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Friday, July 24, 1998 Published at 22:53 GMT 23:53 UK

World: South Asia

Rebels threaten Independence Day

The BBC's Subir Bhaumik reports from Calcutta

Five separatist rebel groups in north-east India have jointly called for a collective boycott of the Indian Independence Day celebrations on 15 August.

In a joint statement late on Friday the groups said that they will do everything possible to disrupt ceremonies throughout the north-eastern region.

The groups have been waging guerrilla warfare against Indian security forces for more than two decades and intelligence officials say they expect large scale violence on Independence Day.

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For the last two months the rebels have been trying to create a united political and military front to fight Indian control over the north-eastern region, which is linked to the Indian mainland by a thin 21km wide corridor.

It is not yet known how much success the guerrillas have had in forging the proposed front but their declaration late on Friday shows they are ready for some collective military action.

In a press statement jointly issued from somewhere in north-east India, the five groups said they would disrupt official ceremonies on Independence Day, if necessary by force.

The statement accused India of pursuing a ruthless campaign of suppression against the movements for self-determination in the region.

It blamed successive Indian governments for undermining the demographic structure of the region by encouraging population transfers from the main states of India.

Negotiations turned down

The rebels made it clear they have no interest in offers of negotiations put across by Delhi after the new Hindu nationalist government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party took office earlier this year.

The five signatories to the statement are the United Liberation Front of Assam, the United National Liberation Front and the Revolutionary People's Front of Manipur, All Tripura Tiger Force and a breakaway faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, led by the Burmese Naga leader, S S Khablang.

Observers say their attempt to form a united front was motivated by the decision by the strongest rebel group - the main faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland - to start negotiations with Delhi.

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