The steady decline in militancy across the Northeast has posed a new challenge for the army — tapping the energy of warrior communities to ensure that the region does not relapse into bloodshed.
Almost all militant groups in the Northeast have either disbanded or are on ceasefire mode barring some 150 guerrillas left with United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) commander-in-chief Paresh Barua and some Manipur-based militants with diminishing firepower.
Security analysts say the last nail in the coffin of militancy in the region was possibly hammered in with the surrender of 1,695 rebels from nine armed groups in Guwahati last week.
“It was the beginning of the end of militancy in the Northeast, but it also left us with the huge task of motivating the youth in order to properly utilise their natural fighting spirit,” said a senior army officer on condition of anonymity.
Most communities in the Northeast — Nagas, Meiteis, Ahoms, Karbis, Dimasas, Bodos, Mizos, Nyishis and Noctes to name a few — have had a history of waging wars to fiercely protect their territories and their cultures.
Geo-political changes over the years in the region, however, “diverted their energies” into secessionism.
“The army has a greater responsibility today to be more people-friendly, acquaint locals with the opportunities it provides. People in the region are born fighters, and tapping their energy and spirit will go a long way in nation-building,” said Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi at a Fauji Mela here on Sunday.
Organised by the Tezpur-based Four Corps, the Fauji Mela was on a scale unprecedented in the country. Some 17,000 people turned up for the Mela that showcased multifarious combat actions as well as an aerial display by Sukhoi jets.
Lt Gen Shakti Gurung, GOC of Four Corps, said a series of workshops have been already organized by the army to motivate educated youth particularly from the backward districts to join the armed forces.
“We have spent about Rs 26 crore last year in various programmes under Operation Sadbhavana that included special training for recruitment drives, and motivating young people right from the school level,” Lt Gen Gurung said.
The Four Corps is responsible for securing most portions of the 1,080-km boundary that Arunachal Pradesh shares with China.