Insurgency in North East India

APR 23

Mains   > Security   >   Development and Extremism   >   NE insurgency

WHY IN NEWS:

  • With incidents of violence at their lowest in nearly three decades, the army has started pulling out of some districts of western Assam in April 2021.

DRIVERS OF INSURGENCY IN NORTH EAST INDIA

  • Geographical isolation:
    • North East India is connected to the Indian mainland by a narrow stretch of land called Siliguri Corridor (or Chicken’s neck) which is only few kilometres wide.
  • Difficult terrain
    • Geography and terrain of north east has proved to be vital for continuation of insurgent movements
    • The Northeast terrain is hilly and not easily accessible because of incessant rain during the months of April to July
    • Moreover the terrain is densely forested and weather conditions are extreme
    • An insurgent group once established, takes years to be detected and countered by the state.
    • Due to supportive terrain, the groups are able to surprise the Military by tactics of guerrilla warfare and hit and run.
    • For example: ULFA takes advantage of less connectivity of districts and thickly forested areas in the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh-Bhutan border.
  • Historical reasons:
    • Colonial policy of political non-interference and religious interference
    • Physical repression of insurgence groups in the early years of post-independence period
  • Socio-cultural:
    • Cultural differences
      • The tribes of the Northeast are mostly of Mongoloid stock and they view themselves as different from the Aryan and Dravidian races of India.
    • Ethnic or factional conflict
      • All north eastern states except the Arunachal Pradesh have been inflicted with ethnic violence at one time of another in recent history.
  • Political reasons:
    • Corruption:
      • The political culture of most north east states is fraught with corruption, lack of representation in power structures at the centre, and nexus between politicians and insurgent groups.
      • The result of this is an insecure state structure and insecure public.
    • Restrictive laws:
      • Laws such as Inner Line Permit and Restricted Area Permit >> inhibit access of outsiders into the region.
    • Delhi-centric approach:
      • Many of the developmental and counter-insurgency policies for NE region lacks expertise from the ground realities
    • Ill-informed administrations:
      • Due to low presence of north east people in civil service
    • Ineffectiveness and lack of autonomy to local bodies
    • Presence of draconian laws:
      • Laws such as AFSPA have escalated the conflict by bringing it on a military level.
      • There are regular allegations of violation of human rights by the Indian Amy.
  • Economical backwardness:
    • North East has underdeveloped transportation and communication
    • Skewed distribution of developmental benefits
    • Agriculture sector
      • Still not modernized
      • The productivity of agro horticulture crops in the North Eastern Region is significantly lower than the prevailing national standards
    • Non-residence dominance in industrial and service sectors
    • There is overwhelming dependence for resources on the Central Government
    • Public investment in the region has sub-optimal productivity due to weak of forward and backward linkages.
    • With 96 per cent of the boundary of the region forming international borders, private investment has shied away from the region.
  • Porous international border:
    • The 4500 kilometre long international border of India in this region is porous
    • Due the porous border, the insurgents can easily flee to neighbouring countries such as Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh and also establish their underground insurgent bases.
  • Governance issues:
    • Inability of governments to control floods and river bank erosion causes unmitigated damage to properties and lives of millions of people every year in the region >> mistrust towards governments
  • Availability of arms and drugs:
    • Porous borders has resulted in easy flow of arms, illegal immigrations etc.
    • Youth of north east is vulnerable to drug addiction due to the flourishing drug trade in the so called Golden Triangle.

MAJOR INSURGENT GROUPS IN NORTH EAST:

  • Assam: United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), Karbi Peoples Liberation Tigers (KPLT)
  • Nagaland: National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) 3. Manipur: United National Liberation front (UNLF), People's Liberation Army (PLA) of Manipur.
  • Meghalaya: Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA)

STEPS TAKEN BY GOVERNMENT:

  • Constitutional provisions:
    • Art 371A, 371B, 371C, 371G, 371H >> Special status to Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh respectively
    • 6th Schedule >> Creation of Districts and Regional Autonomous Councils with financial, executive, and legislative powers in certain areas.
  • Granting statehood:
    • Granting statehood at various points of time to various North East States, in line with their demand for greater political and territorial autonomy.
    • For example: Manipur, Tripura made states from UTs; Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram were carved out from Assam as separate states etc
  • Proportionate use of force
    • Counter insurgency measures through deployment of armed forces, paramilitary forces, and joint operations with neighbouring states
    • For example:Operation All Clear’ with Bhutan in 2003 to flush out Assamese insurgents, ‘Operation Sunrise’ with Myanmar etc.
  • Negotiations and peace deals:
    • To arrive at negotiated peace deals or ceasefire
    • For example: Mizo Peace Accord (1986), Ceasefire Agreement with NSCN, Bodo Peace Accord (2020), Suspension of Operations agreements with ULFA, Scheme for Surrender-cum-Rehabilitation of Militants etc.
  • Developmental activities:
    • North East Industrial Corridor
      • From Dawki, Meghalaya (on Indo-Bangladesh Border) to Moreh, Manipur (on Indo-Myanmar Border)
    • North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme (NESIDS)
      • To meet the gaps in social & physical infrastructure in NER.
    • North East Rural Livelihood Project (NERLP):
      • World Bank aided programme which aims to improve rural livelihood, especially that of women, unemployed youth and the most disadvantaged, in four North Eastern States of Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.
    • Science and Technology Interventions in North East (STINER)
      • To bring relevant technologies from S&T institutions to the farmers/artisans of NER.
    • NE Venture Capital Fund
      • With a total corpus of Rs. 100 crores to empower entrepreneurs and encourage start-ups in NER.
    • Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS-UDAN):
      • It aims to provide connectivity to unserved and underserved Airports within the country and to promote regional connectivity by making the airfare affordable through Viability Gap Funding (VGF).
      • The North East has been kept as a priority area under RCS-UDAN.
    • Organic farming:
      • Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region scheme
    • Waterways
      • Development of Brahmaputra and 19 new waterways including Barak.
    • Other development schemes:
      • Comprehensive Telecom Development Project (CTDP) for the North-Eastern Region
      • North East Region Textile Promotion Scheme (NERTPS)
      • Promotion of MSMEs in North Eastern Region and Sikkim
  • Increased central assistance:
    • The outlays by Central Ministries in the North Eastern Region have increased substantially.
    • Mandatory earmarking of at least 10% of GBS of Central Ministries/Departments for North Eastern Region (NER) and creation of Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR) has augmented resource flow to the region.
  • Infrastructure development:
    • For example: Daporijo Bridge (Arunachal Pradesh), Bogibeel Rail-cum Road Bridge, Bhupen Hazarika Bridge, Agartala-Akhaura Rail-Link to connect the existing Agartala station in Tripura to Akhaura Station of Bangladesh Railways
  • Institutions:
    • Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region
      • It functions as the nodal Department of the Central Government to deal with matters related to the socio-economic development of the eight States of Northeast India
    • North Eastern Council
      • It was established under the North Eastern Council Act, 1971 as an apex level body for securing balanced and coordinated development and facilitating coordination with the States.
    • NITI Forum for Northeast
      • Established to review the development status in the NER and suggest reforms.
      • Development projects are based on the concept of "HIRA" (Highways, Inland Waterways, Railways and Airways).
  • Reducing militarization of the region:
    • Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been removed from Meghalaya
    • In Arunachal Pradesh, area under AFSPA has been reduced.
  • Checking illegal immigration in to the region:
    • Implementation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam
    • Non-application Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 to Schedule VI areas of NE region.

WAY FORWARD:

  • Integration of the region with the mainland:
    • Enhance communication and connectivity, infrastructure improvement for better integration of the region with the mainland.
  • Improving law and order situation:
    • Stringent law and fast criminal justice system for quick disposal of insurgents attack cases.
  • Greater coordination
    • Between central forces and state forces for better tactical response.
    • Coordinating operations with the neighboring countries to counter transnational insurgency
  • Greater cultural interaction:
    • With the rest of the country and socio-economic development that includes a holistic inclusive development.
  • Decentralization:
    • Improving administrative efficiency, pro-people governance and strengthening the functioning of local bodies
  • Meeting the political aspirations of groups by giving them autonomy:
    • Implementing sixth schedule provisions in these areas will help them to preserve their identity and culture while giving them greater autonomy.
  • Withdrawal of draconian laws:
    • Laws such as AFSPA should be repealed as it is one of the causes for inflating insurgency in north east
  • Improving agriculture sector:
    • A successful example is the adoption of System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in Tripura which has yielded a dramatic rise in productivity >> it can be replicated in all of NER
    • Also speed up land reforms and penetration of rural credit and banking

PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q. “If the quest for ethnic and cultural identities has sowed the seeds, backwardness, remoteness and problems of governance have provided fertile ground for breeding armed insurgencies in North East India”. Comment