How 100 cadres keep an Assam dist on edge

The fire does not seem to die in Karbi Anglong. Assam's largest district, with an area of 10,434 sq km and primarily dominated by the Karbis, a listed Scheduled Tribe community, Karbi Anglong has remained almost permanently disturbed for 15 years or so with one militant group rising after the other.

An autonomous district under the Sixth Schedule since 1952, it was given an option to join Meghalaya when the latter was created in 1971. But the Karbi leaders preferred to stay in Assam, until a fresh demand was raised a decade or so later for a separate Karbi state. While the movement was initially non-violent, Karbi National Volunteer (KNV) militants soon took over, engaging in extortion, abductions and killings. In 1999 the KNV merged with the Karbi People's Front to form the United People's Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) and unleashed a reign of terror, primarily targeting non-Karbi communities. In May 2002, when the UPDS signed a peace treaty, one faction stayed out calling itself UPDS (Anti-talks). Two years later this faction rechristened itself Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front, carried out a series of violent acts and extortion, and finally signed a ceasefire with the government in January 2010. Again, like before, one faction stayed out to become the Karbi People's Liberation Tigers (KPLT).

A rough estimate puts the number of persons killed by this succession of Karbi outfits at anywhere between 300 and 400 since 1999. Communities targeted by these groups include Kukis, Dimasas and settlers from Bihar, while a number of Karbi tribals too have lost their lives in retaliatory attacks by the Dima Halam Daoga.

The KPLT hardly has about 100 armed cadres, while a series of peace agreements have been signed with various groups in the past decade. However, given the remote location of villages, poor road connectivity and abysmal governance, Karbi Anglong, like the adjoining Dima Hasao district, continues to be hit by violence.

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