Major Assam rebel group gives up sovereignty demand

October 1st, 2008 - 1:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Oct 1 (IANS) A frontline tribal separatist group in India’s northeastern state of Assam has given up its demand for sovereignty after more than two decades since its formation to carve out an independent homeland, officials said Wednesday.A union home ministry official said leaders of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) Tuesday submitted in writing their decision to hold peace talks within the ambit of the Indian constitution by giving up on their demand for sovereignty.

“After their formal letter, we have decided to extend the term of the ceasefire by another three months beginning Wednesday,” an official said on phone, requesting anonymity.

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. The NDFB was formed in 1986 and resorted to decades of violent strikes across the state, especially in the tribal Bodo heartland in western Assam.

The ceasefire with the NDFB ran into trouble in April with the outfit submitting their charter of demands that included sovereignty or independence as the main clause.

“We asked them to revise the charter of demands and drop the sovereignty clause. And on Tuesday we met their top leaders in New Delhi where they submitted their revised demand list dropping the independence demand,” the official said.

After the ceasefire, more than a thousand NDFB militants were sheltered in three government-run designated camps in parts of western Assam. There was no independent confirmation from the NDFB regarding their decision to give up their demand for sovereignty or independence.

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.

All the 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.

The myriad 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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