Terrorism in North East India

June 9th, 2009 - 7:20 pm ICT by ANI  

Sheikh Hasina Book Review: Assam:Terrorism And The Demographic challenge, by Col. Anil Bhat

Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi. K.W. Publishers. Price Rs. 195/ ——————————

It has been reported that the notorious United Liberation Front of Assam militant Paresh Baruah has been seen in China looking for arms and to have a respite from the pressure that he was facing in Bangladesh by the Sheikh Hasina government, which was cracking down on anti-India groups.

That Paresh Baruah will feel at ‘home’ in China should not surprise anyone in India. The Chinese have provided shelter to many insurgent groups functioning in northeast India since the sixties.

India has been fighting an insurgency in the northeast for nearly five decades. Initially it started in Nagaland with the support of the Baptist Church. Christian Missionaries were active in the what was then known as the Naga Hills and Tuensang Area, and they were telling tribal Nagas that they did not belong to India .

A. Z. Phizo led the first groups of Naga ‘underground’ militants. Initially, the Government of India deployed the Assam Rifles to contain the Naga militants and later sent out regular Army units.

Following the Sino-India War of 1962, the government cracked down on Naga militants. Talks were held with underground Nagas with the help of Reverend Michael Scott and an accord was reached with prominent Naga leaders.

Underground Nagas who decided to give up their quest for ‘independence’ were inducted into the security forces. A separate Naga Regiment was formed, and the underground Nagas were given training at the Kumaon Regimental Centre in Ranikhet. The Naga Regiment has been participating in regular operations of the Indian Army, winning accolades.

The success of the Indian Army in the fight against Pakistan in 1971 alerted the adversaries of the country to fan anti-Indian elements in the northeast. While the initial problem was confined to the border areas of East Pakistan, the trouble extended to the whole of the northeast in the late seventies. The northeast covers an area of 262,170 square kilometers and includes states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim

The area, as pointed out by Col Anil Bhat in his book ‘Assam, Terrorism And The Demographic Challenge’, has a 4,500 kilometre long international border with five foreign countries - Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma(Mynmar), China and Nepal. India had assumed that the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971 had strengthened security in the area, but the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in August 1975 and the coming into power of a military ruler (Zia-ur-Rahman) changed the whole situation.

The Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan and the Chinese extended support to the militant groups in Assam, Nagaland , Manipur and Tripura. A ‘Peoples Liberation Army’ came into being in Manipur, and in Assam, trouble erupted with the influx of people from Bangladesh.

The discontent in Assam over the influx from Bangladesh saw the emergence of the All Assam Students Union and the Assam Agitation. . It also saw the setting up of a militant force in the form of the United Liberation Front of Assam in 1979. Following the signing of the Assam Accord by Rajiv Gandhi in 1985, efforts were made to get the cadres of the ULFA to surrender. It saw the creation of SULFA or Surrendered ULFA. The militant group by then had found patrons across the border and continued to survive and grow.

Manipur saw the emergence of militant groups, having tribal loyalties. The Meiteis, who are against Nagas , formed their own militant groups. They have been receiving arms from forces in China. Addiction to drugs is one of the highest in the country in Manipur.

Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya have also been affected by militancy at some time or the other. The Mizo Accord brought peace to the state, and firm action by the local government, has contained militancy. Meghalaya, which has a porous border with Bangladesh, has been at the receiving end of infiltration, the scale of trouble depending on the nature of the Government in Dacca.

Anil Bhat has pointed out how the militancy has survived in the northeast because of the indecisiveness of the Central and State governments. Operation Bajrang was launched in 1990 and when it was almost succeeding, a cease-fire came into being. The ULFA militants fled to Bangladesh and reorganized their forces. Paresh Baruah as been in touch with the ISI ever since.

Similar has been the fate of Operation Rhino launched on September 15 1991. The practice of giving grants to ULFA militants when they surrender has given rise to groups who style themselves as ULFA militants only to surrender and get the grants.

The State governments in Assam have been reluctant to hand over the operations against the ULFA to the Army. When the situation deteriorated, a ‘unified command’ was put in operation.. The action against the ULFA terrorists have always been executed with the security forces fighting with one hand tied behind their back.

It is a fact that people in the northeast have many grievances. The militants are exploiting the grievances. There are human rights groups and elements who press for a ‘peaceful solution’, through dialogue. Pressures from activists like Indira Goswami made the Government of India offer amnesty to terrorists if they agreed to come for talks.

As pointed out in the monograph it has been ‘all dialogues-no peace’.

Col Anil Bhat functioned for nearly a decade as the spokesperson for the Security Forces in the northeast and in the Capital and has been a witness to the unfinished national agenda in the northeast. The present monograph he has authored for the Centre for Land Warfare Studies has held a mirror to the situation in the northeast.

Dr Manmohan Singh, who is a Member of Parliament from Assam, has indicated that the Centre is keen to ensure that problems faced by India’s ‘Land of the Rising Sun’. The new Government has declared its determination to take firm action against the terrorists operating in the area.

People in the north- east have high hopes terrorism would soon face a ’sun-set’ there. (ANI)

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