TODAY -

Will peace prevail in the North East ?
- Part 2 -

Ajit Kumar Singh *



It is noteworthy that after being successfully targeted by the SFs in a protracted campaign, most of the major terror outfits operating in the region have moved their leadership to neighboring countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Myanmar. They operate out of 'safe havens' in these countries, from where they have established training camps, and from where they help their cadres smuggle arms and ammunition, and mount attacks on Indian soil.

Though the Indian Government has been able to get vital support from countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar from time to time, helping reduce the menace, several training camps still exist in these countries and these remain a worry.

Not surprisingly, on March 21, 2016, UHM Rajnath Singh asserted, "We are trying to ensure border security through all possible means and to curb cross-border terrorism in the region. We (the Central Government) will discuss with Chief Ministers of the northeastern States to check the smuggling of arms from across the international border and to other States in the country. Whatever assistance is required from the Central Government would be provided to all the State Governments."

Significantly, Mukul Sangma, Chief Minister of Meghalaya, one of the States in the region, expressing concern on the easy availability of arms had noted, on March 11, 2016, "There are pockets in the region (Northeast) where arms are easily available. There are too many guns available at throwaway prices."

Moreover, facing the heat from SFs, the militants in the region have come together in an attempt to form a united platform. On April 17, 2015, NSCN-K joined hands with three of the most active terror outfits in the Northeast: the United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I); IK Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-IKS); and Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), to form the United National Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFWESEA).

The UNLFWESEA headed by S.S. Khaplang was formed with the aim to set up a 'northeast government-in-exile', reportedly to be based in Myanmar. The CorCom [Coordination Committee], a conglomerate of six Manipur Valley-based militant outfits – the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL), People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), its Progressive faction (PREPAK-Pro), Revolutionary People's Front (RPF, the political wing of the People's Liberation Army– PLA), and United National Liberation Front (UNLF) – have also reportedly extended 'moral support' to the Front and agreed to take part in joint operations against 'common enemies'.

CorCom was formed in July 2011 with seven members but, in a Press Release issued on February 1, 2013, stated that it has expelled the United Peoples Party of Kangleipak (UPPK) from its membership.

According to a March 23, 2016, report, the Assam Police disclosed, through a Press Statement, "On March 8, a group of UNLFWSEA [UNLFWESEA] and some other extremist organisations entered Upper Dihing Reserve Forest, Tinsukia. The group was a conglomerate of ULFA (I), PLA [Peoples' Liberation Army], KYKL [Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup], NSCN (K)." Their initial target was to attack SFs in Upper Assam on March 16, 2016, ULFA's 'Raising Day'.

UMHA has also expressed concern over the Communist Party of India-Maoist's (CPI-Maoist) attempts to expand their base in the region. UHM Rajnath Singh, on March 22, 2016, thus observed, while addressing Assam Rifles troopers on their 181st Raising Day celebrations in Meghalaya, "We have got information that in some parts of the Northeast, Maoists are trying expand their roots. We have to check this, and I believe you can demoralise their courage (sic)."

Interestingly, none of the 87 Districts of the seven insurgency affected States in the region feature in the list of 106 districts declared Maoist-affected by the UMHA as of March 1, 2016. In the last such detailed list which was released in 2012, thirteen Districts across three States in the Northeast (Assam-10, Tripura-2, and Arunachal Pradesh 1) were listed as Maoist-affected. 182 districts (including the 13 in the Northeast) had been declared Maoist-affected in the 2012 list.

Meanwhile, residual State specific threats persist in all the seven affected States: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. For instance, the issue of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) continued to trouble Manipur through 2015, with 10 people killed in the related stir. Manipur was the worst affected State in the region in terms of insurgency related fatalities through 2015, accounting for 94 deaths.

SFs have helped attain relative peace in the region and are expected to tackle the residual challenges as well. However, for an enduring peace to be established in the region, it is imperative for the Central Government to work in unison with the respective State Governments to accelerate developmental projects in the region to narrow down the economic disparity which has emerged because of years of neglect on the part of successive regimes.

On March 3, 2016, Union Minister for Development of the North Eastern Region (DoNER) Jitendra Singh disclosed, "The budgetary allocation for the Ministry of DoNER has been increased from Rs 2,334.50 crore last year to Rs 2,400 crore this year. A budget of Rs 33,097.02 crore has been allocated for the Northeast across 56 ministries, which is 14 per cent higher than the budget estimate of Rs 29,087.93 crore for the previous year."

Fund allocation, however, is only a very small part of the problem. Despite generous Central allocations, States in the region have – with the exception of Tripura – been non-performers, and their administrations deeply eroded by corruption, neglect and politicization.

Concluded....


* 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 17, 2016.


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