What Threatens Peace in India’s Northeast? (A complete diary of insurgency, extremist movements, Ethno-political scenario on Strategic alliance and cross border links)

………Continued from Part I

Nagaland

The Nagas were the inhabitants of the Naga hills along the Northeast frontier on the Assam-Burma border. They numbered nearly 500,000 in 1961, constituted less than 0.1% per cent of India’s population, and consisted of many tribes speaking different languages.

How old is the Naga political issue?

The British annexed Assam in 1826, and in 1881, the Naga Hills too became part of British India. The first sign of Naga resistance was seen in the formation of the Naga Club in 1918, which told the Simon Commission in 1929 “to leave us alone to determine for ourselves as in ancient times”. 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 NNC resolved to establish a “sovereign Naga state” and conducted a “referendum” in 1951, in which “99 per cent” supported an “independent” Nagaland.

 

When did the armed movement begin?

On March 22, 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.

When did the peace efforts start?

Almost simultaneously with the resistance. On June 29, 1947, Assam Governor Sir Akbar Hyderi signed a 9-point agreement with moderates T Sakhrie and Aliba Imti, which was almost immediately rejected by Phizo. The Naga Hills, a district of Assam, was upgraded to a state in 1963, by also adding the Tuensang Tract that was then part of NEFA. In April the next year, Jai Prakash Narain, Assam Chief Minister Bimala Prasad Chaliha and Rev. Michael Scott formed a Peace Mission and got the government and NNC to sign an agreement to suspend operations that September. But the NNC/NFG/NFA continued to indulge in violence, and after six rounds of talks, the Peace Mission was abandoned in 1967 and a massive counter-insurgency operation launched.

When did the NSCN come into being?

On November 11, 1975, the government got a section of NNC leaders to sign the Shillong Accord, under which this section of NNC and NFG agreed to give up arms. A group of about 140 members led by Thuingaleng Muivah, who were at that time in China, refused to accept the Shillong Accord, and formed the National Socialist Council of Nagaland in 1980. In 1988, the NSCN split into NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K) after a violent clash. While the NNC began to fade away, and Phizo died in London in 1991, the NSCN (IM) came to be seen as the “mother of all insurgencies” in the region.

What did the NSCN (IM) want?

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.

When did NSCN (IM) join peace talks?

The Government of India signed a ceasefire agreement with NSCN (IM) on July 25, 1997, which came into effect on August 1, 1997. Over 80 rounds of talks between the two sides were held subsequently.

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 recognising 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. 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.

TRIPURA

Insurgency in Tripura finds its root in the influx of refugees from the newly emerged East Pakistan after partition, post-independence and post 1971 war liberation in Bangladesh. Migration fuelled discontent and demographic inversion in Tripura. The ratio of population of tribals and non-tribals which was 70:30 at the time of independence in 1947 changed to         70: 30 in favour of non tribals. This injustice has led to insurgency. The evolution of insurgency in Tripura can be traced to 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, queering the pitch. The two outfits came up with a secessionist agenda, disputed the merger of the kingdom of Tripura with the Indian Union, and demanded sovereignty for Tripura, deportation of “illegal migrants,” the implementation of the Tripura merger agreement and the restoration of land to the tribal people under the Tripura Land Reform Act, 1960. Between 1990 and 1995, the insurgency remained low-key. But it grew in extent and magnitude between 1996 and 2004 — and then started melting.

MEGHALAYA

The Meghalaya state was carved out of the Assam state, with an aim to address the unique needs of the major tribes in the region: the Garos, the Jaintias and the Khasis. However, discontent grew among the tribal due to the alleged high-handedness of the security forces, inter-tribal conflicts, the youth unemployment and the inability to compete with non-tribal businesses, illegal migration from Bangladesh. This led to the rise of several insurgent groups in the state. The few insurgents group active in the state are Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA ) and Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC).

ARUNACHAL PRADESH

Arunachal Pradesh, spread over 83,743 square kilometres in north-eastern India , was hailed until recently as the abode of peace. However, the State is gradually being afflicted by insurgency. Neither the State government nor the Centre have taken stock of the situation, nor drawn up an action plan to arrest the downslide. The only case of indigenous insurgency movement in Arunachal Pradesh was the rise of the Arunachal Dragon Force (ADF), which was rechristened as East India Liberation Front (EALF) in 2001. The outfit remained active in the Lohit district, before being neutralised by the state police forces. Indigenous insurgency movements have only been a fraction of the problem that Arunachal Pradesh has come to encounter in the past years. A variety of factors including its geographical contiguity with Myanmar and ethnic similarities among the residents in some of Arunachal Pradesh’s districts with the locals in Nagaland has been the reasons why insurgent outfits from Assam and Nagaland have exploited the State for their activities. Traditionally, the south-western districts of Tirap and Changlang, in the proximity of Nagaland, have been a happy hunting ground for both the factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN). While the Khaplang faction (NSCN-K) made its first inroads into the virgin territory in the early 1990s, the NSCN-IM faction soon made its move and carved out separate areas of influence in the district. Arunachal Pradesh has also been used as a transit route by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). While the movement of the ULFA cadres between the easternmost districts of Assam and the outfit’s facilities in the Sagaing division in Myanmar through Arunachal Pradesh can be traced back to the late 1980s, the State’s strategic importance for the ULFA has grown manifold after the outfit’s December 2003 ouster from Bhutan, following a military crackdown. The outfit’s dependence on its 28th battalion headquartered in Myanmar, for its hit and run activities in Assam, has become almost irreversible. ULFA cadres traversing the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar route had set up transit camps and safe houses in the Manabhum Reserve Forest, spread over 1500 square kilometres in the Lohit district. There were also a few incidents which revealed a nexus between the militants and the politicians, like the arrest of a NSCN (IM) militant from the residence of a former Minister of Arunachal Pradesh in Itanagar. Instances of forceful recruitments of tribal youths by the militant organizations, especially NSCN-K were also found. In a Conference of Chief Ministers on internal security, held at New Delhi on August 17, 2009 and attended by the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, the Arunachal Pradesh government asked the Centre to seal the entire stretch of the 440-km-long India-Myanmar border along the state in order to check the movement of insurgent outfits.

Impact of insurgency

The impact of insurgency on the State has been serious. According to intelligence sources, 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 Changalang, 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.

MIZORAM

A situation similar to Nagaland developed a few years later in autonomous Mizo district of the Northeast. Secessionist demand backed by some British officials had grown there in 1947 but had failed to get much support from the youthful population. However, unhappiness with the Assam government’s relief measure during famine of 1959 and the passage of the Act in 1961, making Assamese the official language of the state, led to the formation of Mizo National Front (MNF), with Laldenga as president. While participating in the elections MNF created a military wing which received arms and ammunition and military support from East Pakistan and China. In March 1966 MNF declared independence from India, proclaimed a military uprising. The GOI responded with immediate massive counter insurgency measures by the army. Within a few weeks insurgency was crushed and government control was restored.

In 1973, after the less extremist Mizo leaders has scaled down their demand to that of a separate state of Mizoram within the Indian Union, Mizo district of Assam was separated from Assam and, as Mizoram was given the status of a Union Territory. Mizo insurgency gained some renewed strength in the late 1970’s but was again effectively dealt with the Indian armed forces. A settlement was finally reached in 1986. An ‘accord’ was signed between the Union Government and the Mizo National Front in 1986, according to which insurgents group agreed to surrender before the Union and re-enter the constitutional political stream. A year later, statehood was conferred. Since the MNF has a formidable political force in the state.

Hmar insurgency

Not satisfied with the Mizo Accord of 1986 that ended two decades of insurgency led by the Mizo National Front (the peace deal did not grant the Hmar tribe administrative autonomy), some Hmar leaders formed the Hmar People’s Convention (HPC), and began a struggle for autonomy. The insurgency raged until 1994, when the Mizoram government set up the Sinlung Hills Development Council for Hmar-inhabited areas. The HPC joined the political mainstream, but Mizoram police and politicians say their best weapons were never surrendered, and an offshoot — the Hmar People’s Convention Democrats (HPCD) — emerged almost immediately and pressed on with the old demands.

Maoist Consolidation in North East

The Maoists have been able to extend the red corridor to the Northeast. The arrests of various top Maoist leaders in this region during 2013 revealed the extent of Maoist infiltration in Northeast India. Though at present they are restricted to certain pockets of this region, like along the Assam‐Arunachal Pradesh border areas, there is every possibility that they can extend their influence further in 2017. The Maoist rebellion in Northeast India is at present in its latent phase. The ‘latent phase’ involves mobilization of the masses, political awakening, visiting villages, engaging in small struggles on local issues, picking up students’ issues, fighting corruption, short–listing shelter and arms dumps and identification of local militant elements. This exactly is what the Maoists in Northeast India are doing at present. But this phase may soon pass away. With the arrested Maoist leaders already revealing that they were in touch with youths from Meghalaya and they being able to create a support base in the districts of Goalpara, Bongaigaon, Silchar, Karimganj and Kamrup in Assam. It is a possibility that the Maoists may be able to consolidate their presence further in the region during 2017 and we may see the Maoists begin to engage in violent activities against the state machinery.

Spread of Islamist Militancy

Northeast India, shares an 1880 km long porous border with Bangladesh, a country that is a hotbed of Islamist militancy. Though radical Islam has not yet seeped into the Muslim population in the region, the arrests of twelve persons in Assam during November‐December 2014 with links with the Islamist terror outfit Jamaat‐ul‐Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) shows that radicalization of a section of Muslim population has begun in the region. The arrested persons have confessed that JMB was eyeing pockets inhabited by people of Bangladesh origin as well as districts like Sivasagar in eastern Assam, where it is said to have motivated some people. Though Islamist militancy is yet to find a root in Northeast, we may see efforts from Islamists to spread radical Islam among the Muslim population in the region in 2017.

Sankar Ray

Faculty, North East Institute of Advanced Studies

Neighbouring Countries and Changing Dynamics

………To be continued in Part III

 

Part I and II : Some references

  1. North East division – Ministry of Home Affairs
  2. Administrative Reforms Commission: arc.gov.in/arc_7th_report/ARC_7thReport_Ch12.pdf
  3. Centre for development and peace studies: cdpsindia.org/ne_insurgency.asp
  4. www.satp.org/satporgtp/publication/faultlines/volume17
  5. scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu
  6. Instability Parameters in Northeastern India – IDSA research
  7. INSURGENCIES IN NORTH-EAST ASIA: Moving Towards Resolution by Gautam Das
  8. Internal Security Problems in Northeast India: Insurgency and Counter Insurgency by Onkar Pawar
  9. IPCS (Institute of peace and conflict studies)
  10. C-NES (Centre for North East studies and policy research)

 

 

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North East Institute of Advanced Studies (NE-IAS) has been founded with a vision to make high quality professional education and training available at doorstep with the guidance and assistance of nationally acclaimed trainers and mentors who have achieved benchmark in their fields by consistent success records. NE-IAS aims to develop a quality and result-oriented coaching and training institute in NE India. The institute currently offers courses for preparation of UPSC and state level civil services.

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