Guwahati: Ahead of Assam assembly elections likely to be held in April, as many as 1,040 members of five Karbi ethnic militant groups laid down arms Tuesday.
At an official ceremony held at Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra in Guwahati, the 1,040 members of Karbi People’s Liberation Tiger (KPLT), People’s Democratic Council of Karbi Longri (PDCK), both factions of Karbi Longri NC Hills Liberation Front (KLNLF), Kuki Liberation Front (KLF) and United People’s Liberation Army (UPLA) laid down arms in the presence of Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, senior police and Army officers, former Asom Sahiyta Sabha president Rongbong Terang, gaon buras (village headmen) and members of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council.
The surrendered rebels include the “most wanted” Ingti Kathar Songbijit, the self-styled chief of PDCK.
A total of 338 weapons, including 58 AK-47 rifles, 11 M-16 rifles, eight light machine guns along with 11,203 bullets, were surrendered by the former militants.
Sonowal welcomed all members of the Karbi militant groups back to the mainstream and congratulated them for choosing the right path.
“The government’s role is not limited to only bringing back them back, but also to ensuring a life of dignity and respect for those who have surrendered arms by facilitating opportunities for livelihood and employment,” read a statement from the Chief Minister’s Office.
Under the Centre’s new scheme for rehabilitation of former rebels, the surrendered militants will be paid a monthly stipend of Rs 6,000 per month and a one-time grant of Rs 4 lakh as fixed deposit for a period of three years.
Militant leader Ingti Kathar Songbijit surrenders
Among the rebels who voluntarily surrendered is self-styled chief of PDCK Ingti Kathar Songbijit who was earlier declared “most wanted” for his alleged involvement in the killing of 69 Adivasis on 23 December 2014 in Chirang, Sonitpur and Kokrajhar districts. Assam police had announced a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh for information leading to his arrest.
Before forming PDCK, Songbijit led the militant outfit, NDFB (Songbijit), also known as NDFB(S), which was responsible for the killings of more than 200 people including Adivasis and Muslims. The 2014 Adivasi massacre had prompted the central government to order ‘Operation All Out‘ to flush out NDFB-IKS militants.
A 2016 report by South Asia Terrorism Portal said at least 31 militants were killed and 766 arrested in a year of launching the operation. The killings and arrests made Songbijit leave NDFB to form the PDCK in October 2016 in alliance with some of the KPLT leaders.
NDFB(S) had surrendered and the group was disbanded along with three other factions after it signed an agreement with the central government in January last year.