Scramble for Supremacy: Turf Tussle among Northeast Insurgent Groups on Myanmar Soil

Guwahati: Indian-origin insurgent groups operating from Myanmar soil for years were in frequent skirmish with each other over politics, ideology and turf clout. This is one of the claims by a surrendered rebel leader from the National Democratic Front of Boroland- Saoraigwra (NDFB-S).

Speaking to News18, self-styled foreign secretary of the group NE Esara said, “There is a lot of conflict among the Assam revolutionary groups in Myanmar, like United Liberation Front of Assam- Independent (ULFA-I), Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) and NDFB-S. There were a series of debates between our general secretary BR Ferenga and ULFA-I chief Paresh Baruah regarding political history and ideology. At last, the situation was controlled by our chairman B Saoraigwra and understanding between both groups was re-established.”

Esara, along with his bodyguard, had surrendered in Nagaland last year after the Myanmar army launched a massive crackdown on north-eastern insurgent groups from India active in the neighbouring nation.

“The geographical area demanded by KLO was a major issue for conflict between NDFB-S and KLO,” he said. “KLO general secretary KK (Kailash Koch) submitted a memorandum to our president that their organisation will cover fourteen districts of Assam, including Boro-dominated Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baska and Udalguri. How can we accept their demand?”

KLO’s stated objective is to carve out a separate Kamtapur nation from India. The proposed state is to comprise six districts of North Bengal (Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur, Malda), four of lower Assam (Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Goalpara), and Jhapa district in Nepal.

The insurgent group was formed to address problems of the Koch Rajbongshi people such as large-scale unemployment, land alienation, perceived neglect of Kamtapuri language, identity, and grievances of economic deprivation.

The main grievances of NDFB are the under-development in the region and the influx of immigrants. It avowedly aims to address these issues by seceding from India, and establishing a sovereign Boroland.

On Thursday, 644 cadres of eight banned outfits surrendered at an event in Guwahati in the presence of Assam chief minister Sarbanand Sonowal. They brought along with them sophisticated arms and ammunition. The highest number of 301 militants who surrendered belonged to the National Liberation Front of Bengalis (NLFB), followed by 178 from Adivasi Dragon Fighter (ADF) and 87 from the National Santhal Liberation Army (NSLA). The others who surrendered included 50 cadres of the ULFA-I, 13 members of the Rava National Liberation Front (RNLF), eight of the NDFB, six from the KLO, and one from the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

New Delhi stirred Myanmar to act against bases set up by Northeast rebel groups in its territory last year, pushing them towards a crisis of funds and crippling their operations.