Guwahati, May 14: Security agencies trying to cleanse the BTAD of illegal arms say the flow of arms and involvement of militants make the job tough.
“The challenge before us is that many of those supplying arms in the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) are either members of a militant group or former militants who are well trained in transporting weapons by concealing them to avoid our glare. They use these techniques even after they surrender and get into arms supplies. This makes our job tough,” a senior police officer here said.
Citing an example, additional director-general of police (law and order) A.P. Raut said they had recently stopped a car near Pancharatna bridge on the national highway at Goalpara following information that it had weapons. “Our policemen struggled to find out the arms as they were concealed very smartly. We are making every effort to seize illegal arms from the BTAD.”
The senior police officer said nearly 300 illegal arms and over 200 grenades had been seized from the BTAD since 2012 but the problem was far from over since the flow of weapons through Nagaland and Mizoram was still on. “Most of these arms, like the AK-series rifles and M20 rifles, come from South East Asian countries such as Myanmar and China. Of late, we have found small arms coming in from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh as well. We are in constant touch with Nagaland and Mizoram police to check the supply of arms,” he added.
Illegal weapons have long been a problem in the BTAD. Weapons were acquired by supporters of the Bodoland movement, which began in the late 1980s, by militants of the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), which was formed in 1996, and the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB). The BLT was disbanded and subsequently the Bodoland Territorial Council was formed under the Sixth Schedule in 2003.
The “political solution”, however, failed to solve the problem as NDFB factions and other militant groups like the Adivasi Cobra Military Force, Birsa Commando Force (disbanded), Kamtapur Liberation Organisation and Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam continued to procure arms, mostly from suppliers in Nagaland and Mizoram.
The objection has often been raised that rebel groups in peace talks, such as the Ranjan Daimary faction of the NDFB, did not deposit all its weapons and that its cadres still use it for extortion. The I.K. Songbijit faction of the NDFB, which is yet to come forward for talks, allegedly carries out killings, abductions and extortion, constantly fomenting trouble in the BTAD. A fresh operation against illegal arms was launched in the BTAD soon after the May 1 and 2 carnage in Kokrajhar and Baksa districts that killed at least 46 people, including 22 children. Two children are still reported missing. However, those demanding action to free the BTAD from illegal arms say the special operation is not a solution.
“Police stations and outposts should be strengthened and steps taken to declare the area under each police station a zone free of illegal arms. Besides operations by security forces, civil society groups should be involved in a continuous campaign against illegal arms. The campaign, however, should not just focus on the BTAD because there are illegal arms in Karbi Anglong, Dima Hasao and in Upper Assam as well,” said Raju Narzary of the Kokrajhar-based NGO, North East Research and Social Work Networking. He participated in a protest against BTAD violence along with several other activists, writers and intellectuals from across the state today.