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Threat of regrouped rebels in hill districts

Nagaon, June 6: Militants continue to hold the twin hill districts of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao to ransom, affecting life and development, despite a number of rebels laying down arms and subsequent dissolution of their groups.

According to reports, the United People’s Liberation Army (UPLA), Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers (KPLT) and Karbi National Liberation Army (KNLA) were behind four major incidents in Karbi Anglong district in the last two months, all registered as “related to extortion”.

A high-level police source today said members of the disbanded militant outfits often regroup to launch extortion drives in the two hill districts.

“Each time a faction lays down arms, a section of rebels later forms another fresh group. When the United People’s Democratic Solidarity came under ceasefire, a faction floated the Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF). When it laid down arms, some cadres formed the Karbi People’s Liberation Tiger (KPLT),” said a source in the Karbi Anglong administration.

In neighbouring Dima Hasao, leaders of the Dima Halam Daogah floated the DHD (J) and dissident DHD (J) cadres floated the Dimasa National Liberation Front (DNLF).

The United Peoples Liberation Army (UPLA) and Karbi National Liberation Army (KNLA) are two recently floated militant groups.

The UPLA comprises former UPDS cadres. The group allegedly uses arms of the UPDS and runs an extortion racket in the western part of the hill district.

The KNLA had called an indefinite Karbi Anglong bandh during the recent parliamentary elections.

According to the police, the support of rebel groups in neighbouring states like Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland enables members of disbanded groups to regroup.

“These rebels provide arms and cadre support to these youths. Local leaders (if they are wanted) are given shelter in their camps. In return, they launch joint extortion drives in the name of a newly floated group or in the name of the parent group,” the source said. In Karbi Anglong, 19 militants led by Amitabh Hanse refused to lay down arms when the KLNLF agreed to a ceasefire on August 2010.

Hanse later floated the KPLT, which maintains a relation with militant outfits in neighbouring Nagaland and Meghalaya.

According to Karbi Anglong police records, the strength of the KPLT is now less than 50. It expanded its network to Diphu and Hamren subdivisions recently.

Six KPLT rebels, including self-styled commander-in-chief Kanthu Teron allies Bikash Teron, were killed in an encounter with the police on May 14. The group was also behind the abduction of four petrol pump employees from Bokajan subdivision on April 14. It also kidnapped an employee of a business firm from Diphu on May 8.

“When DHD, DHD (J), UPDS and KLNLF laid down arms, people expected an end to extortion and trouble in the two districts. Unfortunately the post-ceasefire periods were more dangerous and unbearable,” said Rathin Thaosen, a Maibong businessman.