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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 3, No. 13, October 11, 2004

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal



NDFB: Claiming Murders, Calling Truce
Wasbir Hussain
Associate Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi; Consulting Editor, The Sentinel, Guwahati

The vicious cycle continues in India's insurgency-ravaged Northeast. Separatist rebels armed to the teeth indulge in macabre killings, instilling terror and cornering authorities, before accepting the Government's olive branch and the offer to engage in 'peace talks'. The violent prelude to offers of peace is essentially intended to extract their pound of flesh at the negotiating table. This is what the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) - which has engaged in an armed campaign for an independent Bodo homeland in Assam since its formation on October 3, 1986 - did when it issued a statement on October 8, 2004, declaring a unilateral ceasefire for six months with effect from October 15, 2004.
  Also Read
Demographic Jitters -- Wasbir Hussain
Resurgent ULFA and the Indolent State -- Bibhu Prasad Routray

The sequence of events that preceded the NDFB's truce offer is interesting: After the December 2003 Bhutanese military assault on the bases of the NDFB and other Northeast Indian insurgent groups inside the Himalayan kingdom, these tribal guerrillas were lying low, most of them cooling their heels on the Meghalaya-Bangladesh border. By August-September 2004, the NDFB started flexing its muscles, and carried out a few isolated attacks in western Assam, but still went largely unnoticed. They were, of course, pushing ahead with a strategy that is common in the region's theatre of insurgency, but one that has always succeeded in making the Government sit up and take notice - stepping up violence like never before.

On September 30, 2004, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi called a news conference in Guwahati, the State capital, primarily to brief journalists on the forthcoming cross-country ASEAN car rally that is to be flagged off from the city in November. In reply to a question from a journalist, Gogoi said his Government was ready for a ceasefire with the NDFB and the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), provided the rebel groups come up with a positive response by October 15, 2004. If anything, it was a usual 'our doors are open for peace negotiations' kind of a statement from a Government leader. The State and Central Government have always taken this line, arguing that, while they were ready for peace talks, it was not possible to let insurgents have a field day, and was consequently necessary to continue with counter-insurgency offensives.

On October 2, 2004, however, all hell broke loose. The NDFB and the ULFA - the Assam Police say they acted in tandem - carried out a string of bombings and shooting attacks killing more than 40 people in a span of just about 72 hours. The NDFB had its own reasons to do so, since October 3, 2004, was its 18th 'raising day', and this is traditionally been an occasion for its cadres to prove their existence. Thereafter, the NDFB issued a statement to the media, claiming responsibility for some of the attacks, including the one at Makrijhora, in the western district of Dhubri on the Bangladesh border, in which NDFB cadres gunned down at least 15 innocent villagers in a local market area.

While owning responsibility for some of these cold-blooded murders was the NDFB's way of making the point that it could still kill, the group was simultaneously getting ready to call a truce and talk peace with New Delhi. At its 18th 'raising day' function on October 3, 2004, NDFB president Ranjan Daimari alias D.R. Nabla told his cadres that his group was 'ready for talks' with the Indian Government and asked them, as well as the Bodo people, to 'get ready' for peace talks. The NDFB issued a statement to this effect to the media the next day.

Then on October 8, true to the indications, the NDFB came out with a statement signed by its president Nabla and 'Boroland Army' chief 'Lt. Col' B. Susranggra: "In response to the offer of the ceasefire by the Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, the National Democratic Front of Boroland has declared ceasefire with effect from the 15th October 2004 for a period of six Months to create a congenial atmosphere and initiate talks with the Government of India. Therefore all the Commanders of the Boroland Army are asked immediately to suspend hostilities against India."

The NDFB's position contrasts with that of the ULFA, which had also claimed responsibility for some of the attacks between October 2 and 5, 2004, but snubbed the Chief Minister saying 'it (the attacks) is our answer to Gogoi's offer.'

The Bodo insurgent group's greater acquiescence can be understood in view of the fact that most of its top leaders have either been captured by the security forces or have surrendered to the authorities. In fact, it is believed that a former NDFB 'finance and home secretary' Nileshwar Basumatary, who had surrendered to the Assam Police in August 2004, may have played a role in bringing the group to the offer of truce.

That the NDFB has been preparing to join the peace process has been evident in its statements over the past two years. In fact, several of its top leaders had apparently fallen into the security net while they were on the way for meetings to discuss just this - the modalities of opening negotiations with New Delhi. Another significant development that indicates that the group was almost in a hurry to begin peace talks was the setting up of the All Bodo Peace Forum (ABPF) on July 5, 2004. On October 10, 2004, within less than 48 hours of the NDFB truce offer becoming public, members of the ABPF addressed a news conference at Guwahati and offered their services as facilitators to get the NDFB and the Government to sit at face-to-face in talks. ABPF members also met Chief Minister Gogoi on September 10, 2004, to make a direct offer of mediation. Forum leaders claimed Gogoi had asked them to go ahead. These developments cannot be ignored if the broad picture of the region's murky insurgent politics is to be understood.

Now that the NDFB has responded favourably to the truce call, the Assam Government appears to be somewhat in a fix. First, Chief Minister Gogoi responded, saying his Government would comment soon. Then, he said no written communication had yet been received from the NDFB and that they would wait for one. A senior Home department official was quoted as saying it was up to the Centre to hold talks with the NDFB and that the State Government could act only as a facilitator. Finally, news came that the Assam Government has formally informed the Centre about the NDFB's offer for a ceasefire through the media. It was not surprising, therefore, to find the NDFB subsequently stating that it could be 'forced to reconsider' its truce offer if the Government did not respond favourably by October 15, 2004. The NDFB perhaps realized that the Assam Government had not held any specific discussions with New Delhi before the Chief Minister made his off the cuff offer of truce.

Clearly, neither the Centre nor the Assam Government, as also other State governments in the Northeast, have any clear policy on dealing with the insurgencies in the region. It is true that New Delhi is currently engaged in formal and informal dialogues with several Northeast Indian rebel groups, but it has no set road map on how to proceed when a new insurgent group offers a truce or proclaims a readiness to enter into negotiations. There is, nevertheless, a quality of desperation in all this, and, in all probability, the next course of action will be an offer of 'safe passage' to the NDFB leadership to allow its representatives to emerge from hiding and contact the authorities. From this point onwards, steps would be taken to formalize a ceasefire before talks could begin. The road is slippery, and the chances of bungling by the Government, extremely high.


'Peace' by Assassination
Guest Writer: Amantha Perera
Editor - News Features, The Sunday Leader, Colombo

The Eastern coastal town of Batticaloa has become the main battle field between forces loyal to Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Velupillai Prabhakaran and those who still continue to support renegade 'commander' Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan alias 'Colonel' Karuna.
  Also Read
A Violent 'Ceasefire' -- Amantha Perera
Peace in the Balance -- Iqbal Athas

Karuna, who declared independence from the LTTE central command, fled his stronghold and defected to Government-controlled areas on April 9,2004, when Prabhakaran ordered an all out attack to quash the rebellion. Ever since the defection, intermittent skirmishes and killings have occurred in Batticaloa, the northern Jaffna Peninsula and the capital Colombo.

Most recently, on October 5, 2004, two Muslims were killed in Welikanda, East of Batticaloa. The Sri Lankan Army said that the murders were carried out by members of the LTTE pistol gang. The following day a Tamil, Dharmalingam Sathyalingam, was gunned down in the same area. Some reports indicated that he was a supporter of the LTTE and was killed by Karuna loyalists.

Karuna supporters scored their biggest military success on September 7, when they attacked a LTTE guard post at Pulmalai, east of Batticaloa. Following the attack, the entire security setup in the East was changed by the Tigers. The Eastern military command was put under Banu, who also heads the Tiger artillery units. He replaced Ramesh.

Banu inducted elite cadres from the northern command, drawn from the Jeyanthan and the Charles Anthony Brigades, into the east. On September 22, Vinayagamoorthi Sivasudari alias Reggie, Karuna's brother, was killed by LTTE cadres during an ambush near Karadiyanaru, east of Batticaloa. Reggie's death was a major blow to the rebel faction. He was the man designated by Karuna to lead troops on the ground and was the second-in-command of the outfit.

Karuna later admitted that his brother had been killed by the LTTE using intelligence provided by a mole. Reggie had infiltrated into Tiger held areas along with about 25 others, according to Sri Lankan Army sources in Batticaloa. The group had then split into smaller units and Reggie's group was to coordinate the movements. His whereabouts had been indicated to the LTTE by a cadre identified by the sources as Pushpan.

The Reggie killing, nevertheless, intensified attacks by the Karuna group. On October 2, LTTE camps in Panchchankerni, north of Batticaloa, came under mortar fire. The LTTE camps lie just within areas under the organisation's control. Later in the week, the Tigers said that five cadres - Mayuran, Annandaraj, Sri Kumar, Kandavel and Selva had died during these clashes. A civilian, Karthigesu Kanathipullai also died due to injuries received during the attacks.

Suspected Karuna supporters had also unsuccessfully tried to carry out an attack on a bus carrying LTTE cadres using a claymore mine on September 21.

On the other hand, Karuna lost at least four senior cadres, including Castro and Ruban, during the first week of October. Despite military intelligence confirming that there have been attacks, very little independent verification was available, since these were taking place in LTTE held areas. The Tigers have also adopted a strategy of not revealing too much detail on such attacks and, in fact, Tiger sources in the East denied that any attacks were taking place. "Nothing is happening here, they are all bluffs," a top Tiger source told this writer last week, referring to reports of the confrontations.

Despite the denial, troops loyal to Karuna are believed to be using hideouts in Thoppigala, north East of Batticaloa, and in the Aralaganwilla-Maha Oya area, east of Batticaloa, and infiltrating into Tiger held areas using jungle paths. When he broke away from the LTTE, at least 400 to 500 cadres still remained loyal to Karuna. During the rebellion another 1,500 child soldiers and 500 adults left the organisation. Karuna was commander of a force of around 7,000 in the East. Of these, at least 2,000 immediately signalled allegiance to Prabhakaran when the revolt commenced.

Cadres from elite brigades of the LTTE have been stationed in the areas used by Karuna supporters, to prevent such infiltrations and act as a bulwark.

Tigers have also limited movement of their senior cadres and leadership in public, and ordinary cadres have also been instructed to appear as inconspicuous as possible when crossing over to Government-held areas, where they are likely to be targeted by assassins loyal to Karuna.

Military sources in Batticaloa also say that intelligence wing operatives and pistol gang members of the LTTE have taken over from political wing cadres. The Tiger political office in Government-controlled Batticaloa has remained inactive since Ramalingam Padmaseelan alias 'Lt. Col.' Senathiraja, the last political head, died due to gun shot injuries on July 13. The office had been opened after the February 2002 ceasefire agreement between the Tigers and the Colombo government.

The Tiger pistol gangs have been responsible for murders outside Batticaloa as well, according to security forces and rival parties.

"The killing of EPDP (Eelam People's Democratic Party) members is being undertaken by the LTTE in a cold and calculated manner. One therefore begins to wonder whether the Royal Norwegian Government and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) are turning a blind eye to the terrorism of the LTTE in order to win kudos as 'Peacemakers'," the leader of the EPDP, Douglas Devananda, wrote to Norwegian Ambassador in Colombo, Hans Brattskar, while requesting the Norwegians to take action.

A few days before the letter was sent out, Somasundaram Varnakulasingham, an EPDP member and a former chairman of the Manipay Local Government in northern Jaffna, was shot and killed in Colombo on September 23. The EPDP accused the LTTE of carrying out the attack. According to the party, more than 150 party members and supporters have been gunned down since the ceasefire went into effect.

EPDP members have been specifically and intensely targeted following Devananda's announcement that he was in touch with Karuna and assisting him to form a political party. Devananda himself survived an assassination attempt by a Tiger suicide cadre on July 7, 2004. Since the Karuna split, at least eight senior EPDP members have been killed.

On September 27, 2004, Valli Sundaram (61), a senior member of the Eelam People's Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF) was shot and killed in Jaffna. The EPRLF blamed the killing on the Tigers.

The Tigers have also been blamed for carrying out attacks on Karuna supporters and military intelligence operatives. On July 18, suspected LTTE cadres raided a safe-house used by Karuna supporters in Kottawa, a suburb just south of Colombo, and killed seven persons who had come to Colombo to help form a political party. The designated secretary of the party, Kanapathipillai Mahendran alias Satchi Master, had been shot and killed inside the Batticaloa jail by Mahendran Pulidaran, a Tiger inmate, 48 hours before the Kottawa attack.

The LTTE, for its part, has denied any association with the murders and other attacks. It has insisted that it was up to the Government to ensure security in areas outside Tiger control.

"There is no need for the Liberation Tigers to eliminate anybody. It is true that political assassinations are taking place. But we are also aware of the background of those killings. Fall guys are selected by some elements who are very much interested in promoting war and disrupting the peace process. The killings have all the hallmarks of the LTTE and the guys selected for it definitely happen to be vocal opponents of the LTTE, but these are machinations of serious political hierarchies to attain a position of making the Liberation Tigers defensive on their political stand, whether nationally or internationally," LTTE political wing head S.P. Tamilselvan told this writer during an interview last month.

The spate of killings during the first week of October has, however, prompted both Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga and the Norwegian Government to appeal to the Tigers to stop the killings. "(Foreign Minister Vidar) Helgessen stated that Norway condemns the political killings taking place in Sri Lanka - and appealed to the delegation that the LTTE does everything possible to stop such killings," the Norwegian mission in Colombo said in a statement on October 5. Helgessen conveyed the message when he met a high-powered LTTE delegation touring Europe. The day before, Kumaratunga had issued a statement saying that the Government could no longer ignore the killings.

Norwegian Special Peace envoy Erik Solheim is expected in Colombo later in the month in yet another effort to revive the peace talks, which have been stalled since April 2003.



Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
October 4-10, 2004

Security Force Personnel






     Jammu &








Total (INDIA)







 Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


Four soldiers and civilian killed during suicide attack on Army convoy in Jammu and Kashmir: In a suicide attack on an Army convoy on October 9, 2004, near Singhpura on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway, at least four soldiers and a civilian were killed, while 35 persons sustained injuries. An unidentified terrorist reportedly blew up a car near Hartrath Bridge when an Army convoy of civil buses was en route to Uri from the capital Srinagar. Meanwhile, Abu Junaid, identifying himself as a spokesperson of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), told some local news agencies over telephone that his outfit had caused the blast. Daily Excelsior, October 10, 2004.

National Democratic Front of Bodoland declares unilateral cease-fire in Assam: The National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) announced, on October 8, 2004, a unilateral cease-fire to create a congenial atmosphere for talks with the Government of India. In a joint statement released to the media through e-mail, NDFB 'chairman' D.R. Nabla and 'chief of army staff' B. Susranbggra, said "in response to the offer for ceasefire by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, the NDFB has declared a ceasefire with effect from October 15 for a period of six months. Therefore, all the commanders of Bodoland Army are asked to immediately suspend hostilities against India." Gogoi had earlier said that the State Government will initiate a unilateral cease-fire if the terrorist outfits respond positively by October 15. Assam Tribune, October 9, 2004.

271 persons killed by terrorists between March 2003 and August 2004 in Tripura: The Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar stated in the State Legislative Assembly on October 4, 2004, that a total of 271 people have been killed by terrorists between March 2003 and August 2004. Also, between January 2003 and September 2004 as many as 393 terrorists have surrendered in the State and Rupees 24,633,059 has been sanctioned for their rehabilitation. He further said that the All Tripura Tigers Force (ATTF) is the strongest outfit, with a cadre-strength of about 450, while the Biswamohan Debbarma group of the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) is second, with about 370 cadres. The operations by the Tripura Police during the period from September 1, 1999, to August 31, 2004, have led to the arrest of 593 terrorists while, during the same period, the police killed at least 171 terrorists, the Chief Minister added. Tripura Info, October 5, 2004.

NDFB kills 16 civilians in Assam: Suspected terrorists of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) reportedly shot dead at least ten civilians and wounded seven others in the Jalabila village of Dhubri district in Assam on October 5, 2004. A day earlier, six civilians were shot dead and seven others sustained injuries NDFB cadres opened indiscriminate fire at Gelapukhuri village in Biswanath Chariali. Sentinel Assam, October 6, 2004.


41 people killed during bomb blast in Multan: At least 41 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a bomb blast in the city of Multan on October 7, 2004. The attack occurred at about 4.40AM (PST) when hundreds of people had gathered to mark the first anniversary of the killing of Sunni leader and Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) chief, Maulana Azim Tariq, outside Islamabad. "It seems to be an act of sectarian terrorism, but we are still investigating," Multan's deputy police chief, Arshad Hameed, told the Associated Press. While no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, police suspect the involvement of outlawed Shia groups. The attack comes almost a week after a suicide attacker detonated a bomb inside a crowded Shia mosque in the eastern city of Sialkot, killing 31 people and injuring more than 50. Dawn, October 8, 2004.


1,424 children recruited by LTTE during truce period, says SLMM spokesperson: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have recruited 1,424 children, out of which 45 have been abducted, during the last 28-month truce period ending August 31, while 359 adults were abducted during the same period, a spokesperson of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) said on October 9, 2004. The SLMM's latest statistics reveal that, from February 2002 to end-August 2004, 1,760 complaints were recorded in all districts of the North and East. Daily News, October 10, 2004.


The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

SAIR is a project of the Institute for Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal.


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