Amid peace talks with Centre, NLFT says strike deal by end of July

Debraj Deb
A senior Tripura Police official, on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the talks are ongoing and said it is being mediated by central Intelligence sleuths. (Representational image)

With insurgent groups in the northeast locked in talks with the Centre, the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah seeking to accelerate the process and reach an agreement before the end of July.

In a letter made available to the press, NLFT’s self-styled president D Yamrok also congratulated Shah on BJP s "overwhelming success" in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections.

We are being assured by the government representatives many times that peace agreement will take place soon and accordingly, we have taken all the necessary steps. We even did not enroll out children s name for new academic session .we humbly request you to do all the needful so that our organisation can have peace agreement with the Govt. of India within July, 2019 ," Yamrok s letter read.

A senior Tripura Police official, on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the talks are ongoing and said it is being mediated by central Intelligence sleuths. "We have no information on the actual progress of the peace talks. But yes, talks are in progress," the official told indianexpress.com. However, the official declined to confirm or deny the authenticity of the NLFT letter to Home Minister Shah.

What is NLFT?

National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) was formed on March 12, 1989 by Dhananjoy Reang, who floated the idea of secession from India. Reang was later expelled from NLFT in 1993 and his subordinate Nayanbasi Jamatia became leader of the faction. In another split in 2001, a faction led by one Biswamohan Debbarma emerged.

The Nayanbasi faction chose to surrender and avail the rehabilitation package offered by Tripura government in January, 2004 even as the outfit s commander-in-chief called off ongoing talks and fled to Bangladesh. Currently, NLFT s Biswamohan (BM) faction is the only active insurgent outfit from Tripura.

The NLFT was outlawed in 1997 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and later under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). Suran Debbarma, who partially led mass surrender of NLFT (Nayanbashi) cadres in 2004, says there are almost 7,000 returnees from the outfit in Tripura, many of whom are yet to receive their assured rehabilitation benefits.

When did it start peace talks?

The militant group s Biswamohan (BM) faction, which received an extended declaration as an outlawed outfit by a MHA appointed tribunal earlier this year, has been holding peace talks with the Government of India since 2015. It is currently participating in the fifth round of tripartite talks with the central government and state government.

Where is NLFT hiding?

While most insurgent outfits of NE India like NSCN (K), ULFA, NDFB (Songbijit) etc. have hideouts in Myanmar, banned insurgents from Tripura are still operating from Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and Khagrachari of Bangladesh. The neighbouring country has taken a very strong stand on tackling northeast insurgency under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and has shown zero tolerance on using Bangla soil for insurgent activities.

As per the estimates of intelligence agencies, NLFT has less than 100 cadres and collaborators. However, the outfit was learned to have claimed during the peace dialogue that they have more than 200 cadres and collaborators in hiding.

Tripura shares 856 Km long international border with Bangladesh, which is still unfenced in certain patches, making it a semi-porous international boundary.

How did Tripura deal with insurgency in the past?

Tribal armed insurgency, which swelled between 1980 and late 2000s in Tripura, largely came down during erstwhile Manik Sarkar government s tenure due to lucrative compensation packages which included an immediate grant of Rs. 1.5 lakh, vocational training for 36 months and a stipend of Rs. 2000/- per month during training. Minor crime cases against those who were successfully rehabilitated were also assured to be withdrawn.

But armed tribal insurgency in the state was contained by a large number of factors. Most important among them was the role of Tripura State Rifles (TSR) the state s own counter-insurgency force raised in March, 1984. Special Police Officers (SPO), who essentially started as a band of village defense volunteers, also played a crucial role. Development was strategically ushered in tribal areas, which further mellowed the appeal of an armed struggle among indigenous communities.