A Memorandum to the Governor of Assam, His Excellency Shri. Janaki Ballabh
We are writing to you as a team that recently visited Karbi Anglong district to inquire
into a series of targeted attacks and the retaliatory violence that followed. We are
concerned that perpetrators of violence have not been identified, far less brought to
book. This allows for rumour to flourish and for mutual suspicions to mount. A
deepening estrangement between Karbi Anglong’s main tribal communities could be
the outcome. That would be a situation in which the multiple armed groups that
operate in the district and the wider region with agendas that remain unclear, could
considerably advance their projects of terror and extortion.
We urge you to intervene by advising the Assam state government and the Karbi
Anglong Autonomous District Council to ensure accountability for the violence and
adequate compensation for the victim-survivors and every opportunity for them to
reconstruct their lives and livelihoods.
We have found from our interactions with a number of administrators, civil society
organisations and individuals displaced in the recent violence, that the current
trouble in Karbi Anglong began with a number of minor incidents that were clearly
identified by responsible citizens as potential flashpoints for future trouble. Despite a
number of entreaties to check the alarming spiral of hostile rhetoric and actions, the
local administration remained quiescent.
The tension probably has its genesis in rival claims from the Karbi and Rengma
Naga tribal communities for greater autonomy than currently available under the
Sixth Schedule to the Indian Constitution. We have been told that in the absence of
fair mediation between these competing demands, a number of armed groups have
sprung up which claim to represent these communities, but are seen by civil society
and political organisations to be actively impeding their pursuit of collective
demands. Thus, a number of minor incidents occurring over the recent past,
particularly since June last year, have created a larger conflagration in late-
December 2013 and early-January 2014 resulting in the death of six people of the
Rengma Naga community and nine of the Karbi.
Our inquiries have revealed that these killings have been random and brutal, but with
a clear racial motivation. The shooting and burning of elderly women of the Rengma
Naga community, the burning of their homes and the destruction of their orange
orchards and betelnut trees, together with what seem to have been retaliatory killings
of Karbi youth who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, show
that the alienation between the communities has reached alarming levels.
We believe that there are ways of mediating between the competing demands of the
Rengma Naga and Karbi communities – and indeed, all other tribal groupings in
Karbi Anglong – without providing any room for unresolved claims to spill over into
violence. This would require a comprehensive policy to be worked out within a
consistent framework of principles, to ensure every ethnic group a proper place of
dignity, full access to their traditional resources and every opportunity to pursue
avenues for growth and development.
We have concluded from our inquiries that many of the demands of these ethnic
groups have been manipulated for expedient gain by mainstream political forces.
Indeed, we believe that the armed groups that claim to be working for the cause of
these ethnic groups may themselves be playthings in the hands of larger political
Security officials and Deputy Commissioner during interactions with us have
informed that militant groups on both sides have been securing easy access to both
home-made and professional arms. We urge you to ensure vigilance of arms
procurement, and extortion.
We would also urge you to advise the police force in Karbi Anglong to show greater
sensitivity to the demands made by civil society leaders for protection and security,
when they have reason to apprehend a breach of peace. In the recent incidents, we
have been told that civil society organisations from both sides made a number of
representations to the civil and police administration in the district, yet found them
We have found that well-meaning mediation between the warring groups by civil
society organisations based in the area has often been undermined by the intrusion
of wider political interests. This manner of intervention from the state and nationallevel
groups is generally motivated by resource exploitation interests. We believe
that involvement of state and national-level interests should be premised on the
decree that they will do no harm. Only by giving local groups the autonomy and the
space to negotiate their differences and determine the resource use pattern that
would best serve their collective interests, would then wider peace be ensured.
In terms of immediate action, we would urge you to advise the Assam state
government and Karbi Anglong Autonomous District Council to ensure quick
rehabilitation of the several thousand people who have been displaced by the recent
violence, mostly from the Bokajan sub-division.
We found from our visit to one of the camps for the displaced that pregnant women
and infants are in need of specialised medical care. There is in fact, a particular need
to assess the needs of women and children in the camp and to provide among other
things, for special treatment for the injured and the disabled. Trauma counselling,
confidence building and reconciliation procedures need to be conducted in the
camps, preferably on the initiative of civil society organisations from both the
Some of the killings show cruel intent . These need to be referred to local and statelevel
human rights watchdogs for investigation in accordance with applicable national
and international standards.
PLACES VISITED BY THE TEAM:
1) SHANTIPUR RELIEF CAMP-BORPATHAR PRIMARY SCHOOL. 15th
2) CHOKIHOLA POLICE STATION 15th January 2014
3) Karbi Anglong Peace Forum 16th January
4) MEETING WITH DC and DY S.P. and visit to Shantipur Relief Camp 17th
Request for intervention from His Excellency:
1) Orders for an independent judicial enquiry and public hearings of
2) Immediate seperation of Judiciary from the Executive
3) Directions to legal services authority to assist each displaced family and
produce a detailed report.
4) Direction for immediate construction of roads, provision of
electricity,water,medical services in the affected areas.
5) Direction for enquiry on the status of implementation of all centrally sponsored
schemes like MNREGA, NRHM, BHARAT NIRMAN, PURA.
6) Immediate payment of compensation as provided in the guidelines from the
state and central governments and compliance report.
CONSTITUTION OF THE TEAM
1. Sukumar Muralidharan: Freelance Journalist, Delhi
2. Dr. Doma T Bhutia: HRLN Advocate from Sikkim
4. Asst Prof. Samhita
5. Zhevi Swu: Lawyer HRLN, Nagaland
6. Satya Sagar: Freelance Journalist, Delhi
7. Sanjai Sharma: Community Health Volunteer and Member HRLN, New Delhi