Updated: August 28, 2021 2:14:17 am
At least five people were killed after alleged militants from the Dimasa National Liberation Army (DNLA) fired on and set ablaze several private commercial trucks in Dima Hasao district of Assam on Thursday evening, police said.
“We have recovered five charred bodies — they are mostly truck drivers and handymen. Identification is ongoing,” Dima Hasao district superintendent of police Jayant Singh said on Friday morning.
He said intelligence inputs suggested that the DNLA was behind the attack.
The DNLA was formed in 2019 with the aim of creating a “sovereign and independent nation” of the Dimasa-Kachari tribe, one of the earliest inhabitants and rulers of Assam’s Brahmaputra valley. The Dimasa now live in Dima Hasao, Karbi Anglong, Cachar and Nagaon districts of central and southern Assam, as well as in parts of Nagaland.
Around 8 pm on Thursday, the suspected militants stopped a convoy of about seven trucks at Rangerbeel under Diyungmukh police station, some 115 km from Haflong, the headquarters of Dima Hasao district, police said.
They opened indiscriminate fire on the vehicles that were reportedly carrying clinker and coal from a cement factory, a subsidiary of the Dalmia Group, in Umrangso in Dima Hasao district to Lanka in Hojai district.
As per reports on Friday evening, the five dead have been identified as Gour Mazumder (42), Dilwar Hussain (24), Sikandar Ali (32), and Afgar Ali (37) from Hojai district, and Dharmendra Kumar Paresh (35) from Pratapgarh in Uttar Pradesh.
A few trucks reportedly managed to escape, and two injured truckers were taken to hospital for treatment. Police were conducting a massive combing operation in the area, SP Singh said.
In a statement issued on Friday evening, the Dalmia Group said: “Some of our partner vehicles carrying company material were targeted by an extremist group. We are saddened to inform you that 5 drivers who were attacked lost their lives and 2 were injured. We express our condolences to the families of the deceased and we will extend due support to the bereaved families… We are in touch with the Government of Assam and they have assured us that necessary steps will be taken, so as to avoid any such untowardly incident in the future.”
State DGP Bhaskarjyoti Mahanta travelled to the site of the attack on Friday. “Our investigation is underway. Senior officials are here in Dima Hasao. We will take very strong action,” Mahanta told reporters in Dima Hasao.
“Insurgency is a reality in Assam…we cannot deny that. If we (the police) succeed in 90 operations, we may fail in 10. But be assured we will take all steps at the strictest level to address this unfortunate incident,” he said.
The hill district of Dima Hasao, which is run by the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the constitution, was a hotbed of insurgency in the 1990s and 2000s, but has been relatively peaceful over the past decade.
The Dimasa National Security Force (DNSF) was formed in 1991 with the aim of creating a separate state called Dimaraji. After the group surrendered in 1995, its commander-in-chief, Jewel Gorlosa, formed the Dima Halam Daogah, which mostly carried out extortion and ‘taxation’, and was reportedly mentored by the NSCN (I-M) of Nagaland.
After the Dima Halam Daogah began talks with the government in 2003, Gorlosa broke away and formed the Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel), with an armed wing called the Black Widow. The two outfits were active in the region for several years, but ultimately signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in 2012.
Announcing its formation on April 15, 2019 with Naisodao Dimasa as its chairman, the DNLA said it was “committed to revamp the national struggle and fight for the liberation of a sovereign, independent Dimasa Nation”. It said that its aim was to “develop a sense of brotherhood among the Dimasa and also to rebuild trust and faith among the Dimasa society for regaining the Dimasa Kingdom”.
In May this year, the DNLA received a major blow after six of its top cadres were killed in a counter-insurgency operation by the Assam Police and Assam Rifles. This was preceded by an encounter in March, in which a top cadre who went by the name of ‘Black Dimasa’, was killed.
Over the last few months, the Northeastern states have seen several episodes of violence and unrest. In July, the old boundary dispute between Assam and Mizoram turned bloody, leading to the death of six Assam Police personnel. More recently, a curfew was imposed in Meghalaya and the Internet was shut down for 72 hours following violence after cadres of the outlawed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council burned a police vehicle in response to the alleged murder of their former leader in a police operation.
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