Five truckers transporting coal were killed and their vehicles set ablaze by suspected militants in Assam's Dima Hasao district late Thursday night.
As per police, a group of suspected Dimasa National Liberation Army (DNLA) militants opened fire at the trucks lined up in the Rangerbeel area, around 5 km from the Diyunmukh police station, on Thursday night. The insurgent group is known to be particularly active in the Dima Hasao district, where the attack took place.
Two truck drivers were shot dead, while three others were burnt to death when their vehicles were set ablaze by the militants, they said.
The trucks were carrying coal from Umrangshu in Dima Hasao to Lanka in Hojai district. Combing operations were launched to nab the militants, police said.
A senior district police officer said that security was beefed up in the area. The truck owners claimed that the militants demanded money from them. They urged the authorities to ensure adequate security.
But who are the Dimasas tribe, and what is the DNLA? Here’s a look.
The Dimasa Kachari Tribe
The Dimasa tribe is an indigenous, ethno-linguistic community living in Assam and Nagaland. Most of them live in the Dima Hasao Autonomous District Council, Karbi Anglong Autonomous District Council, Cachar District, Nagaon District of Assam, and Nagaland’s Dhansiri region, The Print reported, quoting research scholar Bidhan Barman.
Dimasa Kachari is a Scheduled Tribe of Assam — as given in the President's Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes list Modification Order, 1956.
According to the 2011 Census of Assam, “The (Dimasa) Kacharis belong to the Indo-Mongoloid (Kirata) group which includes the Bodos and their allied tribes. They have prominent Mongoloid features. They call themselves Bodo or Bodo-fisa in the Brahmaputra valley and Dimasa or Dimafisa or ‘sons of the great river’ in the Dima Hasao & Karbi-Anglong district.”
They are said to be the earliest inhabitants of the Brahmaputra Valley. The Kacharis belong to the Indo-Mongoloid (Kirata) group which includes the Bodos and their allied tribes. They have prominent Mongoloid features. They call themselves Bodo or Bodo-fisa in the Brahmaputra valley and Dimasa or Dimafisa or ‘sons of the great river’ in the Dima Hasao & Karbi- Anglong district. The Dimasa Kacharis greatly inhabit the northern half of the Dima Hasao District and ravines of the Jatinga valley and the adjoining tract.
The hill district of Dima Hasao, which is run by the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, was a hotbed of insurgency in the 1990s and 2000s, even though it has been relatively peaceful in the last decade, as per The Indian Express.
Dimasa National Liberation Army
The Dimasa National Liberation Front (DNLA), the fairly newly formed ethnic insurgent group, was founded in 2019. The group claimes to be committed to revamp the national struggle and fight for the liberation of a sovereign, Independent Dimasa Nation.
“We all are determined to our culture, language and historical right,” said Ringsmai Dimasa, information and publicity secretary of the group said while announced its launch in a press release on in April 2019.
“The Dimasa tribe of India unitedly formed an armed revolutionary organisation in the name of Dimasa National Liberation Army under the chairmanship of Naisodao Dimasa and Home Secretary Kharmindao Dimasa. The organization is for and to develop a sense of brotherhood among the Dimasa and also to rebuild the trust and faith among the Dimasa society for regaining the Dimasa Kingdom,” he added.
Ringsmai further stated that the organisation had established a government-in-exile called Dimasa Peoples’ Supreme Council, reports News18. “The DNLA opposes the citizenship Amendment Bill, we will not allow anyone to put our future generation at risk. We will fight to the death for our freedom and rights,” he said.
Even though the DNLA was formed in 2019, it has been active only toward the end of 2020. As per The Hindu, the group came on the radar of security forces on 12 January 2021 following the arrest of its member in Dima Hasao’s Maibang.
The group is known to be particularly active in the Dima Hasao district — which has had its own history of being a hotbed for insurgent activity, however, a period of relative calm has prevailed for the past five years, reports The Wire.
This calm was disturbed in May, earlier this year, when security forces gunned down six terrorists of the DNLA insurgent group in an encounter in Assam. Police had noted that arms and ammunition were recovered from the terrorists.
One SF personnel has been injured during the operation but is out of danger now.
The operation is still going on.
A huge cache of weapons have been recovered including AK series rifles,. 303 and small arms, grenades & ammunitions.@CMOfficeAssam #HMOIndia #AssamPolice
— DGP Assam (@DGPAssamPolice) May 23, 2021
As per NDTV, this led to the police stepping up their efforts and launching a massive counter-insurgency operation against the insurgent group.