On September 22, 2011, Security Forces (SFs) raided and destroyed a Karbi Peoples Liberation Tiger (KPLT) base camp in Hujunglangso Rongkhin village under Bokajan police station of the Karbi Anglong district. The camp was the operational office of Nilip Inghi, 'general secretary' of KPLT, who, along with his close cadres, was present at the time of attack. However, they managed to escape unhurt, taking advantages of darkness.
Earlier, in a joint operation, state police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troops, on August 10, 2011, shot dead an unidentified KPLT militant during an encounter at Kuli Gaon under Bokajan police station.
KPLT was, in fact, formed only on January 8, 2011, and came under SF pressure almost immediately.
Six KPLT militants have been killed and another eight have been arrested since the group's creation. Some of the significant operations against KPLT include:
August 26, 2011: SFs arrested a top KPLT militant, identified as Amar Rongpi, from Diphu in Karbi Anglong district.
July 12, 2011: SFs killed two KPLT militants, including 'commander-in-chief' Angpang Engti and his bodyguard Ading Rangpi and injured another militant, at Upper Deihori Rangpi Kro village in Karbi Anglong district.
March 28, 2011: SFs killed one KPLT militant in the Koilamati locality under Bokajan police station in Karbi Anglong district.
March 5, 2011: A KPLT cadre, identified as Andrew Terang, was killed in an encounter with the SFs at Samelangso under the Dokmoka police station in Karbi Anglong district.
February 13, 2011: SFs shot dead an unidentified KPLT militant in Bokajan sub-division in Karbi Anglong district.
KPLT was earlier the Karbi Anglong North Cachar Hills Liberation Front - Anti Talks (KLNLF-A), which had been formed on September 17, 2010. Several SF operations had targeted the KLNF-A as well, including:
December 29, 2010: SFs neutralized a KLNLF-A camp south of Dalamara in Karbi Anglong district and recovered some arms and ammunition.
October 9, 2010: One unidentified KLNLF-A militant was killed during an encounter with the Assam Police and the Army at a hill top near Tarabasa of Uttarbarbil Outpost under Howraghat police station of Karbi Anglong district.
September 25, 2010: An unidentified KLNLF-A militant was shot dead in a joint operation by the Assam Police and Army at Napak Ghat under Dakmuka police station in Karbi Anglong district.
The KPLT is believed to have split towards the middle of 2011, when some of its members formed a new group, the Karbi National Protection Force (KNPF). This new outfit also faced the SFs' brunt:
October 15, 2011: SFs arrested four KNPF militants, including 'vice president' Mongal SingTokbi, at Diphu in Karbi Anglong district.
October 16-17, 2011: A youth, identified as James M. Sangma, was abducted by KNPF at Guwahati. However he was rescued by the Police on October 17 from Diphu in Karbi Anlong district. The SFs also arrested two KNPF militants, identified as Sanjib Teli and Grading Mara, in connection with the case, from Diphu. The rescue and the arrests were made on the basis of statements by KNPF cadres arrested on October 15.
October 17, 2011: One KNPF militant, identified as Sanjay Taro, was arrested by SFs in Borjan area in Golaghat district.
Seven KNPF militants have been arrested so far.
KPLT, formed with an objective of carving an Autonomous Karbi State (AKS) out of Assam, is headed by Jing Hanse, deputy 'commander-in-chief' and Nilip Enghi, the 'general secretary-cum publicity in-charge' of the group. The KPLT, has its base in Dima Hasao district of Assam and parts of Arunachal Pradesh, and has pledged to fight until the AKS is formed.
The KLNLF-A was a breakaway faction of the Karbi Longri National Liberation Front (KLNLF), which had laid down arms on February 11, 2010. The KLNLF, in turn, was earlier known as United People's Democratic Solidarity-Anti Talks (UPDS-AT). The UPDS had been formed in March 1999 with the merger of two terrorist outfits in the Karbi Anglong district - KNV and Karbi People's Front (KPF). Karbi National Volunteers (KNV) had been floated in the eighties with the objective of using violent means to secure a separate state of Karbi Anglong. KPF was formed in 1994. Since 1995, KNV and KPF had targeted the Citizens Rights Preservation Committee (CRPC), an umbrella organsatioin of non-Karbi people, including the Marwaris, Biharis, Nepalis and Bengalis, in Assam. The 'war' against 'outsiders' started in earnest in March 1999, when KNV and KPF merged to form UPDS. The UPDS later raised the demand for a Karbi Anglong Territorial Council (KATC).
UPDS signed a cease-fire agreement for one year with the union government on May 23, 2002. This led to a split in the UPDS with one faction deciding to continue with its subversive activities while the other commenced negotiations with the government. On May 16, 2004, the UPDS-Anti-Talks rechristened itself KLNLF, and called its armed wing the Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Resistance Force.
The UPDS held six rounds of peace talks with the state and union government representatives between 2002 and 2006, but on September 11, 2006, announced a suspension of talks. However, it said that it would continue with the cease-fire. Later, on December 23, 2010, the Union government agreed in principle to the UPDS demand for an 'upgraded' KATC with more powers than the existing Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC). On October 18, 2011, UPDS agreed to sign a peace agreement with the Centre and Assam government on three conditions. Firstly, the demand for statehood to be pressed in a democratic and peaceful manner; secondly, whenever the State Re-organization Commission (SRC) or any commission to examine the statehood demands of various organisations is constituted by the government of India, the Karbi Anglong demand for statehood shall also be included as one of the terms of reference; the third condition was that, immediately after concluding this settlement, the present KAAC would be dissolved to make way for the UPDS to lay down arms, and its nominees would form an interim body to manage and supervise a substantive re-organization of the KATA within the framework of the amended Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. Some of the key points of the proposed agreement that was scheduled to be signed on October 24, 2011, include:
- Present KAAC will be replaced with a new territorial entity to be known as Karbi Anglong Autonomous Territory (KAAT) under the revised provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
- The proposed territory shall have three revenue and administrative districts- East Karbi Anglong, Central Karbi Anglong and West Karbi Anglong, with headquarters at Koilamati, Singhason and Hamren, respectively.
- The proposed territory will be governed by the Karbi Anglong Territorial Authority (KATA).
- KATA shall have 55 seats of which 45 will be reserved for Scheduled Tribes, five will be open, and five seats will be filled through nominations.
However, on October 21, both the union home ministry and Assam government rejected the demand for dissolving the KAAC. Later in the day, the UPDS said that it would not sign the proposed tripartite agreement scheduled for October 24 unless the 'agreed formula' was ensured.
Earlier, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Joint Secretary (Northeast) Shambhu Singh had stated, on August 12, 2011, "government is of the view that the KLNLF should also sign the same agreement." KLNLF is also under cease-fire, but has not signed any agreement on its demands, of which the core is the formation of AKS. Singh also said that the government did not recognise KPLT as a representative of the Karbi people, that the members of the outfit were indulging in unlawful activities, and were criminals. The MHA recognized UPDS and KLNLF as representative of the Karbi people.
Nevertheless, KPLT has emerged as a new threat. Significantly, Jing Hanse, on the outfit's Foundation Day (January 8, 2011), had declared that his party would continue subversive activities if their demands were not met. Out of 81 fatalities that have taken place in Assam in 2011, KPLT has been involved in 14. Significantly, five of the 26 civilians killed in Assam have been victims of KPLT violence, while the number for SFs killed by KPLT cadres was three out of a total of 14. The most significant acts of violence engineered by the group include:
October 22, 2011: A local Congress leader, identified as Langtuk Killing, was shot dead by suspected KPLT militants in Karbi Anglong district.
August 13, 2011: A truck driver, Nandu Mathu, was killed and 11 others, including six Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) activists, were injured when suspected KPLT militants opened fire on vehicles on National Highway 37 at Panbari near Kaziranga National Park in Golaghat district.
June 7, 2011: Narendra Kiling, member of the KAAC and a Congress youth leader, was shot dead by KPLT militants at his residence in Diphu district.
April 26, 2011: One civilian, identified as Bordeka Kro (55), was shot dead by KPLT militants at Karuna Singnar Gaon near the New Life School in Karbi Anglong district.
April 2, 2011: KPLT militants killed three CRPF personnel and injured four others in an ambush near Rongshuli village in Karbi Anglong district.
January 27, 2011: A senior Congress leader and President of the Karbi Jutang Chingthur Asong (KJCA), Mohen Ingti, was shot dead allegedly by KPLT cadres, in the Bokajan sub-division of Karbi Anglong district.
January 25, 2011: Five passengers suffered bullet injuries when a Manipur bound inter state bus coming from Guwahati and heading towards Imphal was attacked by cadres of KPLT at Deopani under Golagat police station of Karbi Anglong district.
The splintering of militant groups in Assam over the issue of talks has resulted in the persistence of violence in the state, despite significant advances towards a negotiated settlement. In the present case, SF operations have kept the KPLT outfit under continuous pressure. It can only be hoped that the scheduled signing of a peace accord between UPDS, the state government and the union government, which would realize the KPLT's 'core demand', may encourage the group to give up the gun. KPLT had earlier promised that it would "forgo arms if the talks between UPDS and the government prove successful". If the KPLT leadership stands by its commitment, Assam may see another major source of conflict brought to an end.
Veronica Khangchian is Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management