TODAY -

As Maoists try to ramify to Northeast

Bikash Sarmah *



What will be defining in the fight against armed rebellion, which has mutated to terrorism camouflaged as insurgency, is political initiative to trace the root of rebellion.

The camaraderie between Maoists and militant groups in the Northeast such as the Manipur-based People's Liberation Army (PLA) is not a new development. What are new are their innovative pacts in the arms bazaar. What is, therefore, new is the depth of their partnership.

The report that the arrest of Communist Party of India (Maoist) Bengal secretary Sudip Chongdar alias Kanchan and three other top leaders is a direct fallout of the nabbing of NSCN(IM) self-styled foreign secretary Anthony Shimray in Nepal, also the main arms buyer for the outfit, and of Rajkumar Meghen, chairman of the Manipur-based United National Liberation Front (UNLF) in Nepal, reflects on the growing ties between the Red rebels in their terroristic avatar and Northeast militias.

Meghen was apprehended on the outskirts of Dhaka on September 29 but was officially shown as arrested from Motihari in Bihar on November 30, while Shimray was arrested in Kathmandu on October 2 soon after he had bought a fresh consignment of rifles, rocket launchers, pistols and communication devices worth Rs 4.5 crore.

According to a newspaper report, during his interrogation by National Investigation Agency (NIA) officers, Shimray confessed to having booked a huge consignment in China comprising assault rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers, timers for explosive devices and communication gadgets, which was scheduled to arrive in India in three phases for Maoists and Northeast militant groups, of which the first batch reached the Maoists in October this year and the next one is due this month and in January next year.

Earlier, Maoists were spurned by the NSCN(IM) leadership when they approached the outfit for arms. Subsequently, as the report says, they reached Shimray through ULFA 'commander-in-chief' Paresh Baruah, the terrorist leader who takes purchase orders for arms and passes them to the NSCN(IM) leader. The Maoists had made full payment in March this year, the report adds.

It is clear that the arrangement with Shimray via Paresh Baruah is the second channel that the Maoists have opened in the international arms market, the first being the agreement they had inked with Manipur-based militant groups like the PLA, UNLF and the Kanglaipak Communist Party (KCP) for so-called operational exchanges. In fact, according to the report, Maoists have activated a third channel through their counterparts in Bangladesh and brought them closer to militant groups based in Manipur.

Recently, the KCP and the Proletarian Party of East Bengal (Maoist Unity Group), a Bangladeshi Maoist front, signed a joint statement assuring coordination. The Bhagirathi Teesta Regional Committee of Maoists in West Bengal is coordinating with Bangladeshi Maoists in order to penetrate along the Murshidabad and Nadia border.

There are also reports that Maoists are trying to float an Assam wing, given the ULFA's decline and the ceasefire mode that most of the State's militant outfits are on. The Red non-State front will definitely try to exploit and thrive in that vacuum. What will come to their aid is the vast army of unemployed youth in the State for whom a non-State existence is a career option as the government wonderfully sustains its failure to salvage them.

There is no dearth of recruits for militant groups in Assam. In fact, as the architecture of corruption gets bigger by the day, thus stoking rebellion due to the many injustices that diversion of development funds to unscrupulous coffers engenders, the crowd of prospective recruits for militant groups will only swell. And Maoists are an expert community when it comes to exploiting such injustices.

Should Maoists ramify to Assam, they would consolidate their position chiefly among the tea tribes that happen to be one of the most backward communities in the State and that various political parties reach out to merely for votes, hoodwinking at ease an extremely gullible community.

The Adivasis of Assam, whose plight is the same as that of their counterparts in the Red zone in central India, constitute a populace who the Maoists will exhort to join their war against the Indian nation-State and among whom they might discover some very zealous would-be 'revolutionaries', thanks to the utter poverty and backwardness the Adivasis suffer from. (ADNI)

Indeed, any segment of the State's population that is deprived of its dues has the potential of producing non-State actors. Development, therefore, is the key to challenging the menace, which, unfortunately, the Government of the day is not serious and sincere about, thanks also to its reluctance to check corruption.

Ditto in the rest of the Northeast too, notorious for corruption and the concomitant backwardness. And Maoists already have a relationship framework with some 'like-minded' militant outfits in Manipur, the hotbed of militancy in the Northeast, with the possibility of forging alliances with similar fronts in the rest of the region.

Given that the Communist regime in Beijing is sympathetic to Maoist movements both in India and Nepal, that a greater synergy between Indian Maoists and their Nepalese counterparts in the future cannot be ruled out as the crackdown on the former is intensified and they will be looking for extraneous sources of sustenance, and that there is already understanding with their Bangladeshi counterparts, the internal security situation in the already unstable Northeast calls for a far more pro-active, actionable intelligence-backed security grid.

Which means the police and paramilitary forces have to be trained to take on sophisticated guerrilla warfare—it will be suicidal to bank only on the Indian Army for counter-terrorism operations as the armed forces are meant chiefly for safeguarding our international borders with such hostile neighbours as China and Pakistan.

What will be defining in the fight against armed rebellion, which has mutated to terrorism camouflaged as insurgency, is political initiative to trace the root of rebellion. Both the Centre and the Governments of the States of the Northeast ought to be informed by the fact that development sans discrimination, uplifting all sections of the people of the region, is the best way to tackle the problem.

The battle between security forces, including the Army as of now, and the non-State actors of varied hues is a vicious circle at a time when insurgency has graduated to a roaring industry with stakeholders drawn from the mainstream as well who have a vested interest in keeping the problem alive. Only a pro-people Government, not given to rhetoric and gimmickry, and not prompted by electoral arithmetic, can work out a solution.

Let the dedicated anti-India groups within the country, such as Maoists and their partners in the Northeast, be deprived of the scope to exploit mass grievances and unleash terror in the name of 'revolution'. Do our rulers have any will to make that happen? Are they interested in addressing mass grievances? Are they moved by the woes of ordinary citizens?

Until this happens and is sustained, insurgency-turned-terrorism will keep thriving, with the Northeast being a more vulnerable zone in view of the ISI chapter in neighbouring Bangladesh and of the bellicose neighbour in China that we cannot trust at all.




* Bikash Sarmah wrote this article for ADNI (Asia Defence News International) and was published at The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on January 07, 2011.


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