More terror groups tighten grip over N-E

via Rakesh K Singh | New Delhi - Daily Pioneer published on September 6, 2009

The security situation in the North-East remains alarming with all parameters of violence increasing over the last five years. The region is virtually sitting on a powder keg, with ground reports indicating an increase in secessionist activities and mushrooming of terrorist groups in the region. These groups, in many cases, are funded and abetted by elements in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Despite round-the-year operation by Indian security forces, there has been no decline in the spatial spread of insurgency even though casualties suffered by the security forces have come down marginally.

A 48-page ‘restricted’ CRPF report on the North-East insurgency states, “Almost the entire region is afflicted by some form of insurgent activity and only two of the seven States are relatively free of violence.” Another troubling aspect of the insurgency in the region is that the terror groups are extracting “insurgents’ cut” in an “institutionalised” manner from all kinds of economic activity to sustain their terror agenda.

The secessionist aspect, fuelled by hardline Islamic groups and their significant mushrooming in the region, is another worrying trend of the ongoing insurgency in the region, warns the report. In addition, the report stated, “The data of violence from the North-East reveals an increase in almost all parameters of violence in 2008 as compared to the previous year. While the incidents of violence have steadily increased over the past four years, 2008 reported a higher degree of rise. The resultant deaths due to these incidents have also been rather steep…. Surprisingly, the rise has been despite a clear jump in insurgent neutralisations and apprehensions. Curiously, the aforementioned (parameters of violence) has been accompanied with marginal declines in civilian and SF (security force) casualties.”

In terms of the number of active insurgent outfits, the North-East dominates the national-level figures. Some States like Manipur even exceed the number of insurgent/terror outfits reported from the hotbed of secessionist activities in Jammu & Kashmir.

“Despite the overall decline in insurgent activity, the spatial spread has not revealed any significant change. Most districts in the region, except some in Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, have reported insurgent activities,” the report added.

Even in Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh that have been relatively free of violence, insurgent activities committed by small and local outfits or bigger groups from outside these States have been reported, the report stated, adding that insurgent activities had been fairly widespread over the rest of the States.

Significantly, most of the outfits in the region are currently under Suspension of Operation (SOO) agreements. This includes a majority of outfits from Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland. However, the outfits exploit the provisions of the SOO agreements to continue with their extortion activity.

Discounting active financial aid from foreign countries for fuelling trouble in the North-East, the report states that the terror outfits in the region are extracting “insurgents’ cut” on all kinds of income generated within their areas of influence to sustain their subversive agenda.

The extortion structure, says the report, is pegged at 5 per cent of project costs from all Government contracts, Rs 150 per truck entering Assam, 1-2 per cent of salaries of Government employees and professionals, Rs 2-3 from tea gardens and Rs 50 to 5,000 from shopkeepers and small businessmen.

“In States like Nagaland and Manipur, this aspect has almost become institutional. Almost all forms of economic activities have been taxed by insurgents in these States. In areas such as Manipur valley, where multiple outfits are operating, the problem has assumed a serious proportion,” says the report. “The problem of extortion remains acute in the region,” it adds.

Another strategy of funding terror in the region is the extensive investment in business by the ULFA leadership in Bangladesh as the group is receiving “substantial contribution” from tea gardens and oil companies in Assam. Even the insurgent outfits under Suspension of Operations agreement with the Centre are involved in extortion, leading to popular reaction against the insurgents and shortage of cadre, a reason why these outfits are inducting Muslims from India and Bangladesh into their fold, says the report.

“Since much of the region is deficient in any kind of independent industrial initiative, the next prominent target is contractors involved in Government-aided projects. Almost all major development projects in the region are threatened by exorbitant demands placed by the insurgents. Even local bodies provided with Government funds for development have not been spared by the insurgents,” says the report.

“The pattern of funding of the various insurgent outfits provides an insight into the dynamics of the growth of secessionist movements in the region. The extent and sophistication of funding of mostly home-grown groups clearly reveals the penetration capabilities of such outfits,” says the report.

It adds, “Active aid from foreign countries has not been extensively reported from the region. Aid to the insurgents by foreign agencies has mostly been in the form of logistical support. Reporting of direct financial support by foreign agencies has been negligible. The circulation of FICN (Fake Indian Currency Notes), despite being actively supported from outside the country, has so far not been directly linked with the North-East insurgents.”

The reports says that emergence of a “friendly” regime in Bangladesh has reportedly resulted in nervousness among the Indian insurgent groups operating from that country and “tentative” reports suggest movement of insurgent infrastructure towards northern areas of Myanmar, where the reach of the Government there is limited. This could also result in “heightened” activity along the India-Myanmar border.

“The developments in Bangladesh may have repercussions in India, with the possibility of the activation of Islamic fundamentalist groups among the local Muslim population. Hardline elements in Bangladesh may explore the possibility of using these elements to create security problems both in India and Bangladesh,” the report states.

Since the top leadership of most insurgent and militant outfits has retreated to reasonably safer areas, the middle-level leadership has become important for their subversive activities. “The identification and selective targeting of this level (middle level) of leadership may provide desired results in terms of active operations,” advises the report.

Over the past five years, neutralisation of insurgents by the CRPF has steadied around 200-250 per year and the losses suffered by the paramilitary personnel hovered around 75. At least 14 of the 38 active insurgent outfits in Assam reflect hardline Islamist character with a long-term agenda for creating a homeland for Muslims of the region. Likewise, five of the 43 outfits in Manipur exhibit a strong element of Islamic separatism represented by the Pangal community. Attacks on politicians in Manipur suggest the level of insurgent intervention in the affairs of the State.

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