May 22: A group of leaders of the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) is on a hush-hush visit to Guwahati to prepare the ground for peace talks with the Centre.
Official sources confirmed the visit, saying the militant leaders had been given “safe passage” by security forces to facilitate meetings with police officials and a group of Bodo intellectuals. Shillong could be the venue of the meeting between the NDFB and the delegation of community leaders, they said.
The development corroborates a report in The Telegraph on May 19, which stated that some of the NDFB leaders arrested over the past few months had probably turned themselves in as part of a strategy to initiate a political dialogue.
The NDFB leaders arrested since November 26 include general secretary Gobinda Basumatary alias B. Swmkhwr, vice-chairman Dhiren Boro, “captain” Khaninder Diamary, “speaker” Sunil Brahma, “lieutenant” Indramohan Basumatary and deputy commander-in-chief B. Olongbar.
Intelligence sources said the Assam government had been trying to convince NDFB chairman Ranjan Daimari to opt for talks through his two arrested deputies, Boro and Basumatary.
Dispur claimed recently that the NDFB chief had authorised his comrades to explore the possibility of starting a political dialogue with the Centre. Boro and Basumatry were, therefore, allowed to contact their leader.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said on Sunday that the NDFB’s response to his government’s peace overtures was “better than ever before”. However, he admitted that no breakthrough had been achieved so far.
Similar efforts to open a channel for communication with the Ulfa appears to have fizzled out with academic Homen Borgohain, whose services Dispur had requested to break the ice with the outfit, accusing the government of “breach of trust by divulging developments to the media”.
Though a dialogue with the NDFB is a long way off, there is reason to believe that Dispur and the militant outfit’s leadership have been working hard at it. Intelligence sources said Boro and Basumatary were part of a three-member group formed by the NDFB chief before their arrest to find ways to respond to the Centre and the state government’s offer of talks. The third member of the team was the outfit’s publicity secretary B. Erakdao.
Encounters between NDFB militants and security forces, however, continue to take place at regular intervals. Four militants of the outfit were last night killed in a firefight with troops of the army’s Red Horns Division near Deosri in Kokrajhar district of Lower Assam.
Sources said the militants lobbed grenades and opened fire on the army team at a spot just two km north of Deosri, along the Aie river. The troops fired “illuminating mortars” and killed four of the six-member NDFB group. They recovered a 9mm German Mauser pistol with a magazine, four Chinese-made grenades and two rucksacks full of personal belongings.
The army had laid “multiple ambushes” in the area after being informed that the six-member NDFB group had sneaked into Assam from across the Indo-Bhutan border to collect money, rations and medicines for their camps in the Himalayan kingdom.
It is believed that the NDFB felt sidelined from the Bodo arena after the rival Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) signed an accord with the Centre and the state government, paving the way for an autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council.
The BLT’s drive for peace in the troubled Bodo-inhabited belt was backed by most organisations representing the community, including the All-Bodo Students’ Union (Absu) and the Bodo Sahitya Sabha. The tumultuous welcome given by the people to the outfit’s leadership on their return from New Delhi, where the accord was signed, indicated that the violence-weary population was behind them.
BLT chairman Hagrama Basumatary said shortly after the accord was signed that his organisation was “ready to make way for the NDFB” if it came up with something better.
“We have heard enough of their speeches. The time has come for them to show that they are working for the development of the Bodos. Only then will we believe that they are actually upholding the Bodo cause,” Basumatary said.