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Separate plan for separatism

india Updated: Oct 31, 2008 20:09 IST
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Insurgents have resurfaced with gusto in the Northeast (NE) and the 13 blasts that rocked Assam on Thursday are the latest show of their strength. In two separate attacks a few days ago, the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) killed 11 in the North Cachar Hill district of Assam. Recurring conflicts between the tribal population and sundry separatist groups in the NE have added a deadly dimension to the vulnerable situation. The proclaimed goals of these insurgent groups in the NE have ranged from independence to autonomy.

In the past, attempts have been made by the rebels to put pressure on the government to meet their demands. Due to the need for deployment of paramilitary forces in the region, the government, too, has incurred heavy losses, both in terms of public property and lives. Militant outfits like the United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa) and the Bodo militants have been posing a serious threat to the security apparatus.

Secessionist activities in the NE are a result of various issues that plague the region: lack of economic development and industrialisation, local incompetence and outside support. International borders ring this area and this has added another dimension to the ongoing problem of insurgency. The Bodo militants have used Bhutan, Ulfa Bangladesh and Naga insurgents Myanmar, for procuring arms and training.

To a large extent, militancy provides livelihood to the rebels. The Indian Army’s Operation Bajrang and Operation Rhino were successful in driving the rebels underground but could not destroy their potency. Although the central government has made efforts to find a solution to the political problems plaguing the region by initiating the Tripura accord, the Assam accord and the Mizo accord, the grievances of various factions within the militant organisations still remain unaddressed. Consequently, insurgent activities against the government and clashes among the factions have continued unabated.

We should be extremely cautious in handling the present crisis. The region’s thick forest-cover provides an excellent base for the rebels to carry out guerrilla activities. Several security officials have died on the National Highway 53 and 39, which connect Manipur to the rest of country. These days, rebels seem to be reasonably confident of their access to vantage points. Moreover, their strategies have become more sophisticated and they are successful in acquiring more lethal weapons from across the border.

The criticism of the government’s policies by the insurgents has also got support from the locals. The lack of sufficient resources has also created a problem of force deployment in the region over the years. Consequently, training and ground force exer-cise have been affected. In addition, the geographical location of the NE has made it difficult for the Army to gain reliable intelligence. Moreover, the mobile members of the rebel organisations are trained in guerrilla warfare and get help from the border areas of Myanmar and Bangladesh.

The disturbing issue is that neither the withdrawal of the Army from the NE nor the occupation of the entire region seems tenable anymore. The military operations will get unsustainable. But the role of the military and the security forces is crucial because their operations in insurgency-affected areas require a combined approach of local support and excellent intelligence information network.

In a changing environment, intelligence agencies, the police and paramilitary forces need to diversify their methods by bringing together their technical and professional expertise. In this regard, the following suggestions may be worth considering:

*Carefully examining the incidents and preparing detailed action-oriented reports on the insurgency-affected areas
*Building a sophisticated communication network
*Better management of local contacts
*Developing new techniques of security and maintenance of secrecy
*Talented specialists must be deployed in the affected areas
*Sensitisation of personnel to issues relating to human rights, civil liberties, prisoners rights, etc.
*Developing capability to anticipate security needs. This can be done by conducting specialised courses for monitoring security situations.

Sudhir Hindwan is a Chandigarh-based political scientist and an expert on strategic affairs