A little over two years ago when the NDFB (Ranjan Daimary faction) suffered a split with its then “army chief” I K Songbijit declaring himself “interim president” of the new faction called NDFB(S), very few thought it will turn out to be so dangerous. The group has since then killed over 200 people and kidnapped dozens, with the victims ranging from a five-month old baby to an additional Superintendent of Police.
Interestingly, though the National Democratic Front of Bodoland – NDFB – had vowed for an “sovereign” Bodoland (a demand that the two other factions NDFB-R and NDFB-P have apparently given up after entering into peace parleys with the government), Songbijit himself is not a Bodo tribal by birth. Instead he is from the Karbi community, which has a few settlers in Sonitpur district.
And to be exact, Songbijit hails from Chelaikhati village under Biswanath Chariali sub-division in Sonitpur district, where his group had massacred as many as 31 innocent people, all of them belonging to the Adivasi community, on Tuesday evening. His village is about 10 kms west of Phulbari where his boys had massacred 31 persons on Tuesday evening.
While the NDFB was originally born as Bodo Security Force way back in 1986, it changed its name in 1994. It suffered a major split in 2008 when founder chairman Ranjan Daimary went ahead with serial blasts, prompting secretary Gobinda Basumatary to constitute NDFB(Progressive). Songbijit, who was elevated to “army commander” in 2009 on the other hand fell out with the top leadership and floated NDFB(S), now the most dreaded faction.
While the police Tuesday’s killings were planned over several weeks in retaliation to a series of death of its cadres in operations carried out by security forces since August, the group also hoodwinked the police by shifting their target from migrant Muslims to Adivasi settlers.
The police were always in anticipation that the group would target migrant Muslim settlers, and especially after a report that the jihadis had prepared a list of 50 Bodo leaders, surveillance was apparently increased in pockets where such settlers are most vulnerable. But instead, they chose a different target altogether, with intelligence officers now ascertaining that it was a well-drawn plan to hit simultaneously on the Adivasis in different districts.
Significantly, two of the five locations are close to the Assam-Arunachal boundary, while three others close to the international boundary with Bhutan. “They had chosen these locations so that they could quickly sneak out into jungles in Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh,” said a senior Assam Police officer.
The Assam Police had in January this year declared Songbijit and 14 others as “most wanted” and announced a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh for those providing leads to the arrest of self-styled NDFB(S) chairman and commander-in-chief Ingti Kathar Songbijit, as also on four other top leaders of his faction, they being general secretary B Saoraigwra, military secretary C Rwikha and spokesperson Ranjit Basumatary. For 11 others, the reward is Rs 5 lakh each. The NDFB(S) has a “national council” comprising of nine members, while the police believe that it has a strength of about 270 cadres.
“The NDFB(S) has about 270 cadres including its regional commanders. But what is most important is that they have a sizeable number of sophisticated weapons including AK-series rifles. Since they have a camp in Myanmar across Arunachal Pradesh, they have easy access to latest weapons, said Pallab Bhattacharyya, additional DG (Special Branch) of the Assam Police.