary groups like us are fed up with the policy of the central government to tire out the groups. Such a policy would boomerang and people would be forced to go underground once again,” said a senior NSCN-IM leader requesting not to be named.

All seven states have at one time or another since 1947 faced ethnic strife or insurgency, with the various ethnic groups accusing New Delhi of exploiting the oil, timber and tea-rich region and ignoring its development.

Nagaland has India’s longest-running separatist insurgency, with the NSCN waging a bush war since 1947 in which more than 25,000 people have been killed. The myriad of insurgencies in the northeast since India’s independence in 1947 has claimed an estimated 50,000 lives in the region with thousands more maimed for life.

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