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National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT)

A tribal insurgent outfit in Tripura, the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) was formed in December 1989 for the purpose of seceding from India in order to create an independent Christian fundamentalist state of Tripura. The NLFT was first formed by some top leaders of the rebel Tripura National Volunteers (TNV) which surrendered following an accord with the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1988. It had two factions as of 2005 - one led by Biswamohan Debbarma and the other by Nayanbashi Jamatia. NLFT's founder-president Dhananjay Reang was ousted by a coup led by Tripuri (tribal) leaders, the Debbarmas, in December 1993. The Debbarma faction is dominant, aiming to establish an "independent" Tripura through armed struggle.

The group was banned under the Unlawful Activies Prevention Act of 1967.

It resorts to killings and abductions of Bengalis (whose influx have reduced the tribals to a minority) and sometimes of tribals. The estimated strength was 800 cadres as of 2005. The outfit is believed to have most of its camps in Bangladesh (from where they conducted hit and run operations in Tripura's border areas) and some in Burma. The weaker NLFT faction is led by the Jamatia community.

The headquarters of NLFT is located in the Khagrachari district of Bangladesh, about 40-45 km southeast of Simanapur. The NLFT set up a number of camps in Bangladesh's Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), in the Sylhet, Maulavi Bazar, Habiganj and Comilla regions. NLFT also has ties with Pakistan's external intelligence agency, the Inter Services Intelligence Agency (ISI).

In Tripura a systematic surrender of arms by a faction of NLFT insurgents and NLFT fringe groups was due to the increased security pressure and to infighting within NLFT insurgent ranks. Since 2000 a few hundred militants have surrendered in small groups to the security forces, handing in their weapons. The NLFT leadership engaged in peace talks with Mizoram Chief Zoramthanga in April 2001, however the NLFT has not promised acceptance of any future peace process.

In April 2004, the Jamatia faction of NLFT signed a memorandum with representatives of the State and GOI, agreeing to a cessation of hostilities. In Tripura, where the ruling government was led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the NLFT had in the past supported the opposition Congress Party (through a "legitimate" front organization that entered an alliance) and also unleashed significant violence before and during elections. However, with the Congress having weakened considerably in state politics, the NLFT's violence had been toned down. Indian security forces also enticed some rebel workers of the NLFT to desert.




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