By Sujit Chakraborty
Agartala, Aug 22 (IANS) After the NSCN (IM), one more banned terrorist group in northeastern India – the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) – may give up arms and sign a peace pact with the government, Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said on Saturday.
“Officials of union home ministry, central intelligence bodies and Tripura government have already held two rounds of talks during the past six months with the NLFT in Delhi and Shillong,” Sarkar told IANS.
“We are ready to continue the peace talks with the NLFT. However, their concrete and specific conditions, demands and issues are yet to be submitted to the government.”
“Under the Indian constitution, we are ready to hold talks on any issues of the NLFT,” said Sarkar, who also holds the home portfolio.
According to the chief minister, there are at least 16 NLFT camps in neighbouring Bangladesh and the outfit has around 80 cadres with roughly 100 sophisticated arms.
“The NLFT also has accounts in Bangladeshi banks,” Sarkar said, adding that the Bangladesh government and its security forces had helped a lot in cracking down against various extremists outfits of northeast India.
The NLFT reportedly had recently approached the union home ministry to involve former Tripura National Volunteers (TNV) supremo Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawl and former Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga in the ongoing peace process and dialogue with the government.
To a question about the involvement of Hrangkhawl and Zoramthanga, the chief minister said: “We have been saying that Hrangkhawl has a link with the militant outfits, now it was proved with the NLFT’s proposal to the MHA (home ministry).”
“If Hrangkhawl has no link with the militant outfit, why has the NLFT suggested his involvement in the talks? With this NLFT proposal, Hrangkhawl is trying to send a message to the underground outfit that he was with them,” Sarkar added.
At the instance of then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, Hrangkhawl had signed a tripartite peace accord with the central and Tripura governments on August 12, 1988, before around 450 men of the outfit surrendered.
Subsequently, the TNV merged with a tribal-based Tripura Upajati Juba Samity political party and formed the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) in 2002.
Sarkar remained non-commital about Zoramthanga, a former underground leader of the Mizo National Front that had turned into a political party.
Zoramthanga has been instrumental in brokering peace deal between the union government and the NSCN (IM) and was also involved in talks with ethnic Mizo groups in Manipur.
Praising the accord signed between the NSCN-IM (National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah) and the central government on August 3, Sarkar demanded the immediate disclosure of its contents and the government’s commitment .
“The views of the Nagaland Chief Minister T..R. Zeliang which appeared in the media, are ambiguous. His clear views on the accord would be very important,” Sarkar said.
The chief ministers of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, all ruled by the Congress, have also demanded that the provisions of the accord be disclosed.
Sarkar, who has been the Tripura chief minister for more than 17 years, said during the past two years, 12 extremist-related incidents had occurred in the state in which four people were killed, two injured and 18 people abducted. Of the 18 kidnapped people, 16 were released by the rebels.
“There is no militancy-related incident so far this year. A significant number of militants have surrendered to the government in the recent past,” he added.
The NLFT and another outfit All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF), banned in 1997 by the union home ministry, have been demanding secession of Tripura from India. But as most ATTF cadres have surrendered, the group is almost non-existent now.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])