TODAY -

Will peace prevail in the North East ?
- Part 1 -

Ajit Kumar Singh *



Peace prevailed over much of India's Northeast through 2015, with 62 civilian fatalities in the year, as against 245 such fatalities recorded in 2014. Fatalities had been rising since 2011, with 79 civilians killed in the year, as against 77 in 2010; rising to 90 in 2012 and further to 95 in 2013.

More importantly, the 62 civilian fatalities registered in 2015 are the lowest in the region since 1992, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database [SATP data for the region is available only since 1992].

The previous lowest was 77 recorded in 2010. Notably, at the peak of the multiple insurgencies in the region, 946 civilian fatalities were recorded in 2000. The region comprises eight states: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura. Barring Sikkim which has had no insurgency in its history, all others have seen enduring movements of armed violence, though their intensity and dispersal have varied across these States and across time.

Significantly, while civilian fatalities were recorded across all seven States through 2014, 2015 saw no such fatalities in two States – Tripura and Mizo-ram. Among the States from where fatalities were reported in 2015, except Nagaland which registered a marginal increase, from 11 in 2014 to 14, all the other States registered a fall in civilian fatalities. Assam recorded the largest dip, with just 10 such fatalities in 2015, as against 184 in 2014.

Overall fatalities in the region also declined from 465 [245 civilians, 23 Security Forces (SFs) personnel, 197 militants] in 2014, to 273 [62 civilians, 49 SFs personnel, 162 militants] in 2015, a drop of 41.29 per cent. At the peak of the insurgencies, the region recorded 1,696 fatalities in 2000. So far in 2016 (data till April 3), the Northeast has recorded 39 fatalities (10 civilians and 29 militants).

The number of districts from where fatalities were reported in 2015 stood at 40, as against 47 in 2014. The seven troubled States of the Northeast (excluding Sikkim) have a total of 87 Districts.

Other parameters of violence also witnessed improve- ments. As against 31 major incidents (involving three or more fatalities) resulting in 229 deaths in 2014, there were 16 such incidents resulting in 82 deaths in 2015. The number of explosions and resultant fatalities also recorded a decline, from 102 incidents and 24 killed in 2014, to 74 incidents and 11 killed in 2015.

SF operations yielded a kill ratio of 1:2.16 against militants in 2015, significantly worse than 2014, when it stood at 1:7.65. As operations intensified, the militants have pushed back against the SFs in 2015.

In 2016, thus far (data till April 3), SFs have eliminated 29 militants without suffering a single loss, suggesting that the adverse trend in 2015 has been reversed. [SFs had killed 176 militants out of 197 killed in 2014; while 21 were killed in factional clashes. Similarly, out of 162 militants killed in 2015, 56 were killed in factional clashes while SFs eliminated 106].

Nevertheless, numerous challenges remain before lasting peace can be established in this troubled region, which has witnessed cyclic surges and recessions in levels of violence over decades. Never since 1992 have overall fatalities registered decline, on year on year basis, for more than three consecutive years.

This positive trend was achieved twice – between 2004 and 2006; and between 2009 and 2011. Fatalities then increased for five consecutive years between 1993 and 1997, the longest span of continuous increase in fatalities.

The region remains home to 13 of the 39 terrorist formations banned by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) as on March 30, 2015. According to the SATP database, apart from these 13 major terror outfits, 30 other groups remain active in the region.

In addition, 23 terror groups/conglomerates are presently in peace talks or have signed ceasefire agreements with respective State and the Union Governments. In the meantime, on March 21, 2016, Union Home Minister (UHM) Rajnath Singh reiterated, "We are ready for talks with anyone who gives up violence. I appeal to everyone to shun violence."

Significantly, a 'historic accord' was signed between the Government of India (GoI) and the largest rebel Naga group, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland–Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) on August 3, 2015. While few details of the actual contents of the agreement are available, the Centre's principal interlocutor R.N. Ravi had then clarified that the 'accord' was, in fact, a "framework agreement" that spelled out the terms of a "final settlement".

Though subsequent reports suggested that such a final settlement would be worked out within three months, more than seven months have passed and no timeframe has yet been scheduled. However, NSCN-IM and GoI decided on January 20, 2016, to speed up the peace process by holding 'formal talks' twice a week.

There have, however, been instances in the past when terror outfits in the region have abrogated ceasefire agreements and rejoined militancy. Most recently, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) on March 27, 2015, unilaterally abrogated a ceasefire that had endured since April 2001.

Subsequently, the Union Government also called off its agreement with NSCN-K through a statement released on April 28, 2015. NSCN-K had signed the ceasefire agreement with the Central Government on April 28, 2001, and this had since been extended annually. Since abrogating the ceasefire, the NSCN-K has been confirmed to have been involved in the killing of seven civilians and nine SF personnel in Nagaland.

to be continued....


* Ajit Kumar Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a Research Fellow of Institute for Conflict Management
This article was posted on April 14, 2016.


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