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Defence & Security
- GS 3 || Security || Internal Security Threats || NE Insurgency
Why in news?
Insurgency in Northeast India
- North East India (NEI) now consists of eight Indian states: Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh (ALP), Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, and Meghalaya, as well as the “seven sister states” of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh (ALP), Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, and Meghalaya.
- Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh form the borders of North East India (NEI).
- Biodiversity and undiscovered raw minerals abound in the region. It is connected to the rest of India via the 22-kilometer-long “Siliguri Corridor,” also known as the “chicken neck.” Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Nepa are on either side of the corridor. As a result, it is strategically, politically, and economically significant for India.
- Approximately 99 percent of this region’s boundary is international.
- North-East India accounts for 8% of the country’s total land area and 4% of the population.
Insurgency in Northeast India:
What is insurgency?
An insurgency is an armed revolt against a lawful government in which the participants are not considered belligerents. It can be regarded as armed insurrection and violent protests against the Indian government or authority in the case of India.
The North-Historical East’s Background:
- Present day Assam was governed by the Ahom rulers from 1228 through 1826. The Ahom monarchs sought assistance from the British East India Company in response to an expedition into Assam by the then Burmese state.
- As a result of their victory over the Burmese, the British signed the Treaty of Yandaboo on February 24, 1826, putting an end to the reign of the Ahom Kings and uniting Assam with British India. Following then, Assam was a British-ruled province till independence.
- Post-Independence Era:
- The newly independent India in 1947 faced a difficult task in integrating diverse princely states not only in the North-East but throughout the country, and the assimilation of these distinct North-East cultures into the “mainstream” was met with widespread disdain.
- The insurgencies began with the Naga Hills. The Naga National Council (NNC) declared independence from India in 1947 under the leadership of Phizo. Despite efforts by numerous leaders at the time to reach a political settlement, the disturbance continued.
- The North-East region’s tribals were concerned about losing their identity.
- The Current State of the North-East Insurgency:
- Despite the fact that insurgency in the region has decreased overall, resentment persists. Currently, the situation is less aggressive than it was previously. The following paragraphs discuss some of the most significant recent developments.
- Ethnic and sectarian tensions are common in Lower Assam and KarbiAnglong.
- There is mistrust between tribals and non-tribals.
Reasons that sustain insurgency in north east India:
- Feelings of Isolation, Deprivation, and Exploitation: The distance from New Delhi and the LokSabha’s lack of representation has further reduced the voxpopuli’s ability to be heard in the corridors of power, leading to greater disillusionment with the dialogue process and making the call to arms more appealing.
- Demographic Changes: Assam’s demographic landscape was dramatically altered by the migration of refugees from former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
- Lack of Economic Development: The Government of India’s economic policies have fueled public discontent and insecurity. The development of NEI has slowed due to a variety of circumstances, resulting in a scarcity of job possibilities. As a result, numerous insurgent groups readily entice youth to join them in order to make quick money.
- Internal Displacement: Another persistent issue is internal displacement. In instances of inter-ethnic violence in western Assam, along the border between Assam and Meghalaya, and in Tripura from the 1990s to the beginning of 2011, nearly 800,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes.
- External Support: There is “growing evidence” of China’s “covert offensive” in the region being revived. In the 1960s, Pakistan’s Special Services Group (SSG) used sites in East Pakistan to train Naga rebels (now Bangladesh).
What are some of the prominent militant groups in the north–east?
- Nagaland: NSCM – Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland, It was established out of sovereignty to advance the Naga cause.
- This organisation works in the Naga regions occupied by India and Myanmar, with easy access to the border.
- There were big splits in this party. Issac-Muivah faction (NSCN-IM) is currently engaged in peace talks with the Indian government, while the Kaplang faction with its major operations in Myanmar is known as a terrorist outfit by India.
- Assam: ULFA -The United Liberation Front of Assam is operating to establish a sovereign Assam through an armed struggle.
- The Indian government banned it in 1990s& a severe crackdown was launched in 2010, which considerably brought down their numbers.
- Some other organisations of significance are Mizo National Front and National Liberation Front of Tripura.
- It is claimed that Hindus migration from the British-ruled East Bengal was responsible for reducing the state’s indigenous tribal population to a minority status; this development sparked a violent revolt among indigenous peoples.
- Militant groups emerged in the state demanding that the Bengali community regain tribal rights.
- The military protested against the former Manipur Kingdom’s forcible merger with India.
- The United National Liberation Front was established in 1964 with the goal of ending discrimination against Manipur, which was granted statehood only almost 23 years after its unification in 1972.
- It was part of Assam before it was granted statehood in 1987, encountered militancy after the government of the Union had refused to react positively to its request for assistance during the huge ‘Mautam famine.’
- In 1966, the Mizo National Front (M.N.F.), headed by legendary leader Laldenga, demanded Mizoram’s independence.
- The State of Meghalaya was separated from the State of Assam with the intention of addressing the particular needs of the region’s major tribes: the Garos, the Jaintias and the Khasis.
- The growth of tribal autonomy ambitions has resulted in the emergence of many state rebel groups such as the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) and the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC).
- Arunachal Pradesh:
- Although the state remains more or less stable in history, the proximity of the state to the border between Myanmar and Nagaland has steadily afflicted an insurgency in recent times.
- The only event of the indigenous insurgency movement in Arunachal Pradesh was the emergence of the Arunachal Dragon Force (ADF) in 2001 as the Eastern India Liberation Front (EALF).
North-East Insurgency and its link with foreign entity:
- Not only because the region contains as many as 30 armed insurgency organisations active and battling the Indian state, but also because these groups’ trans-border linkages and strategic alliances have worked as force multipliers, complicating conflict dynamics.
- The region is certain to be tumultuous, with insurgent groups demanding everything from independence to autonomy and the right to self-determination, as well as a slew of ethnic communities demanding special rights and the safeguarding of their individual identities.
- Furthermore, the eight north-eastern Indian states’ geographical location is part of the reason why the region has historically been a hotbed of insurgency and trans-border crime.This 263,000-square-kilometer region shares three porous and sensitive borders with China to the north, Myanmar to the east, Bangladesh to the south, and Bhutan to the north.
- The region’s strategic location is highlighted by the fact that it shares a 4,500-kilometer international border with its four South Asian neighbours, but is only connected to the Indian mainland by a shaky 22-kilometer land corridor known as the ‘Chicken’s Neck,’ which passes through Siliguri in the eastern state of West Bengal.
Role of the Neighbours:
- The region’s Mongoloid tribes have ethnic and cultural ties to tribes from China, Tibet, and Burma.
- The recent attack in Manipur has focused attention on the likelihood of China fueling insurgency in the Northeast. There have been claims of Chinese help for rebels in the 1970s, and the Naga insurgency gained momentum due to Chinese active support.
- Insurgent groups in the Northeast, especially Manipur, have ties to armed groups in Myanmar, such as the Arakan Army and the United Wa State Army, from which Chinese weaponry are being smuggled into the region.
- Bhutan has worked with India to eradicate militancy in the region.
- In 2003-04, the Bhutanese Army launched Operation All Clear against Assam separatist insurgent groups.
- According to sources, Nepal is being utilised as a conduit to smuggle ISI agents into northeastern India, posing a severe security risk.
- Previous cases, such as the pursuit of Yakub Memon, a suspect in the 1996 Bombay Blast case, and the hijacking of an Indian plane from Kathmandu, have shown the perilous nature of cross-border intelligence operations.
- Nepal, on the other hand, has collaborated with India on a number of operations to put an end to the insurgency and any anti-Indian action.
- Porous borders, large-scale illegal migration, ISI money and arms channelling, and the illegal Bangladeshi population have all been a source of contention between India and Bangladesh.
- India Bangladesh’s 2015 land boundary accord, which includes the exchange of enclaves, was a second step toward resolving unresolved border issues and strengthening the two countries’ critical bilateral relationship.
Various development projects in North-East:
- India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway (IMT) – In May 2018, the work on each of these sections was granted on an Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) basis. The India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, which spans 1360 kilometres, is a joint venture between India, Myanmar, and Thailand.
- The Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project, which involves India and Myanmar, is critical for connecting the North East and Myanmar. This is part of India’s “Look East” initiative, which connects the country’s north-eastern states with the ASEAN area. India and Myanmar signed a framework agreement in 2008 to help facilitate the implementation of the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project.
- India is also working to build the Sittwe Port in Myanmar, which is slated to become India’s most important foreign port. It is located at the mouth of the Kaladan River in Myanmar’s problematic Rakhine state.
- At Sittwe, India has already built an inland water transport jetty, and a container terminal is expected to be built later.
- The political leadership and the bureaucracy have to step up their efforts to interact with the tribal leaders and bring about a consensus amongst all to bring about peace.
- The Assam Rifles and the Indian Army since independence have been working towards creating a peaceful environment for the civil government to function.
- Rampant corruption, lack of infrastructure, basic amenities as well as forces inimical to peace and tranquillity in the region keep the flames burning to meet their ends. It needs to be taken care of.
The ceasefire agreements have resulted in a reduction in the number of deaths due to militancy in their individual states; however, a road plan from the Indian government is required to reach a sustainable deal. It will create a favourable investment climate in the region while also addressing the region’s socioeconomic underdevelopment.
Mains oriented question:
Comment critically on India’s strategy for dealing with the Naga militants in the Northeast. (200 words)