Explained: Significance of surrender of DNLA militants in Assam

Dimasa with 46 cadre Commander-in-Chief Mushrang of the National Liberation Army (DNLA) on Monday, Laid down arms in Dima Hasao district of Assam to join mainstream, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the surrender had “accelerated the process of peace” in Assam.

What is DNLA?

A relatively new insurgent group, the DNLA, operating in Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong districts, was formed in 2019. A communique by the group at the time of formation stated that it was “committed to revitalizing the national struggle and fighting for the liberation of a sovereign, independent Dimasa nation”. Its objective was “to develop a sense of brotherhood among the Dimasa and to rebuild trust and confidence among the Dimasa society to reclaim the Dimasa kingdom”.

The group followed the model of ‘extortion and taxation’ and was believed to have received support and sustenance from the NSCN(IM) of Nagaland.

Active over the past two years, the DNLA came into limelight when it was suspected to be behind the attack that killed five truck drivers in Dima Hasao in August, when truck owners allegedly failed to pay extortion money . The attack comes at a time when the government is making efforts to bring militant groups into the mainstream.

What caused the group to go overground?

In September, barely a fortnight after the truck attack, the group’s top leaders came out to hold talks with CM Sarma. These leaders included self-styled ‘Chairman’ Edika Difusa alias Kharmindao Dimasa, ‘Deputy Chairman’ Judichan Haflongber alias America Dimasa and the ‘Secretary General’, Prithamjit Zidongsa alias Galao Dimasa.

After negotiations, they signed the Suspension of Operating Agreement. After that on Saturday, 46 activists along with Musharang laid down their arms in the presence of Hiren Nath, ADGP (Special Branch), Jayant Singh, SP, Dima Hasao, Debolal Garlosa, Chief Executive Member of North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC). ) They are presently in a camp at Maibang, 100 km from Haflong, the district headquarter.

Police said there were around 300 more DNLA cadres, and those too would soon emerge.

SP Singh said that the surrendered group included AK 47 and M16 rifles among others.

Who is Dimasa? What is the Dimasa Empire?

The Dimasa (or Dimasa-Kacharis) are the earliest known rulers and settlers of Assam, and live in what is now the Dima Hasao, Karbi Anglong, Cachar, Hojai and Nagaon districts of central and southern Assam, as well as parts of Nagaland.

Prior to the Ahom rule, the mighty Dimasa kings – believed to be descendants of the rulers of the ancient Kamrup kingdom – ruled large parts of Assam on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra between the 13th and 16th centuries. Their earliest historically known capital was Dimapur (now in Nagaland) and later Maibang in the northern Cachar Hills.

What about terrorism in Dima Hasao?

Assam’s hill districts – Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao (formerly North Cachar Hills) – have a long history of insurgency by Karbi and Dimasa groups, which peaked in the mid-1990s, and were rooted in the main demand of the state . Both districts are now protected under the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution, and are run by the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council and Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, respectively.

While the demand for statehood began in 1960, it took a violent turn when the demand for a full state, ‘Dimaraji’, took hold, and led to the formation of the militant Dimasa National Security Force (DNSF) in 1991. The group surrendered in 1995, but its commander-in-chief, Jewel Gorlosa, broke away and formed Dima Halam Daogah (DHD).

After the DHD began talks with the government in 2003, Gorlosa split again and formed Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel) (DHD-J) with an armed wing called the Black Widow. Gorlosa was arrested in 2009, a ceasefire agreement was signed in 2012, and then joined mainstream politics.

Dima Hasao was the epicenter of the insurgency in 1994-95 and again in 2003-2009, but has remained largely peaceful over the past decade. The DNLA was the newest group to take up arms in Dima Hasao.

Is DNLA dedication important?

SP Singh said that they were the last active militant group in the district. “There are no more groups active as of now,” he said, adding that their surrender was “a step towards peace”. ADGP Nath said this was especially important as the hill districts have a long history of militancy. “Considering that they were the last active group, it is remarkable that they have joined the peace process,” he said.

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Special DGP GP Singh said the surrender came at a time when most of the groups in Assam have joined the mainstream including Bodo and Karbi terrorist organisations. “It leaves out the United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I),” he said. He said the government is already in the process of reaching out to them. “We are hopeful that they too will come to the ground and there will be peace in Assam,” he said.

In September, CM Sarma said that Union Home Minister Amit Shah had authorized him to hold preliminary talks with the ULFA-I. On Sunday, the group extended its unilateral ceasefire for three more months.