National Liberation Front of Tripura
The National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) was formed on March 12, 1989, with Dhananjoy Reang (former Vice-President of the Tripura National Volunteers) as its ‘chairman’. Reang after being ‘expelled’ from the NLFT in 1993 formed a separate outfit, the Tripura Resurrection Army (TRA), but surrendered in the year 1997. After Reang’s removal, Nayanbasi Jamatiya became leader of the outfit and later Biswamohan Debbarma took over. However, another split occurred in September 2000 following differences between the Halam and Debbarma tribal members of the NLFT. Thus, the Borok National Council of Tripura (BNCT) was formed by Jogendra alias Joshua Debbarma. Personal ambitions of the leaders and parochial religious considerations are believed to have caused yet another split in 2001 when Nayanbasi Jamatiya and Biswamohan Debbarma parted ways from the parent outfit to have factions of the NLFT under their respective leaderships. Further, the fourth split is said to have occurred in June 2003 when Biswamohan Debbarma was deposed allegedly at the behest of NLFT’s patrons inside Bangladesh and Mantu Koloi was placed as the leader of that faction. Debbarma is reported to have subsequently set up separate camps on the Tripura-Bangladesh border with his followers.
The NLFT was outlawed in April 1997 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, following its involvement in terrorist and subversive activities. It is also proscribed under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), 2002.
The NLFT split into two groups, one headed by Biswamohan Debbarma and the other by Nayanbasi Jamatiya, in February 2001. Following the expulsion of Nayanbasi Jamatiya and Joshua Debbarma from the NLFT, nearly 125 cadres of the group formed a parallel outfit under the leadership of Nayanbasi Jamatiya. Police records based on interrogation reports of surrendered/arrested cadres reveal that the split occurred as a result of:
Nayanbasi Jamatiya and Biswamohan Debbarma have been heading two factions since year 2001. In June 2003, ‘General Secretary’ Mantu Koloi was reportedly made leader of the faction Biswamohan had been heading. Earlier, internal bickering within the NLFT had led to a spate of violent internecine clashes in Tripura and at the outfit's camps in Bangladesh. Senior leaders such as Utpanna Tripura and Mukul Debbarma are believed to have been killed in such violence. However, other leaders of the undivided NLFT included ‘Vice President’ Kamini Debbarma, ‘Publicity Secretary’ Binoy Debbarma, ‘Chief of Army’ Dhanu Koloi, and ‘Finance Secretary’ Bishnu Prasad Jamatiya. While the Debbarma faction reportedly has an estimated strength of 550 cadres, the Nayanbasi faction comprises approximately 250 cadres.
According to the State police sources, community-wise break-up in the NLFT is as follows. Debbarma- 40 per cent, Jamatiya- 30 percent, Reang- 10 per cent, and others- 20 per cent. About 90 per cent of the top ranking NLFT cadres are Christians.
The purported objective of the NLFT is to establish an ‘independent’ Tripura through an armed struggle following the liberation from ‘Indian neo- colonialism and imperialism’ and furtherance of a ‘distinct and independent identity’.
Headquarters and Linkages
The headquarters of NLFT is located at Sajak, a camp in the Khagrachari district of Bangladesh. Approximately 65-armed NLFT cadres are permanently stationed in seven huts at the headquarters. Another NLFT camp is in the Mayani Reserve area, also in the Khagrachari district. There are three huts here where 10-12 NLFT terrorists are present. Boalchari, the ‘general family headquarters camp’ of the NLFT is located in Khagrachari near the Sajak camp. Family members of top NLFT leaders reportedly stay at this camp.
Besides the camps mentioned above, the NLFT also has camps in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), Sylhet, Maulavi Bazar, Habiganj and Comilla areas of Bangladesh. According to official sources, the outfit has approximately 21 camps in these areas. Alikadam, a ‘major’ training camp for the NLFT, is located in the Bandarban district. This camp is also used to procure and store arms from the Cox’s Bazaar port in southeastern Bangladesh.
Usmanpur is yet another camp used for transit. This camp is located in the Habibganj district under Chunarughat police station limits. The outfit reportedly carries out strikes from this camp in the Khowai East and Khowai West regions of West Tripura district.
Details of other camps used by NLFT for subversive activity against India are as following:
Tailongbasti Transit Camp: Located in the Moulabibazar district, this camp is two km northwest of the Indo-Bangladesh border in Kamalpur, in an area dominated by the Debbarma clan. The camp is allegedly used for strikes in the Kamalpur and Kailasahar sub-divisions of Tripura.
Niralapunji: Located two kilometers southeast of the Indo-Bangladesh border at Kamalpur in the Moulabibazar district, the outfit uses this camp for attacks in the Srimangal town.
Kurma / Khasiapunji: The Nayanbanshi Jamatia faction of NLFT uses this camp that is located four-km north of the Indo-Bangladesh border in Kamalpur.
Cox’s Bazaar: A rented transit house has been set up by NLFT in the Sripur area for procurement of arms from this port town.
‘Safe House’ in Chittagong: Earlier there was a NLFT ‘safe house’ in Chittagong Road No. 8, in a three-storied building bearing a signboard of the Bangladesh Urban Development Centre. The safe house then shifted to Chittagong Road No. 1 in a Government housing centre in Halisahar. The Biswamohan Debbarma faction was using this safe house that has modern communication systems including mobile telephones, computers and satellite televisions. Latest status of the ‘house’ following the reported removal of Biswamohan Debbarma is not yet known.
Mog Bazar, Dhaka: This ‘safe house’ in a three-storied building was rented after the NLFT vacated their New Eskaton Road house in Dhaka. This is another major communication centre of the NLFT. According to the Bangladesh Rural Phone Authority, they had recently sanctioned a mobile phone with ISD (international phone call) facility at this address.
NLFT has further links with the Inter Services Intelligence Agency (ISI), Pakistan’s external intelligence agency and its counterpart in Bangladesh, the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI). During 1997-98, NLFT leaders are reported to have visited Pakistan to receive training and arms from the ISI. The ISI had allegedly arranged the passport and visas for the NLFT leaders.
NLFT has also developed trans-border linkages in Myanmar and Bhutan. Besides these, according to Tripura police, the NLFT has also linkages with the Nagaland-based National Socialist Council of Nagaland- Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), the Manipur-based Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), which is active in Assam. NLFT's nexus with the Meghalaya based Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) was revealed with the December 17, 2007 neutralisation of a joint HNLC-NLFT camp in the Narpuh reserve forest in the Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya.