Assam tribal militia offers truce after spate of killings

May 20th, 2008 - 3:21 pm ICT by admin  

Guwahati, May 20 (IANS) A tribal separatist group in northeastern India’s Assam state has announced a unilateral ceasefire, days after it massacred 22 innocent civilians in a string of attacks, forcing trains and trucks to suspend services to the area. The Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel faction), popularly known as the Black Widow, has announced a truce with the government until June 25 and called upon railway authorities and truckers to resume services to the southern district of North Cachar Hills where its cadres had carried out revenge killings starting May 10.

“We have offered a ceasefire till June 25 to give peace a chance. Now, it is up to the government to reciprocate and formalise the peace effort,” Paiprang Dimasa, a Black Widow spokesperson, said Tuesday.

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, had stepped up violence during January and February, killing and kidnapping people, before it announced an informal truce March 25.

“The government did not respond to our March 25 truce offer and instead, on May 10, the Army killed 12 of our men. We had to respond,” Black Widow leader Dimasa said.

Political parties across the state have mounted pressure on the authorities 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,” Depolal Hojai of the North Cachar Hills Autonomous District Council said.

Ten railway workers were among the 22 people killed by the rebels since May 10, forcing the railways to stop train services to the area and evacuate more than 1,200 of its personnel working in 13 railway stations in the district.

Truckers have joined the railway men in stopping services to the area after four trucks were waylaid and 10 of its occupants, most of them drivers and their assistants, shot dead May 15.

They have now demanded the government pay the kin of the dead compensation of Rs.1 million each, besides security.

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