Bishnu Goyari alias Bidai, the dreaded commander of the Saoraigwra faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-S), came out of hiding recently. Accused of masterminding a series of attacks on Adivasis in Bodoland that killed over 80 people, his name had figured on the most wanted list of the National Investigation Agency as well as an Interpol red-corner notice issued on the centre's request.
Accompanying Bidai was his deputy Binod Mushahary alias Batha, who has been under the scanner of the Interpol and the central probe agency for the same reasons, and close to 600 rebels who made their home in the jungles of Kokrajhar amid fierce ethnic clashes in decades past.
"We have signed a ceasefire agreement to join the peace process and take forward the key issue for Bodos, which is the Bodoland demand. We have come out to be a part of the peace-building process and ensure that Bodos get their due," B Saoraigwra, who heads the NDFB-S, told NDTV.
The peace talks between the NDFB-S and the centre are currently in an advanced stage.
The NDFB had signed a ceasefire with the centre in May 2005, eleven years after it was founded in 1994. However, a split followed soon afterwards as its progressive faction resolved to honour the truce while another led by Ranjan Daimary opposed the talks and stayed underground.
Following the arrest of Ranjan Daimary in 2012, the faction split again and the NDFB-S was formed.
While no Bodo rebel group remains underground anymore, insurgency in the region received yet another blow as 644 militants from eight different groups publicly laid down arms at an event in Guwahati. As many as 174 automatic firearms were deposited with the authorities on the occasion.
"With the NDFB-S has signing a suspension of operation agreement, there is no more Bodo faction left underground. We have succeeded in getting all groups on board. Insurgency is on the wane but not completely (wiped) out," said Assam Director General of Police BJ Mahanta.
According to Home Ministry figures, insurgency in Assam has declined by 16 per cent between 2017 and 2018, with the number of militancy-related activities coming down from 402 in 2009 to 28 in 2018. While 133 extremists were arrested in 2018 as compared to 359 in 2009, the number of security personnel killed in encounters across the state came down from 22 in 2009 to just one in 2018. The number of civilian deaths was also relatively low at seven in 2018, when compared to 152 in 2009.
India was able to get Myanmar to act against bases set up by Northeast rebel groups in its territory last year, causing them to face a major fund crunch and making hit-and-run operations from across the border all the more difficult.
"We are now looking at ways to integrate them back into society. We have identified the areas where it will be implemented in phases," Lt Gen Manoj Pande, General Officer Commanding of the Army's IV Corps, told NDTV.
Although the Army has been at the forefront of counter-insurgency operations in Bodoland so far, the improved scenario has set the stage for paramilitary personnel to take over now. However, the demand for a separate Bodo state remains.