A faction of Bodo militant group NDFB, led by B Saoraigwra and called NDFB(S), which was hitherto not part of the peace talks with the government, has signed an agreement to shun violence and participate in talks towards a solution to the longstanding issue, officials said on Friday. The ‘tripartite suspension of operations agreement’ was signed on Thursday by Saoraigwra, Ministry of Home Affairs joint secretary (Northeast) Satyendra Garg and Assam government’s Home and Political Department Commissioner and Secretary Ashutosh Agnihotri.
The agreement says the group has “agreed to abjure violence, come overground and join the peace process by being a signatory to the proposed comprehensive Memorandum of Settlement with Bodo organisations”. The move comes as a boost to the ongoing peace talks with Bodo groups since all the factions are now on board, an official said.
Addressing the press on Friday evening, Assam DGP B J Mahanta said that apart from two NDFB(S) leaders — G Bidai and Batha — all other important leaders and cadres are now ready to participate in the talks. “This is a very important step to take the peace talks forward,” Mahanta said, appealing to other militants to return to the mainstream.
A police officer said that the NDFB(S) cadres joining peace talks does not mean that cases of “heinous crimes” against them will be withdrawn. However, the cases dealing with non-heinous crimes could be dropped.
Another official said if a final settlement to the Bodo issue is found while keeping intact the territorial integrity of Assam, it will go a long way in improving the law-and- order situation and bring prosperity and progress to the state. The development comes days after nearly 30 cadres of the faction, including top leaders and their family members, were allowed to cross into India from Myanmar, and their delegation headed to Delhi to finalise the agreement.
NDFB(S) was active in Myanmar along with other North-East insurgent groups. They had formed a joint platform — the United National Liberation Front of Western South East Asia — along with NSCN-K and the ULFA faction headed by Paresh Baruah.
The demand for a separate state for the Bodos has been going on in Assam for about about five decades. Parallel to political movements for a separate Bodo state, one of the most prominent armed groups was the Bodo Security Force (BdSF), formed under the leadership of Ranjan Daimary in October 1986. The BdSF renamed itself as the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), an organisation alleged to have been involved in attacks, killings and extortions.
Over the years, there were failed attempts of negotiations between the Union government, Assam government and the NDFB. In October 2008, the group carried out serial blasts across Assam in which nearly 90 people were killed, for which Daimary and nine others were sentenced to life last year by a special CBI court in Guwahati.
Soon after the blasts, the NDFB was divided into two factions — the NDFB (Progressive) and Daimary’s faction NDFB (RD). The Progressive faction started peace talks with the Union government in 2009.
Daimary’s faction too is in peace talks with the Union government, but observers have noted that his conviction by the CBI court could cause hurdles in the negotiations.
In 2012, Ingti Kathar Songbijit broke away from the NDFB(RD) and formed the NDFB(S) faction. This faction is said to be behind the December 2014 massacre of 66 adivasis in Assam. In 2015, Songbijit was removed as the chief of the group and Saoraigwra took over.
After his removal, Songbijit — a Karbi by ethnicity — is said to have flouted his own Karbi militant group. On Friday, DGP Mahanta appealed to Songbijit too to give up arms and join the mainstream.
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