North East insurgency

Mains Marks Booster     3rd August 2023        
Samadhaan
  • North East India shares about 5500 km borders with 5 countries - Bhutan, Nepal & China on its north; Myanmar on its east; and Bangladesh on its south and west. This constitutes approximately 60% of India‘s land borders and more than 90% of NE states land borders.
  • The North East Region covers 8% of India’s geographical area and about 4% of the national population.
  • It is culturally and ethnically diverse having more than 200 ethnic groups, which have distinct languages, dialects and sociocultural identities.

Current Context:

  • Government has reduced areas under AFSPA in Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur, effective 1 April,
  • North East insurgency is another example of development and extremism being related. The partition of India turned the North-East region into a landlocked region and affected it developmentally and economically.

  

Issue of North East

  • India’s North East Region (NER) is a land surplus, resource surplus and water surplus region but is facing security deficit, power deficit and economic backwardness.
  • The general perception is that successive Central Governments lack understanding of ethnic issues of the region, specifically socio economic and cultural aspects of North East.
  • In the absence of economic opportunity, insurgency has become an industry that is benefitting politicians, insurgents and the criminals.

 

States-wise Insurgent Groups

Significance of North East region

 

Factors responsible for insurgency in the North East:

  • Ethnic conflicts: Ethnic clashes generated as a result of continuous inflow of migrants from across the borders as well as from other States.
  • Physiographic constraints: Mountainous along with a humid climate makes it difficult for security forces to track borders.
  • Developmental issue aided by inadequate job opportunities.
  • Role of state actors: Existence of external help from Bangladesh, China and Myanmar has perpetuated the insurgencies.
  • Regional aspirations of the different is the major cause of insurgency in the region.
  • Conflict among various insurgent groups leads to instability in the region.
  • Sense of Alienation: People of States in the North East have a sense of alienation that the Government of India was not paying enough attention to their development.
  • Dissent against AFSPA

Challenges to address N-E insurgency

 

Steps taken by Government to counter N-E insurgency

3 Pillars of State Response: Composite Strategy

  1. Proportionate Use of Force – Counter insurgency measures through deployment pf armed forces, paramilitary forces, and joint operations with neighbouring states (for eg. Operation All Clear with Bhutan in 2003 to flush out Assamese insurgents, Operation Sunrise with Myanmar, Cooperation with Bangladesh wr.t. ULFA).
  2. Dialogue & Negotiations - To arrive at negotiated peace deals or ceasefire for eg. Mizo Peace Accord (1986), Ceasefire Agreement with NSCN, Bodo Peace Accord (2020), Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreements with ULFA, Scheme for Surrender-cum-Rehabilitation of Militants etc.
  3. Structural Changes
    • Granting statehood - at various points of time to various North East States, in line with their demand for greater political and territorial autonomy. For eg. Manipur, Tripura made states from UTs; Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram were carved out from Assam as separate states, etc
    • Constitutional provisions
      • Art 244 (2) of 6th Schedule – Creation of Districts and Regional Autonomous Councils with financial, executive, and legislative powers in certain areas.
      • Art 371 (A) – Special status to Nagaland

Other Recent Govt. Initiatives

  • The Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (MDoNER)is a Government of India ministry, established in September 2001, which 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:
  • NITI Forum for Northeast: Established to review the development status in the NER and suggest reforms.
  • North-East Industrial Corridor - from Dawki, Meghalaya (Indo-Bangladesh Border) to Moreh, Manipur (on Indo-Myanmar Border) ???? Road to ‘New India’ to run through ‘New North-East India’.
  • North East Special Infrastructure Development Scheme (NESIDS) - to meet the gaps in social & physical infrastructure in NER.
  • World Bank aided North East Rural Livelihood Project (NERLP).
  • Other Development activities: inauguration of Daporijo Bridge (Arunachal Pradesh), Bogibeel Rail-cum-Road Bridge, Bhupen Hazarika Bridge, UDAN 3.0, International UDAN, Japanese investment in several ongoing and new projects in north east region.
  • Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been removed from Meghalaya, and in Arunachal, area under AFSPA has been reduced.
  • Implementation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.
  • Constitution of High Level Committee (HLC), headed by Justice B K Sharma, for implementation of clause 6 of Assam Accord that aims at providing constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards for preserving the cultural, linguistic identity and heritage of Assamese people.
  • 3rd Bodo Peace Accord (2020) - Signed between GoI, Assam Government & representative of the Assam-based insurgent group National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and other Bodo groups.
    • Accord includes surrender of> 1500 Bodo cadres, a special development package (Rs. 1500 cr), a renamed Bodoland Territorial Region with more legislative, executive, & administrative autonomy
  • Ceasefire agreement signed with 3 Naga Groups - NSCN - NK (Neopo Konyak Kitovi), NCSN-R (Reformation) and NSCN-K (Khango) further extended up to end of 2023.
    • GoI also signed a ceasefire Agreement with National Socialist Council of Nagaland (K) Niki Group.
  • Bru Accord (2020): ‘Four corner agreement’ signed by GoI, Governments of Mizoram and Tripura and Mizoram Bru Displaced People’s Forum (MBDPF) for repatriation of Bru community from Tripura to Mizoram to end the 23 year old Bru refugee crises.
  • Karbi Anglong Peace Agreement (2021) signed between the Centre, the Assam government and insurgency groups from the state to “end the decades old crisis" and ensure Assam’s territorial integrity.
  • “Operation Sunrise 2”- A coordinated operation, between the armies of India & Myanmar, targeting militant groups operating in Manipur, Nagaland and Assam.
  • Non application Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 to Schedule VI Tribal areas – Thus, removing a major point of discontent among NE states, especially Assam.

 

National Register of Citizens (NRC)

Significance of NRC process

  • Restricting illegal influx of immigrants - It was seen as the reason behind growing demographic change in NE region and increasing social tensions.
  • Resolving major economic grievance - by ensuring entitlement of state’s resources to indigenous people.
  • Removal of uncertainty & fear - Those enlisted in NRC now need not live in the fear of being deported and can live freely without stigma and suspicions.
  • Human rights protection – better social cohesion and checking human trafficking across borders.
  • Better National security - Documented NRC in bordering areas could also help curb drugs/arms trafficking, radicalisation, religious extremism, terrorism etc. ???? a consequence of illegal immigration.
  • End to political opportunism and vote bank appeasement.

Challenges of NRC process

  • Incorrect Inclusion & exclusion issues - 19 lakh people are left out of NRC.
  • Flawed source of data - Inherent flaws in NRC of 1951 and electoral rolls from 1961 to 1971, which forms majority of legacy data. Most documents are in Bengali, which are not translated.
  • Difficulty in gathering proof of identity - burden of proof rests with the NRC applicant. People have to prove that they are descendants of Indian citizens by providing documents dating back to 1951 or 1971, which is an onerous condition in a country which has poor data collection record.
  • Criticism on humanitarian grounds - Since the people have been in India for so long, and have built their lives and become part of local economies and communities, it is inhuman to uproot them.
  • Lack of clarity on citizenship status - No clarity on the citizenship of children and grandchildren of illegal migrants. While CA of 1955 recognizes citizenship by birth, NRC doesn’t recognize it.
  • Promote barriers within nation – fear of targeting and excluding religious minorities esp. when seen in context of Citizen Amendment Act.
  • Open to Political Opportunism

Way forward

  • India has no definite policy with respect to refugees and asylum seekers. It needs to end uncertainty faced by finally excluded individuals and provide them with basic rights on humanitarian grounds. For e.g. it must cautiously explore the possibility of giving right to work, identity card etc.
  • Diplomatic deliberation and bilateral agreement with Bangladesh over repatriation of illegal immigrants.
  • Comprehensive management of the borders - including fencing, total surveillance 24x7, use of new imaging technology etc.
  • Facilitate better documented movement of people across border through easy work permits.
  • Seek assistance from international organisations such as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organization for Migration (IOM) etc to address this complex socio-economic issue.
  • India should engage with other regional countries to develop a regional declaration on refugees.

Conclusion: Addressing the North East insurgency requires a multifaceted approach that combines security measures with socio-economic development, political dialogue, and community engagement. Efforts should focus on addressing the root causes of the conflict, such as marginalization, socio-economic disparities, and ethnic tensions.

Samadhaan