SILCHAR : With the ceremonial surrender of 382 Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel faction) militants before the Chief Minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi, at Haflong, the district head quarters of North Cachar Hills on the day coinciding with the birthday of the great apostle of peace and non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi, peace has at last returned to the most trouble torn district after nearly two decades of violence in which more than 300 persons have been killed. During the recent four months of orgy of bloodshed involving Dimasa and Zeme communities, 65 persons from both the groups were killed and 550 houses burnt. There was outcry for peace from NGOs and social bodies led by the apex Dimasa organiation Jadhike Naisho Hoshom (JNH). The extremists could hardly ignore the ground reality and also the mounting operations by the security forces. With good sense prevailing, DHD (J) agreed to bid farewell to arms which has been hailed by all sections of people across north-east.
The implication of this significant event is that all kinds of development stalled in the Hills district so long will get boost up. As Niranjan Hojai, commander-in-chief of the outfit said, “there will be no more obstruction in the construction of broad gauge link and East-West Corridor, besides other projects”. His statement does convey the message of goodwill for the wellbeing and welfare of different tribal groups inhabiting one of the most backward districts of north-east.
It was quite in fitness of things that the Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi announced a package of Rs.50 crore for the relief and rehabilitation of the rebels. In order to absorb the cadres, he assured of raising two battalions of the Assam Police. It was also pointed out by him that his government would consider with all sympathy the charter of demands of the outfit.
It is relevant to point out that the surrender of the leaders and cadres of DHD is not without a rider. Niranjan Hojai outlining the demands reiterated their call for the creation of a State within State under the constitutional provision of 244 (A), one Lok Sabha seat and 10 Assembly seats for the district, introduction of inner line permit to protect the identity and culture of the tribals, changing the name of the district as Dima Hasao Raji (Land of the Dimasas), investment of one per cent of profit of Central government establishments for the developmental activities, release of all those detained and general amnesty to the rebels. Niranjan Hojai set the deadline of 100 days for the fulfilment of their charter of demands and he cautioned failure on the part of the government would force them to return to jungle.
The litany of demands includes certain contentious issues. Though Dimasas constitute nearly 43 per cent of the total population of North Cachar Hills, other tribal groups like Nagas, Kukis, Hmars, Hrankhals, Baites, Jaintias, Khasis, and Paetis are opposing vehemently the demand for separate State as well as changing the nomenclature of the district as Dima Hasao Raji. They apprehend such a move would be against their identity and subjugate them to the Dimasa hegemony. Observers fear ethnic flare up on the issue if this demand is accepted. Significantly, a committee constituted by the State government headed by Dinesh Prashad Goala, Minister of Urban Development, to examine the change in nomenclature has not given its approval. Another most complicated issue of State within State, according to the demand of both the factions of DHD, includes the territory of Dimaraji under Dimasa kingdom that formed part of Cachar, Naogon and Dimapur, apart from North Cachar Hills.
Though the Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has said that in the next round of talks, the charter of demands will be taken up for discussion, questions are being raised in knowledgeable circles: Will not the contentious issues queer the pitch for talks and settlement? Dilip Nunisa, Chairman of the other faction, who surrendered in 2003, frankly admitted that it would be a difficult task for the Central and State government to accommodate the demand of Dimaraji.
It is to be recalled that during the mid 80’s Dimasa National Security Force (DNSF) was formed under the leadership of Bharat Langthasa. After his arrest, it became almost defunct. In 1993 came into being Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) led by Dilip Nunisa. He surrendered along with all his cadres on September 26, 2003. Jewel Gorlosa group broke away and floated another outfit after his name in 2004. Since then it has been a history of bloodshed in the once most peaceful district of Assam, known for its lush green forests and tourist resorts.