In a significant development ahead of the Assembly elections in Assam, 1,040 militants belonging to five extremist outfits led by wanted terrorist leader Ingti Kathar Songbijit surrendered on Tuesday at a ceremony here in the presence of Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
Songbijit, the self-styled commander-in-chief of the outlawed People’s Democratic Council of Karbi Longri (PDCK), along with 1,039 tribal guerillas deposited 338 arms and a large cache of ammunition at a function held at the Srimanta Sankardev Kalashetra International Auditorium in Guwahati.
According to the officials, Songbijit was earlier the commander-in-chief of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-S) faction. As many as 1,615 cadres belonging to four NDFB factions had laid down their arms on January 30 last year after the signing of the tripartite accord, but Songbijit and his followers did not surrender at that time.
The militants belonging to five outfits — PDCK, Karbi Longri NC Hills Liberation Front, Karbi People’s Liberation Tiger, Kuki Liberation Front and United People’s Liberation Army — were active in the Karbi Anglong areas in central Assam.
Welcoming the surrendered extremists, Sonowal said that with the laying down of arms and ammunition by the militants, peace and development would be further expedited in the tribal dominated Karbi Anglong and adjoining areas.
The Chief Minister also appreciated the role of the Chief Executive Minister of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, Tuliram Ronghang, for ushering peace and prosperity in the area, besides commending the unified command structure comprising Assam police, Indian Army, and various paramilitary and intelligence agencies for their efforts and success in bringing peace to the state.
Officials said that rehabilitation of these surrendered extremists would be done under the revised rehabilitation package for northeast militants as introduced by the Central government.
Under this package, each member would receive Rs 6,000 per month as allowance and one-time grant of Rs 4 lakh at the end of three years, subject to good and normal behaviour and activities.
So far, 1,515 surrendered militants in Assam have received the one-time grant of Rs 4 lakh, while 3,702 former extremists are getting Rs 6,000 per month as allowance.
Under the ‘Swabalamban Scheme’ of the state government, 1,800 persons have been imparted training under various skill development schemes.
Of the 1,800 trained cadres, 1,192 have received Rs 1 lakh each to start small businesses like fishery, piggery, poultry, farming and various other small trades.
The officials said that with the introduction of the ‘Santrashmukt Asom’ (terror-free Assam) policy by the Assam government, the three pronged strategies — persistent counter insurgency operation by the unified command structure, peace initiative and diverse process and surrender-cum-rehabilitation — were earlier adopted, resulting in a drop in extremists related violence in Assam to a large extent during the past few years.
Officials said that since 2016, when the BJP-led government came to power, the security forces have arrested 1,914 extremists and killed 70 militants of different outfits in different parts of Assam.