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What is DNLA? Northeast rebel group of Dimasa tribe that lost 6 members in Assam encounter

Dimasa tribe is an indigenous, ethno-linguistic community living in Assam & Nagaland. Launched in 2019, Dimasa National Liberation Army demands an 'independent nation'.

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New Delhi: Six members of the Dimasa National Liberation Army (DNLA) — an extremist group based in Assam — were reported to have been killed in an encounter with security forces in the state’s West Karbi Anglong district, bordering Nagaland.

But who are the Dimasas, and what is the DNLA? Here’s a look.

The Dimasa tribe

The Dimasa tribe is an indigenous, ethno-linguistic community living in Assam and Nagaland.

According to research scholar Bidhan Barman, “The Dimasa peoples are the inhabitants of North Cachar Hills Autonomous District Council (now Dima Hasao), Karbi Anglong Autonomous District Council, Cachar District, Nagaon District of Assam and the Dhansiri region of Nagaland State. The Dimasas ruled this vast tract with Dimapur (now in Nagaland state) as their capital.”

The 2011 Census said: “The (Dimasa) Kacharis belong to the Indo-Mongoloid (Kirata) group which includes the Bodos and their allied tribes. They have prominent Mongoloid features. They call themselves Bodo or Bodo-fisa in the Brahmaputra valley and Dimasa or Dimafisa or ‘sons of the great river’ in the Dima Hasao & Karbi-Anglong district.”

The Census puts the total population of Dimasa Kacharis in Assam at 1,02,961, and the total number of Kacharis in Nagaland at 13,034 — totalling 1,15,997 across both states.

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The DNLA and history of nationhood demand

The Dimasa National Liberation Army is a two-year-old militant group based in Assam that announced its launch in April 2019, claiming it was “committed to revamp the national struggle and fight for the liberation of a sovereign, Independent Dimasa Nation”.

“The Dimasa tribe of India unitedly formed an armed revolutionary organisation in the name of Dimasa National Liberation Army under the chairmanship of Naisodao Dimasa and Home Secretary Kharmindao Dimasa. The organization is for and to develop a sense of brotherhood among the Dimasa and also to rebuild the trust and faith among the Dimasa society for regaining the Dimasa Kingdom,” Ringsmai Dimasa, information and publicity secretary of the group, had said at the time.

This isn’t, however, the first time the demand for an independent nation of the Dimasa people has been raised.

Barman wrote: “In 1991 the Dimasa Students organized themselves under All Dimasa Students’ Union (ADSU). The All Dimasa Students Union has been demanding for creation of a separate full fledged state ‘Dimaraji’ by incorporating all the territories that were included in the ancient Dimasa Kachari Kingdom so as to enable them to enjoy all constitutional rights and privileges to bring all round developments.”

The Dima Hasao region had also seen the emergence of another militant outfit in the early 1990s, called the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD). The DHD also called for the creation of a sovereign Dimasa state.

“But within a short time, differences developed among the DHD cadres centering mainly around the techniques to be followed to pursue the demand. This ultimately resulted in a split. A faction led by Dilip Nunisa signed Ceasefire Agreement with the Government of India on January 1, 2003 and thereafter abjured violence till date,” Barman added.

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