Slow progress of talks may derail peace process

[Assam Tribune]

R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Feb 16 – Surrender of weapons by the militants belonging to the Karbi Longri NC Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF) on February 11 will definitely help in improving the overall law and order situation in Karbi Anglong, but security sources expressed apprehension that keeping militants under cease-fire agreement for long periods without permanent solution to the problems might result in complications and the possibility of some of the members of the outfits coming out to form new outfits cannot be ruled out.

Highly placed security sources told The Assam Tribune that there have been instances of members of militant groups under cease fire agreement indulging in unlawful activities and though the Central and State Governments have tightened the ground rules of the cease-fire agreements in recent times, that failed to totally curb such activities.

Sources said that wherever a militant outfit signed cease-fire agreements with the Government, the level of violence in the areas dominated by such outfits definitely came down considerably, but there have been instances of members of such groups indulging in extortion and in some cases, members of such groups even procuredweapons. Most of the groups under cease fire agreement were believed to be indulging in recruitment drives, which is a matter of serious concern and though such issues are taken up in the meetings held to monitor the implementation of the ground rules of cease-fire agreements, the leaders of the outfits often deny the reports.

Sources said that at present, more than 3,000 trained cadres of different militant groups are sitting idle in the designated camps and the possibility of unscrupulous elements using a few of them to commit crimes cannot be ruled out and in recent times,security forces came across a number of such incidents. Interestingly, there have also been instances of members of the militant groups under ceasefireagreement imparting training to members of active groups and the members of the NSCN (I-M) very often extend help to other militant groups, while, the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) is still receiving help from the NSCN (K).

Security sources said that the United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) came over ground in August, 2002 to express willingness to solve the problems through talks but unfortunately, no substantial progress has been made in talks with the outfit as yet. Because of the slow progress of thepeace talks, differences among the members of the outfit cropped up and the KLNLF was formed in 2004. Now both the UPDS and KLNLF are under cease fireagreement with the Government but the possibility of new complications in Karbi Anglong cannot be ruled out if the peace talks are not taken to the logical conclusion as soon as possible.

Sources said that till recently, the KLNLF maintained cordial relation with the ULFA and several leaders of the 27 battalion of the ULFA stayed in the camps of the KLNLF in the Singhashan Hills area. Thesecurity forces will now have to keep a close watch on all the members of the KLNLF to ensure that they do not maintain relations with the ULFA.

The DHD came over ground in 2003 but as in the case with the UPDS, the slow progress of the talks and differences among the top leaders led to the formation of the DHD(J), commonly known as the Black Widow group. The Black Widow group created mayhem in the Hill district for several years before surrendering arms to express their desire to hold talks withthe Government last year.

Similarly, the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) signed a cease fire pact with the Government in 2005 and after the serial blasts on October 30, 2008, the outfit was divided and the Centre started the process of talks with the pro-talk faction only recently.

Though the Government now insists on surrender of weapons by the militant groups who want to come forward for talks, security sources admitted that as no security force has any estimate of the number of weapons in possession of the militant groups, the possibility of the groups retaining some weapons even after formal surrender of weapons cannot be ruled out.

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