Taming a Rebel Leader in Assam

He is notorious, selfish but extremely health and beauty conscious-this is how a tribal militant of Assam, Jewel Garlosa might be described. The elusive armed rebel of Northeast India was trapped by the Central Crime Branch of Bangalore police and the Assam police team in Bangalore during the first week of June.

Garlosa, who led Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel faction) or commonly known as the Black Widow group, continued mayhem in the North Cachar Hills district of Assam for many years. The dreaded insurgent turned terrorist Garlosa masterminded a series of killing, extortion, kidnap and other criminal conspiracy in the hills district. According to Assam police, Garlosa led a militant’s life but will all luxuries. The State police chief GM Srivastav claims that Garlosa spends thousands of rupees for healthcare and beauty treatment.

Living outside Assam, most of his time in Nepal with his third wife, Garlosa tried to find a base in Bangladesh. He even contacted Ranjan Daimary, the chief of NDFB, who is somewhere in southern Bangladesh and initiated for his plan. The weapons for his outfit, was procured by Garlosa from Burma through Mizoram. The news of Garlosa’s arrest (with his deputy commander Partha Warisa and fund raiser Samir Rahman) from a reputed construction company guesthouse on Bannerghatta Road in Bangalore was astonishing.

As the hill district grabbed media attention for the uninterrupted killings, burning of houses and also attacks on railway trains for the last few months, the general understanding was that Garlosa was camping in some of his hideouts inside the district. But soon after his arrest, the police disclosed that Garlosa was out of the State for many months. It also revealed that Jewel was operating from Kathmandu and he had a Nepali passport as well. Garlosa came to the garden city for another fake passport.

Garlosa is under heavy police security in Guwahati

Following the specific information, Srivastav sent a team led by the deputy inspector GP Singh to the Karnatak capital. The special police team had to wait for a week there to nab Garlosa, who was coming down from the Nepal capital. From a lower middle class family of Haflong, the head quarter of NC Hills, Garlosa materialized himself as a skilled armed leader to raise voice for the Dimaraji, a homeland for the Dimasa people. Though Dimasa is a major ethnic group of NC Hills district, it gives shelter to other communities like Zeme Naga, Kuki, Hmar and Karbi people.

It has a sizable number of Bengali and Hindi speaking as well as the mainstream Assamese population. The college dropout Garlosa (then he was named Mihir Barman) was involved in Dimasa National Security Force (launched in 1993) and later initiated to form the DHD in 1995. Till then most of the DNSF members surrendered to the authority.

After the split of DHD (following the difference with the chairman Dilip Nunisa, who went for a ceasefire agreement with New Delhi), Garlosa concentrated on the Black Widow since 2006. He maintained cordial relationship with the NSCN (I-M) and also the leaders of ULFA & NDFB. The police suspect he has nearly 200 loyal armed cadres. With the small group of cadres, Garlosa continued his disruptive activities in the isolated hills district.

The Black Widow is made responsible for killing not less than 100 civilians and armed force personnel in the last two years including the former chief executive member of NC Hills Autonomous District Council, Purnendu Langthasa with another executive member Nindu Langthasa. The gun totting rebels of the banned outfit disrupted repeatedly the 214 km Lumding- Silchar railway gauge conversion works.

Similarly, the 184 km East-West Corridor project officials faced never ending demand for ransom followed by abduction and murders by the DHD (J) cadres. The cruelty of Garlosa was not confined to his opponents alone. His former two wives were also exposed to atrocities by the militant leader, who abandoned his first wife Champa Nunisa. Garlosa got his second wife Bontha Thaosen killed in suspicion that she initiated an extra marital relationship with an armed force personal.

The third wife of Garlosa is known is a Nepali woman presently living in Kathmandu. While Garlosa was arrested in Bangalore, his closed associate Frankie Dimasa was killed in Guwahati on the same night of June 4. Frankie, who served DHD (J) as an important leader was traced at Bishnu Nagar Hill of the city and finally the city police eliminated the rebel in an encounter. Three of his associates however succeeded in fleeing with the cover of darkness.

Incidentally, the chief executive member of the NC Hills Autonomous District Council Mohit Hojai was earlier arrested with the charge of paying money to the Black Widow. Later another former CEM of the Council Depolal Hojai and the joint director of social welfare department R H Khan were also booked under the law for financing the militants to procure arms. New Delhi remained worried at the recent incidents of violence in the hills district, where a nexus of politicians, bureaucrats and militants had surfaced strongly.

The nexus resulted in siphoning of a large amount of money from the development funds to militant groups operating in the region. The newly launched National Investigation Agency has been entrusted to probe the issue of nexus between the government agencies and the armed groups in the trouble-torn district; and incidentally it becomes the first case to be handled by the NIA in the Northeast.

Nava Thakuria is a Guwahati (Northeast India) based journalist, who contributes to NewsBlaze and various media outlets throughout the world.