Separatist leader arrested, Assam government gets tough

June 19th, 2008 - 4:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, June 19 (IANS) Security forces have arrested a front-ranking leader of a tribal separatist group in Assam, ignoring a truce offer by the outfit and indicating the government was bent on launching a crackdown on insurgency, officials said Thursday. Paiprang Dimasa, publicity chief of the Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel faction), also known as the Black Widow, was arrested by the Army Wednesday from a hotel in Dimapur, Nagaland’s commercial hub.

“Dimasa was brought to Assam by the army and handed over late Wednesday to the police at Diphu, headquarters of the southern Karbi Anglong district,” a security official said, requesting anonymity.

The arrest of Dimasa is significant because he is said to have sent a letter to the Assam government last month offering a ceasefire with the authorities on behalf of his group, the DHD(J).

The DHD(J), formed in 2003 by some breakaway leaders and cadres of the parent group, the DHD, wreaked havoc in southern Assam’s North Cachar Hills beginning January, killing and extorting money from people.

In March, the group announced a truce and was lying low. In May, however, after the Army killed 12 of its cadres in a shootout, the group retaliated, killing over 20 people, including railway workers, forcing the railways to stop train services.

Soon thereafter, the DHD(J) again offered a unilateral truce and the term of this offer is to expire June 24. The Assam government admitted to receiving a letter from the group offering truce but has said it was yet to decide whether or not to reciprocate.

“Dimasa’s arrest indicates that the government is not interested in any kid-glove treatment to the DHD(J) which is a rag-tag group bereft of any ideology,” an intelligence official said.

DHD(J) leader Niranjan Hojai told journalists after Dimasa’s arrest Wednesday that his outfit could now call off the truce that was to expire later this month.

The parent group, the DHD, fighting for maximum autonomy to the Dimasa tribespeople, is already on a ceasefire with the government since Jan 1, 2003.

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