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The rise of the Black Widow
Published on 29 May. 2009 11:43 PM IST
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As fresh violence broke out in Haflong on Thursday, days after the Centre accorded top priority to tackling militant groups in the Northeast, Samudra Gupta Kashyap from Sinlung takes a look at the history of the “Black Widow” outfit, which has been behind a spate of attacks in Assam’s North Cachar Hills district. “Black Widow” It is an armed underground group which is also known as the Jewel Garlossa faction of the Dima Halam Daogah or DHD(J). Its roots can be traced to the Dimasa National Security Force (DNSF), a group formed in 1993 to “safeguard” the interests of the Dimasa tribe, the largest tribe in the North Cachar Hills (NCH) district. While DNSF surrendered, two of its leaders, Dilip Nunisa and Garlossa, stayed out to float DHD in 1995. On January 1, 2004, when the DHD, under chairman Nunisa, signed a “ceasefire” agreement with the Government of India, Garlossa was removed from the post of “commander-in-chief” and expelled for forming the “Black Widow”, also known as DHD(J). North Cachar Hills It is one of the two hill districts of Assam and divides the Brahmaputra and Barak valleys. When the British annexed the erstwhile Dimasa kingdom in 1864, it remained part of the Naga Hills district, to be soon tagged to Cachar district, and subsequently carved into a sub-division which was declared an “excluded area” directly under the governor in 1935. In 1951, it was separated from Cachar district and amalgamated with the present-day Karbi Anglong district to become the United Mikir and North Cachar district. In 1970, it was made a separate district, and comes under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, under which it has an autonomous council, except for law and order. Demands of the outfit The DHD(J) has the same demand as the original DHD, which still wants to negotiate with the government for creation of “Dimaraji” — a separate state for the Dimasa tribals — out of NHC and parts of adjoining Cachar and Nagaon districts apart from portions of Nagaland (where the Dimasas once had their capital at Dimapur). How DHD(J) operates While “Dimaraji” is its only demand, the outfit has been more in the news for numerous incidents of abductions, killings, extortions and attacks on trains. It has about 300 members, and is reported to possess about 40 AK-series weapons. Two ongoing Central projects — the Rs 800-crore180-km stretch of the East-West Corridor that will connect Silchar in the Barak Valley to Porbandar in Gujarat, and the Rs 1,000-crore Lumding-Silchar broad gauge railway project — and half-a-dozen small cement plants have become their top targets. Politician-militant nexus There have been reports of a politician-militant nexus in the district. In March, a DHD(J) rebel was caught in Shillong with Rs 1 crore in cash, allegedly given to him by the chief executive member of the Autonomous Council, Mohit Hojai, who belongs to the Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC), a regional party. The former Autonomous Council chief executive member, Purnendu Langthasa of the Congress party, was killed when he had reportedly gone to hand over Rs 2-3 crore to the DHD(J) in June 2007 as the amount didn’t match their demand. The rebel groups also collect “tax” by deducting fixed amounts on salary day from government employees, while contractors have to cough up at least 40 per cent of their total funds. Development projects affected The cost of the railway project, sanctioned in 1996-97 with 2007 as the target date for completion, has risen from Rs 1,670 crore to a revised estimate of Rs 4,000 crore. The revised target for completion is March 2012. But the project has come to a halt, with all the contractors and their labourers fleeing to safety after the renewed militant attack that began on April 10. The project is only about 40 per cent complete. The East-West Corridor project, which was supposed to have been operational this month, has not even achieved 5 per cent progress. Reasons behind violence Traditionally, the Autonomous Councils in the two hill districts function better when the ruling party is the same as the one in the state. Otherwise, there are complaints that the state is not releasing the required funds. There have been reports of ethnic conflicts, especially between the Dimasa and Zeme-Naga tribes. While the DHD and DHD(J) claim to be saviours of the Dimasa tribe, the NSCN(IM) is reported to be active in providing support and arms to small groups for “safeguarding” the interests of the Zeme-Nagas. These conflicts have led to the displacement of over 1,000 people in the last month. State govt actions Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has directed security forces to tackle militancy with an iron hand. But there have been no major arrests so far. Over 50,000 security personnel are deployed in the district, including the Army, Assam Rifles, CRPF, Assam Police, Railway Protection Force. There are also over 700 SPOs deployed to provide additional security cover to firms engaged in the railway and highway projects.

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