Insurgency-related incidents dipped by 80% in N-E states last year: MHA data
Insurgency-related incidents in the northeastern (N-E) states dipped by 80% and civilian deaths by 99% last year compared to 2014, according to the Union home ministry data. The civilian deaths were in single digits (two) in 2020 for the first time since 1999. The deaths of security forces’ personnel also came down by 75%.
The insurgency peaked in the region in 2000 when 1,923 incidents related to it were reported. The number came down to 162 in 2020 compared to 824 in 2014 when 212 deaths were reported. The highest number of civilian killings (907) in the region was also reported in 2000.
In 1999, 208 security forces’ personnel lost their lives fighting insurgents in the region. Five deaths of security personnel were reported in 2020 compared to 20 in 2014.
The highest--2,644--number of insurgents belonging to various outfits surrendered to security forces in 2020. Prior to this, the highest number of surrenders was in 2000 when 1,962 militants gave up arms. About 1,824 insurgents have surrendered from 2014 to 2019.
The data suggest that insurgency has reduced drastically, particularly since 2015, a year after the National Democratic Alliance government came to power at the Centre.
G Kishan Reddy, Union minister of state (home affairs), informed Parliament in March last year that there was a 70% reduction in violence in the region in 2019.
A ministry official, who did not wish to be named, said the 80% reduction in insurgency-related incidents and rise in the number of insurgents giving up arms by over 1600% from 2019 is further improvement and a great achievement for the government and security forces. “Because of the improvement in the security situation, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, has been removed completely from Meghalaya and Tripura and its application has been reduced in Arunachal Pradesh,” the official said.
“Overall, the security situation in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura has improved to a satisfactory level.”
All four factions of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) disbanded themselves last year 34 years after it was formed to seek a separate Bodoland state from Assam. This came following the signing of a memorandum of settlement of the outfits with the Centre in January. Following the settlement, 1,615 NDFB members surrendered in January 2020.
Experts and officials said almost all major insurgent groups, including the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) and its factions, have signed ceasefire agreements with the government. They added regional diplomatic cooperation between India and neighbouring countries including Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar have denied insurgents safe havens. These factors along with economic development in the region and movement of people to the mainland for job opportunities have also resulted in the dip in violence.
Subir Bhaumik, a former BBC journalist and analyst, said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s return to power in Bangladesh in 2009 was the game-changer for the insurgency. “Earlier, all the insurgent groups had safe havens there. Sheikh Hasina made sure that Bangladesh’s soil is not used by the extremists and their leaders were handed over to India...the Myanmar army is now backing India against insurgents because it needs the Indian help in fighting [its insurgent group] the Arakan Army.”
Bhaumik said the main armed movement– NSCN-Isaac Muivaah--and all its factions are now involved in peace talks. “Nagas not fighting the government is the primary reason for the significant reduction in incidents. More importantly, the Indian economy and its growth have proved to be a magnet of opportunities for the younger generation in the Northeast. The basic attraction for joining the underground [groups] is now gone,” he said. Bhaumik added younger people from the region are now moving to Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru for work. “People of the Northeast have shunned the insurgent groups. There is a strong sentiment against rebel action. In fact, there are more recruitment rallies for the Indian army in the Northeast than probably in Punjab and other regions.”
Pushpita Das, a research fellow at New Delhi’s Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, echoed Bhaumik. “Major insurgent groups are engaged in peace talks and this has raised hopes that there will be all-round peace and development in the region. A lot of development push has gone into the [the region] in the last several years and large scale migration of youth from the Northeast to the mainland has also played a role in reducing the recruitment pool for insurgent groups.”