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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 May, 2004, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Tripura rebels surrender
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC correspondent in Calcutta

Seventy-two separatists have surrendered to the authorities in India's troubled north-eastern state of Tripura.

Women members of the National Liberation Front of Tripura taking oath of allegiance to India at surrender ceremony (picture: Bapi Roychoudhury)
Women were among the 72 former rebels swearing allegiance to India

In what is seen as a further break-up of the state's once strongest rebel group, the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), the group's former general secretary, Mantu Koloi, said more surrenders were expected from the NLFT ranks.

Another faction of the NLFT, led by Nayanbashi Jamatia, opened negotiations with Delhi in April and declared a ceasefire, but guerrillas of that faction are yet to surrender.

This leaves only a small number of fighters with the NLFT chairman Biswamohan Debbarma, who, the surrendered rebels say, is in a small camp in the remote Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh.

Ceremony

The 72 rebels, led by Mantu Koloi, second in command of the NLFT, surrendered to Tripura's governor DN Sahay in a simple ceremony in the state capital Agartala.

The group included 22 women.

The NLFT has, over the last few years, faced allegations of large-scale sexual abuse of its women recruits, and other tribal women in village areas.

DN Sahay, governor of Tripura receives token weapon from Mantu Koloi, leader of outlawed National Liberation Front of Tripura at a surrender ceremony (pic: Bapi  Roychoudhury)
Tripura governor DN Sahay (L) receives a rebel rifle

Mantu Koloi later said that more NLFT guerrillas would surrender as they were fed up with life in the jungles.

He said the guerrillas realise their violence has done no good to the state.

He said the Indian constitution provided an ideal framework for settlement of Tripura's problems, which is what they would seek to achieve during negotiations with the government.

Rehabilitated

Tripura's police chief GM Srivastava, believed to be the architect of the surrenders, said that the rebels who renounced arms would be properly rehabilitated and given vocational guidance.

He said he expected members of the Jamatia faction of the NLFT would also give up arms quite soon.

Mantu Koloi appealed to both the NLFT chairman, Biswamohan Debbarma, and the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) chief Ranjit Debbarma to come forward for talks with the Indian government and resolve the crisis in Tripura.

But both the rebel leaders have refused to talk and have said they will fight on.

Tripura has faced a violent separatist movement since the ethnic riots of 1980.

More than 4000 people have died in Tripura since then, the same number have been kidnapped and more than 100,000 Bengali settlers have been internally displaced in Tripura due to the rebel violence.


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