INSURGENCY IN NORTH-EAST
|INSURGENCY IN NORTH-EAST|
- North East India (NEI) today comprises eight states of India, namely Sikkim and the “seven sister states” of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh (ALP), Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya.
- North East India (NEI) is bounded by Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
- The region is rich in biodiversity and untapped raw materials. It is connected to mainstream India through the 22 km narrow “Siliguri Corridor” which is commonly known as the chicken neck. The corridor is flanked by Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepa Thus it has strategic, political and economic significance for India.
- About 99 percent of the border of this region is international border.
- North-East India covers 8 percent of the country’s total area and has 4 percent of the national population.
|Meaning of Insurgency:|
Act of rebellion and armed struggle by a section of society with a view to overthrow the government and there is public support for the insurgents.
Historical Background of the North-East:
- Present day Assam was ruled by the Ahom kings from 1228 till 1826. Due to incursion by the then Burmese kingdom into Assam, the Ahom kings requested the British East India Company for help.
- As a result, the British defeated the Burmese and then signed the Treaty of Yandaboo on 24 Feb 1826 thereby ending the reign of Ahom Kings and amalgamating Assam into British India. Thereafter, Assam was a province ruled by the British till Independence.
|· During the British era, Tribal groups constituted an overwhelming majority of the population in most of the areas they inhabited. |
· The British had generally followed a policy of non-interference in these areas.
· The British gave special administrative status to these areas. The British government did not disturb their socio-political structure and followed a deliberate policy of excluding the outsiders.
· Christian missionaries altered the society in the North-East and modern progressive ideas prevailed in the tribal youth.
· A sum total of British policy resulted in isolation of North-East from the rest of India and participation in national independence struggle is also low due to which feeling of nation is not developed strongly.
|· The newly independent India in 1947 had the formidable task of uniting various princely states not only of North-East but of the country as a whole.|
· The integration of these distinct cultures of North-East into the “mainstream” was generally met with resentment.
· The insurgencies started with Naga Hills. Under the leadership of Phizo, the Naga National Council (NNC) declared independence from India in 1947.Despite efforts at political settlement by various leaders of that time, the unrest did not die.
· The Tribals of the North-East region were afraid of losing their identity.
All Party Hill Leaders conference:
- Representatives of hill areas merged into the All Party Hill Leaders Conference (APHLC) in 1960 and demanded a separate state within the Indian Union.
- As a result the state of Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura were granted statehood in 1972.
- Meanwhile, secessionist movements developed in Nagaland and Mizoram. Nagaland was granted statehood in 1963, while Mizoram became a state in 1987.
Present Situation of North-East Insurgency:
- Even though the region has seen an overall decline in insurgency, however, the discontent continues. At present the scenario is less violent than the earlier times. Some of the important recent developments are covered in the succeeding paras.
- Lower Assam areas and Karbi Anglong regions are prone to ethnic and communal tension.
- Mistrust amongst the Tribals and non Tribals.
Major Insurgent groups of different states of North-East:
Inner Line Permit:
- An Inner Line Permit is a document that allows an Indian citizen to visit or stay in a state that is protected under the ILP system. The system is in force today in three North-eastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram — and no Indian citizen can visit any of these states unless he or she belongs to that state, nor can he or she overstay beyond the period specified in the ILP.
- The concept comes from the colonial era. Under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, 1873, the British framed regulations restricting the entry and regulating the stay of outsiders in designated areas.
- This was to protect the Crown’s own commercial interests by preventing “British subjects” (Indians) from trading within these regions.
- In 1950, the Indian government replaced “British subjects” with “Citizen of India”. This was to address local concerns about protecting the interests of the indigenous people from outsiders belonging to other Indian states.
- An ILP is issued by the state government concerned. It can be obtained after applying either online or physically. It states the dates of travel and also specifies the particular areas in the state which the ILP holder can travel to.
Factors responsible for insurgency in North-East:
One of the important factors is Funding – Main source of funding are extortion, arms and drugs smuggling.
- Multi-Ethnic Region – NE is the most ethnically diverse region in India. It is home to around 40 million people including 213 of the 635 tribal groups. Each of these tribes is having its own distinct culture. Thus, each tribal sect resents being integrated into mainstream India as it means losing their own distinct identity.
- Lack of Economic Development – GoI’s economic policies have also fuelled resentment and insecurity amongst the people. Due to various factors, the development of NEI has lagged behind thereby resulting in lack of employment opportunities. Thus the youth are easily lured by various insurgent groups in order to earn easy money.
- Easy availability of Arms and ammunition from hostile neighbours.
- Sense of Isolation, Deprivation and Exploitation – Distance from New Delhi and meagre representation in the Lok Sabha has further reduced the vox populi being heard in the corridors of powers, leading to more disillusionment in the dialogue process, thereby making call of the gun more attractive.
- Demographic Changes – The influx of refugees from Bangladesh into Assam led to a dramatic change in the demographic landscape of the region. This led to discontent amongst the people of the region, thereby giving rise to insurgency in Assam with the United National Liberation Front (ULFA), formed on 7 Apr 1979, leading the mass anti-immigrant agitation.
- Porosity of the border with Myanmar due to difficult terrain
- External Support – The insurgencies in the NE have been supported by erstwhile East Pakistan in the late 1950s; and in early 1960s, in the form of training of personnel of Naga Army and giving them weapons. Later, China also provided weapons and moral support. The Chinese support for insurgency in India was at a high from 1967-1975 when China’s foreign policy advocated the spread of ‘revolution’ around the world.
- Internal Displacement – Internal displacement is also an ongoing problem. From the 1990s to the start of 2011, over 800,000 people were forced to flee their homes in episodes of inter-ethnic violence in western Assam, along the border between Assam and Meghalaya, and in Tripura. According to conservative estimates, some 76,000 people remain in internal displacement in NE due to the prolonged armed violence.
- Proximity to the Golden triangle ensures funding for separatist/secessionist organisations via support of illegal drug smuggling.
- Perceived Excesses by Indian Army – The promulgation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in most of the NEI has further alienated the local populace. Though imperative for strengthening the hand of IA for CI operations, it is often portrayed as draconian by various Human Rights (HR) organisations and thus has been vilified by various insurgent groups.
- Instability in Myanmar
|STATE-WISE REPORT CARD|
- Manipur was declared a separate state in 1972.
- The Manipur people are grouped into three communities, Meitei, Nagas and Kuki or Chins. Meitei live in plain, while Nagas and kukis are in the hill district.
- There were many tensions between the different tribal groups in the state.
- The emergence of insurgency in Manipur is formally traced to the emergence of the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) in 1964.
- Since then several other outfits, like the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of Manipur, founded in 1978, People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) set up in 1977 and the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) that came into being in April, 1980 have emerged in the valley areas consisting of four districts of the State.
- The situation is further complicated because as, violence by the Naga groups has also spilled over into Manipur, a substantial part of which is claimed by the Isak-Muivah faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) as part of Nagalim or Greater Nagaland, the proposed unified territory of the Nagas as claimed by the Naga rebels. Several clashes between the NSCN-IM and the Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K) have been reported from the hill districts of the State.
- Manipur had been declared a ‘disturbed area’ in its entirety in 1980 and the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) 1958 was imposed in the State on 8 September, 1980, which continues to be in place till now. The implementation of this Act resulted in the State witnessing an unprecedented civic uprising, including the infamous “mothers’ nude protest” and Irom Sharmila Hunger strike against the Act .The AFSPA is still embroiled in controversy and the people of Manipur are continuing their protest against the Act.
|Inner Line Permit and Manipur|
Manipur witnessed a series of protests starting in July 2015, following demands for the implementation of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in the State. The protesters have demanded that the government introduce the ILP bill in the State Assembly. If the bill is passed and enacted into law, it will require outsiders to obtain a special pass or permit to enter the State. The system is in force in the neighbouring States of Nagaland and Mizoram and also in Arunachal Pradesh.
- The Nagas were the inhabitants of the Naga hills along the Northeast frontier on the Assam-Burma border. The Nagas are not a single tribe, but an ethnic community that comprises several tribes who live in the state of Nagaland and its neighbourhood.
- In 1946 came the Naga National Council (NNC), which, under the leadership of Angami Zapu Phizo, declared Nagaland an independent state on August 14, 1947.
- The first and the most significant insurgency started in Nagaland under the leadership of Phizo in the early 1950.
- The NNC resolved to establish a “sovereign Naga state” and conducted a “referendum” in 1951, in which “99 percent” supported an “independent” Nagaland.
When did the armed movement begin?
In 1952, Phizo formed the underground Naga Federal Government (NFG) and the Naga Federal Army (NFA). The Government of India sent in the Army to crush the insurgency and, in 1958, enacted the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
What include Greater Nagaland?
- A “Greater Nagalim” comprising “all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas”, along with Nagaland. That included several districts of Assam, Arunachal and Manipur, as also a large tract of Myanmar.
- The map of “Greater Nagalim” has about 1,20,000 sq km, while the state of Nagaland consists of 16,527 sq km. The claims have always kept Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh wary of a peace settlement that might affect their territories.
- The Nagaland Assembly has endorsed the ‘Greater Nagalim’ demand – “Integration of all Naga Inhabited contiguous areas under one administrative umbrella” – as many as five times: in December 1964, August 1970, September 1994, December 2003 and as recently as on July 27, 2015.
Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN):
- The outfit aims to establish a ‘Greater Nagaland’ (‘Nagalim’ or the People’s Republic of Nagaland) based on Mao Tse Tung’s ideology. Its manifesto is based on the principle of Socialism for economic development and a spiritual outlook – ‘Nagaland for Christ’.
- The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) was formed on January 31, 1980 by Isak Chisi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and S.S. Khaplang to opposed the ‘Shillong Accord’ signed by the then NNC (Naga National Council) with the Indian government. Later, differences surfaced within the outfit over the issue of commencing a dialogue process with the Indian Government and on April 30, 1988, the NSCN split into two factions, namely the NSCN-K led by S S Khaplang, and the NSCN-IM, led by Isak Chisi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah.
Nine Point Agreement:
- Signed by the governor of Assam and Naga leaders on june 26, 1947.
- Under this agreement it was decided that the Nagas would be granted judicial, executive, and legislative powers, as well as autonomy in land related matters.
- There was a 10 year guarantee of these provisions at the end of which the Nagas could choose between extending the agreement or a new agreement.
- The Naga leaders were also promised unification of Naga territories from nearby districts into the Naga hill district.
- However, the constituent Assembly refused to ratify this accord.
Sixteen-point Agreement with the Naga People’s Convention of 1960.
Shillong Accord of 1975.
Naga Peace Accord 2015:
- Nagaland peace accord is the accord signed in August 2015 by the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) to end the insurgency.
- The framework agreement is based on the “unique” history of Nagas and recognises the universal principle that in a democracy sovereignty lies with the people.
- National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) has given up its demand for ‘Greater Nagaland’ and vowed allegiance to the constitution of India. The details of the accord are yet to come in public domain.
- The Government of India has also made clear that existing boundaries of states will not be altered.
- It will restore peace and pave the way for prosperity in the North East.
- It will advance a life of dignity, opportunity and equity for the Naga people, based on their genius and consistent with the uniqueness of the Naga people and their culture and traditions.
- The Government of India recognized the unique history, culture and position of the Nagas and their sentiments and aspirations. The NSCN understood and appreciated the Indian political system and governance.
The Nagas peace accord has been hanging fire since a framework agreement was signed with NSCN-IM in 2015.Naga groups even carried out a rally in Delhi demanding early finalisation of Naga Peace Accord.
- In Assam the problem began in 1979, the indigenous people of Assam demanded that illegal immigrants who had emigrated from Bangladesh to Assam be detected and deported. The movement led by All Assam Students Union began non-violently with satyagraha, boycotts, picketing and courting arrest.
- The Election in 1983 was opposed by the movement’s leaders. The election led to widespread violence. The movement finally ended after an agreement with the central government on august 15, 1985.
- Under the provisions of this accord, anyone who entered the state illegally between January 1966 and March 1971 was allowed to remain but was disenfranchised for 10 years, while those who entered after 1971 face expulsion.
Statehood demands in Assam:
General reasons behind their demand of separate statehood:
- To preserve and promote their ethnic identity
- For better benefits economic development in backward areas
- To ensure control over natural resources like land
Emergence of Insurgency:
- The United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), an insurgent group, was formed in 1979 and marked the beginning of insurgency in Assam. The main aim of ULFA was to “liberate Assam through armed struggle from the exploitative attitude of the central government towards Assam and establish a sovereign independent Assam.”
- The group remained dormant during the Assam movement; however, it supported the Assam movement. The Assam movement was against the illegal migrants. ULFA also raised the similar issue, which gained popularity and acceptability of the common population.
Profile of Insurgent Groups :
- Various insurgent groups and organizations have emerged and are active in Assam due to the fear of imposition of cultural and geographical imperialism and domination as well as increasing levels of economic and political competition.
- This has resulted in frequent violence in the state among ethnic groups. Partly, these factors are also responsible for the rise of different insurgent outfits in the state. The insurgent outfits began to grow in the state on the ground of ethnicity, religious and cultural split.
- The cultures of violence propagated by the ULFA and the Bodo outfits have set up a pattern for a number of copycat insurgents groups in the Northeast region. As many as 34 insurgent groups have been operating in the state.
- Amongst all the groups, the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), Dima Halim Daoga (DHD), Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA) and Muslim United Liberation Front of Assam (MLUFA) are the major insurgent groups. The ULFA operates mainly in the upper Assam whereas NDFB operates in the Bodo-areas of North and North West river of Brahmaputra.
- Bodos, the largest plains tribe of Assam started an armed struggle for a separate state in the mid-1980s.This armed struggle led to ethnic cleansing of the non-bodos along the north bank of Brahmaputra.
- Bodoland Movement for an independent state of Bodoland started on March 2, 1987 under the leadership of Upendranath Brahma of the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU).
The Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC):
- BTC has legislative, administrative, executive and financial powers over 40 policy areas in the Bodoland Territorial Areas Districts comprising four districts (Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri) of Assam.
- It was established in 2003 following a peace agreement between the Government of India and Bodo rebels and has been functioning since 2003 under the provision of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India.
National Democratic Front of Bodoland:
- NDFB (Songjit faction) had turned up the fire in Assam in the year 2014, December by attacking districts of Sonitpur and Kokrajhar, killing nearly 78 and leaving many seriously injured.
- It appears that this carnage started in retaliation to the death of three NDFB (S) cadres during a counter-insurgency operation conducted by the Mahar Regiment on December 21 against the outfit’s camp in the Chirang District along the Assam-Bhutan border.
- Government has created Autonomous hill districts of Assam in Mikir hills region of Assam.
- A separate state of Karbi Anglong (Homeland) is being made by people of Karbi tribe.
- Karbi Anglong district is the largest amongst the 27 administrative districts of Assam
- In 2006- Indian government named Karbi Anglong one of the country’s 250 most backward districts
- Dimsa people demanding a separate state called Dimaraji or “Dimaland” comprise the Dimasa inhabited Areas which spreads in part of Assam and Nagaland.
- Dima Hasao district,
- Parts of Cachar district,
- Parts of Nagaon district and
- Karbi Anglong district in Assam together with
- Part of Dimapur district in Nagaland
- Government had given autonomy by forming the “The Dima Hasao Autonomous Council” (DHAC) in response to the demands.
- They do not have an autonomous council like bodos.
- Kamtapur = some districts of West Bengal + districts of Assam.
- Areas demanded under Kamatapur also overlap the areas which were demanded under the statehood of Gorkhaland in West Bengal.
Issue of NRC:
- Bangladeshi immigrants had affected the demographic of Assam.
- NRC is an exercise first carried out 1951 to enumerate the citizens, their houses and holdings. It is an official record of all the legal citizens of a state in respect of each village showing the houses or holdings in a serial order and indicating against each house or holding the number and names of persons staying therein. Over the years there has been a demand from the indigenous Assamese groups to update the NRC.
- The state of Tripura witnessed a surge in terrorist activities in the 1990s. The main reason was the influx of refugees from the newly formed Bangladesh.
- Influx of refugees fuelled discontent and demographic inversion in Tripura.
- This led to insurgent activities in the state of Tripura and the formation of the Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti (TUJS) in 1971, followed by the Tripura National Volunteers (TNV) in 1981.
- The National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) was formed on March 2, 1989 and its armed wing, the National Holy Army and All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF), in July 1990, queered the pitch.
- But today Tripura is one of the successful states in curbing insurgency in the state.
Famous Tripura model:
A multidimensional and fine-tuned solution provided by the government of Tripura. Following are the attributes of Tripura model-
Working on all these multiple fronts Tripura succeeded in fighting against the insurgency.
- Meghalaya formed a full-fledged state in 1972 out of the state of Assam, with an aim to address the unique needs of the major tribes in the region: the Garos, the Jaintias and the Khasis.
- Meghalaya is perhaps the least affected by insurgency in the North-East.
- Main tension in the state is due conflict between the tribal and non-tribal settlers, identity issues and growing corruption along with change in demographic composition due to influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
- This led to formation of various insurgent groups- Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC), and Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC).
Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA):
- It was formed in 2009 – Aims to establish a separate Garoland for the Garo people.
- It sustains by extortions and smuggling activities which can be contained with better deployment of the available force and with support from the local people.
Achik National Volunteer council(ANVC):
- ANVC formed in 1995 with the intention of forming an Achik land in the Garo hills. But as now it suspended its operation due agreement with the government in 2004.
Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC):
- It is a militant organization operating in Meghalaya, India formed in 1992.
- It claims to be a representative of the Khasi-Jaintia tribal people, and its aim is to free Meghalaya from the alleged domination of the Garos and the non-tribal outsiders.
Garo Hills Liberation Army formed by deserting police personnel, have been launching guerrilla attacks against police and army.
Kidnapping and ransoms have become a norm in the western districts of the state. Along with the state lies in a major smuggling route between Bangladesh and India.
- Eastern most state of India. Problem of insurgency in this state can be seen in the continuum of Nagaland. NSCN-IM sees three districts of state namely Tirap, Changlang and Longding as part of Nagalim.
- Insurgent groups use districts of state for transit camps and a strong presence of ULFA-I can be seen. During counter insurgency operations insurgents use state to reach their base camp in Myanmar.
- Emerging concern is the presence of the CPI-Maoist cadres in Lohit and Lower Dibang valley.
- Presence of strong Chakma and Hajong refugees in Arunachal Pradesh and along with an influx of other outsiders have also raised concerns among the locals from time to time.
- Kidnapping and extortion by members of NSCN had created an environment of fear in the district of Tirap and Changlang.
|Impact of insurgency:|
· Every government employee and businessman in Tirap is forced to pay nearly twenty-five per cent of his gross income as a tax for the Republic of Nagalim . In the districts of Tirap and Changlang, branches of the State Bank of India have been shut down after they were served with extortion notes by the NSCN-K.
· In 2001, the operations of the Oil India Limited in Changlang district were brought to a halt after the NSCN-IM demanded an amount of Rs. 60 lakhs (US$ 125,000). The oil major had to pull out 130 of its technical staff from the area.
· Overall development activity suffers and no new project is established in the state which led to economic backwardness in the state.
- The Mizo National Famine Front dropped the word ‘Famine’ and a new political organization, the Mizo National Front (MNF) was born on 22nd October 1961 under the leadership of Laldenga with the specified goal of achieving sovereign independence of Greater Mizoram. Large scale disturbances broke out on 28th February 1966 government installations at Aizawl, Lunglei, Chawngte, Chhimluang and other places simultaneously.
- While the MNF took to violence to secure its goal of establishing a sovereign land, other political forces in the hills of Assam were striving for a separate state. The search for a political solution to the problems facing the hill regions in Assam continued.
- The Mizo National Front was outlawed in 1967. The demand for statehood has gained fresh momentum. A Mizo District Council delegation, which met prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi in May 1971 demanded a full-fledged state for the Mizos. The union government on its own offered the proposal of turning Mizo Hills into a Union Territory in July 1971. The Mizo leaders were ready to accept the offer on condition into Union Territory in July 1971. The Mizo leaders were ready to accept the offer on condition that the status of U.T would be upgraded to statehood sooner rather than later. The Union Territory of Mizoram came into being on 21st January, 1972. Mizoram got two seats in Parliament, one each in the Lok Sabha and in the Rajya Sabha.
- In June 1986, the centre signed a peace agreement with Laldenga, leader of the Mizo National Front (MNF). By its terms, the MNF rebels laid down their arms and were granted amnesty against prosecution. The government granted full statehood to Mizoram.
- Among the ethnic and secessionist conflicts, the resolution of the Mizoram issue was a notable success.
The government followed the composite strategy to deal with the situation in the North-East.
- The centre has steadily pursued the policy of talks/ negotiations with any outfit ,which is ready to forego the path of violence and come forward for peace talks within the constitutional framework of India.
Some major initiatives taken for North-East:
- Border Area development Project
- Hill Area Development Programme
- Constitutional protection in Sixth Schedule which protected not only the tribal laws, customs and land rights; but also gave sufficient autonomy to the tribes to administer themselves with minimum outside interference.
- Protected Area Permit: Due to security reasons, certain areas have been declared as Protected Area/Restricted Areas where no foreigner can enter or stay without obtaining permit from the competent authorities.
- Engagement with the governments at regional level so that development in the region can be assured.
- Act East Policy – India’s ‘Act East’ policy is a diplomatic initiative to promote economic, strategic and cultural relations with the vast Asia-Pacific region at different levels. The country’s eastward drive since 1992 has underscored the importance of this region in its contemporary international relations. ‘Act East’ and its early avatar, ‘Look East’ are not different; rather, they are two sides of the same coin, representing two different, but continuing phases in the evolution of India’s policy towards the Asia-Pacific region.
- National Waterway 2 is a section of the Brahmaputra River having a length of 891 km between the Bangladesh border near Dhubri and Sadiya in Assam.
- Development of Railways and Airports in the North-East region.
Various development projects in North-East with the involvement of other countries:
- Trilateral Highway: India-Myanmar-Thailand (IMT) – The works on both these sections were awarded on Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) mode in May 2018. The 1360 kms long India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is an initiative pertaining to India, Myanmar and Thailand.
- Kaladan Project-
- Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project involving India and Myanmar is very important for connecting the North East and Myanmar. This is part of India’s ‘Look East policy’ connecting north eastern States and the ASEAN region.
- There is a framework agreement between India and Myanmar signed in 2008, to help in facilitating the implementation of the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project.
- India is also involved in developing the Sittwe Port in Myanmar which is expected to emerge as the most strategic overseas port for India and is located at the estuary of Kaladan River which is in the troubled Rakhine province of Myanmar.
- India has already constructed an inland water transport jetty at Sittwe and also a container terminal is expected to come up later.
- Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Corridor: The 2800 km BCIM corridor proposes to link Kunming in China’s Yunnan province with Kolkata, passing through cities such as Mandalay in Myanmar and Dhaka in Bangladesh and finally to Kolkata.
- Rail link from Agartala-Akhaura:
- The rail line between Agartala in Tripura and Akhaura in Bangladesh would pave the way for the first train to run from the north-eastern region to Bangladesh.
- The historical Agartala-Akhaura railway line to connect the north-eastern region with Bangladesh is expected to be ready by the end of 2021
Security Cooperation With Neighbouring Countries:
- The Myanmar government handed over at least 22 militants of north-eastern armed groups to India, thus becoming the third neighbouring country to act against the Indian frontier region’s
- The Royal Bhutan Army had conducted an ‘Operation All Clear’ to flush out camps set up on its soil by north-eastern armed groups, including the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) at the Indian government’s request, the Bangladesh government – between 2009 and 2015 – had handed over the top leaders of ULFA (barring Paresh Barua) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), forcing them to come to the table for peace talks.
- The armies of India and Myanmar have launched two phases of joint operations along the Myanmar border targeting camps of insurgent groups operating in North East. Named Operation Sunrise, the strategy is aimed at hitting militant groups that are impacting both India and Myanmar
North-East Insurgency and its link with Foreign entity:
- India’s Northeast is one of South Asia’s hottest trouble spots, not simply because the region has as many as 30 armed insurgent organizations operating and fighting the Indian state, but because trans-border linkages that these groups have, and strategic alliances among them, have acted as force multipliers and have made the conflict dynamics all the more intricate.
- With demands of these insurgent groups ranging from secession to autonomy and the right to self-determination, and a plethora of ethnic groups clamouring for special rights and the protection of their distinct identity, the region is bound to be a turbulent one.
- Moreover, the location of the eight north-eastern Indian States itself is part of the reason why it has always been a hotbed of militancy with trans-border ramifications. This region of 263,000 square kilometres with 3 highly porous and sensitive frontiers with China in the North, Myanmar in the East, Bangladesh in the South West and Bhutan to the North West.
- The region’s strategic location is underlined by the fact that it shares a 4,500 km-long international border with its four South Asian neighbours, but is connected to the Indian mainland by a tenuous 22 km-long land corridor passing through Siliguri in the eastern State of West Bengal, appropriately described as the ‘Chicken’s Neck.’
Free Movement Regime (FMR):
- The Free Movement Regime is a unique travel arrangement between India and Myanma
- FMR permits the tribes residing along the border to travel 16-km across the boundary without visa restrictions.
- The FMR helps tribes across the border to maintain their age-old ties.
- Free movement regime is being misused by militants and trans-border criminals who smuggle weapons, contraband goods and fake Indian currency. Taking benefit of free movement regime occasionally they enter India, commit crimes and escape to their relatively safer hideouts.
Rohingyas And North-East-
- The Rohingya conflict is one of the longest conflicts between the majority Buddhist Burmese and the minority Muslims in Myanmar.
- It has led to the displacement of a large number of people across the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, especially from the Rakhine state.
- The tragic aspect of this issue is that about 800,000 Rohingyas in Myanmar are stateless people. They are not recognised as an ethnic indigenous minority or citizens of Myanmar. Bangladesh, which has a 271 km long border with Myanmar, houses nearly 300,000 Rohingya refugees, especially in Cox Bazar.
- Many of these refugees are without jobs and could fall prey to radical ideologies. They may join the Harkat-ul-Jihadi Islam (HuJI) which has been accused of carrying out bomb blasts in Assam.
- Another aspect could be the fear of a major spill over of the conflict into India’s north-east in terms of refugee flow from across the porous Bangladesh-India border. The north-east is a region plagued by armed ethnic conflicts based on issues of land and identity. Further inroads by a refugee population could exacerbate the situation in the north-east.
|BRU REFUGEE CRISIS:|
- A four-party agreement among the Centre, Mizoram government, Tripura government, and leaders of Bru community was signed to end the 23-year old Bru-Reang refugee crisis.
- The Bru community, also referred to as Reangs, resides in Mizoram, Tripura, and parts of southern Assam, and is ethnically distinct from the Mizos of Mizoram.
- There are over 40,000 Brus living in four districts of Mizoram. At present, over 30000 Brus are living in the refugee camps in Tripura after they fled Mizoram following ethnic clashes with the Mizo tribes in 1997.
- The first signs of conflict between the two communities emerged in 1995 when Mizo organizations – the Young Mizo Association and the Mizo Students’ Association – demanded that Brus be left out of the Mizoram’s electoral rolls as they were not an indigenous tribe.
- The Brus retaliated by forming an armed organization, Bru National Liberation Front, and a political body, Bru National Union. The two demanded more political autonomy for Mizoram’s Brus and a Bru Autonomous District Council (ADC) under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
- In 1997, following ethnic tension over an incident in Mizoram, around 5,000 families comprising over 30,000 Bru tribals were forced to flee the state and seek shelter in Tripura.
Efforts made by the Union Government
- Since 2010, the Union government has been assisting the two State governments for taking care of the refugees. Till 2014, 1622 Bru-Reang families returned to Mizoram in different batches.
- In 2018, an agreement was signed between the Union government, the two State governments and representatives of Bru-Reang refugees, as a result of which the aid given to these families was increased substantially.
- Subsequently, 328 families comprising of 1369 individuals returned to Mizoram under the agreement. But there had been a sustained demand of most Bru-Reang families that they may be allowed to settle down in Tripura, considering their apprehensions about their security.
- It is doubtful whether the land that is allocated to Brus in Tripura will be accepted by the domicile tribes in Tripura.
- Till the pact, the Tripura Government was eager to repatriate the Brus to Mizoram. As the new pact settles the Brus in Tripura, it needs a lot of political will from Tripura to implement welfare programmes for the Brus.
- The existing Bru families in Mizoram are still opposed by some ethnic organizations of Mizoram, which might trigger another exodus if there is no settlement at the place of the conflict.
- NEC as forum: The North Eastern council (NEC), having the Governors and Chief Ministers of the North Eastern states as its members, can provide a common forum for discussing security aspects in a comprehensive manner.
- Primacy of political goals: It involves planning, preparation and execution of counter-insurgency within political framework. The role of the military in flushing out insurgents from certain areas is considered to be a supportive role. For instance, British, U.S. and Indian military forces have signified the importance of the military. However, citing the cases of Mizoram and Assam, Dr. Goswami emphasises on the importance of political goals. In the paper, she has pointed out how the Mizo National Front (MNF) became a platform to express against the heavy response of the Indian military. It was during the strong political leadership of Pu Laldenga of MNF that the Mizo conflict was resolved in 1987 through staunch negotiations.
- Centre of gravity-population: Insurgent groups aim to persuade the population by utilizing the strategy of coercion and intimidation to generate support for their political cause. While countering these insurgency groups, the operation of the armed forces should be carried out in a civilian landscape, not in military camps, and the counter-insurgency forces need to know that such operations are people-centric operation. For this, there are certain practical ways of gaining support of the population, namely, having day to day contacts with the population, organising collective work, identify local cells of the insurgent, prevent too much movement, and finally provide security to the population. Besides this, there is also a need to gather information on three different types of population in any insurgency-affected areas, namely, minority support base for the insurgent; a passive neutral majority; and a minority which is against the insurgency.
- Counter-propaganda: the insurgency groups intend to impose control over the population. These groups aim to win over the people by propagating their political cause, often by promising them better political empowerment, better economic status, better security etc. Such propaganda appears an easy task to the insurgency groups as they do not have to deliver any of those promised goals in the near term. However, countering such propaganda remains an arduous task for the counter-insurgency forces. For this, the strategy for counter-propaganda should be focused on exposing the weakness and false promises made by the insurgents. This strategy can only be materialized by ‘by obtaining the neutrality of the population, visible presence of counter-insurgent forces to provide security, establishing the authority of the state by providing basic needs, propaganda directed at insurgent rank and file, followed by an effective surrender policy’.
- Resolute leadership: In order to carry out a successful operation, the involved leader must possess a clear conceptual understanding of the mission. For this, he or she should have a thoughtful understanding of the nature of the problem. The leadership should exhibit ‘resoluteness, act in an ethical manner and always keep the national priorities and goals in clear perspective’. His or her leadership qualities should also be shown at all levels, and the leader should able to synchronise with various agencies with the aim of protecting the population and instilling in them a sense of security.
- Intelligence: This is one of the most important counter-insurgency measures. The absence of thorough and specific intelligence would only make the counter-insurgency operations ineffective. For this, the commander needs to form a sound intelligence network with the involvement of intelligent staffs possessing a ‘clear understanding of the operational environment, physical geography, the external influence, role of media and internet’. Means through which intelligence can be gathered are: lines of communication, belief systems, values, identity, culture, social norms, grievances, insurgent strength and vulnerabilities, safe havens, insurgent intelligence network, etc. Intelligence should be used to understand the root causes of the insurgency.
- Unity of effort: There needs to be an integrated approach in counter-insurgency. This involves ‘showcasing of administrative capacities, economic resources, propaganda, military superiority and the like’. Operations in such cases should be guided by a single strategic narrative that is visible across all lines of operation. This practice involves the coordination of political, social, economic and the military aspects of the counter-insurgency. The author specifies the roles of politicians, bureaucrats, army, police, local leaders, NGOs and media. A successful unity of effort can be achieved if there is a single command and coordination centre. Furthermore, civil-military relations are also important in this context.
- Appropriate ‘military’ force structures: It is important that the force is used to its minimum. This is because operations should aim to neutralise insurgents and not eliminate them. Also, minimum force should be used in order to reduce the fear that civilian population experiences due to the heavy presence of armed forces. The force structure should be able to respond to given context even though it is a small operation team.
- Rule of law: The counter-insurgent forces need to act according to certain accepted rules of law. Any operation in a given region should be within the framework of a legal mandate and conduct must meet the highest legal standards. With such rules, the involved forces can avoid any disproportionate use of force. This will not breed alienation amongst the civilians. Forces have to be briefed about the rules of engagement with regard to arrests, searches, warrants, interrogation techniques, intelligence gathering by issuing a Standard Operating Procedure. Acts such as the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 amended in 1972 are perceived by the common people as neutralising their fundamental rights granted by the Indian Constitution. It is difficult to control the population under distress and the state must offer its people ‘a good deal working within the rule of law’ in order to isolate the insurgents.
- Operational clarity: It is important to have clarity of purpose in any counter-insurgency operation. There has to be a unified command structure with only a single direction. The political aims should also be crystal clear. Further, the armed forces should clearly map the conflict zones. Involved forces must be clear about their allocated tasks, and short and long term targets. For all these, the most significant clarity is that the forces should be very clear that these operations must be people friendly ones. Challenges with reference to clarity of operations arise due to prevalence of multiple levels of decision makers in the insurgency-affected states like in the North East.
- Learning from the Tripura model of counter insurgency.
- Optimum coordination between all the levels of government, security forces and media houses.
- Coping up with the regional aspirations.
- Improving administrative efficiency
- Enhance communication and connectivity
- Stringent law and fast criminal justice system for quick disposal of insurgents attack cases.
- Decentralization with alertness
- Improving administrative efficiency,
- Pro-people governance
The fruit of development along with winning the trust and building the confidence of people of the North-East is key to bring peace, prosperity in the region.