On April 2, 2017,
Security Forces (SFs) killed three militants of the United Kukigram
Defence Army (UKDA) in an encounter at Jullian village under the
Manza Police Station of Karbi Anglong District in Assam. Another
militant was injured during the encounter.
On March 30, 2017,
two militants of the I.K. Songbijit faction of the National Democratic
Front of Bodoland (NDFB-IKS),
identified as Lukash Narzary aka Langfa and David Islary,
were killed during an encounter with SFs at Simlagri under the
Amguri Police Station in the Chirang District of Assam. One INSAS
Rifle with 10 rounds of live ammunition, one 7.65 mm revolver
with three rounds of ammunition and one Chinese grenade were recovered.
On March 17, 2017,
the dead body of a non-local civilian, identified as Ajay Kumar
Shahu, was recovered from the Langol Games Village in the Imphal
West District of Manipur. Later, on March 23, 2017, the United
National Liberation Front (UNLF),
in a statement issued to the Press, claimed that Shahu was eliminated,
not because he was a non-Manipuri, but for his ‘immoral activities’.
According to partial
data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP),
there have been 28 insurgency-related fatalities (10 civilians,
three SF personnel, 15 militants) in India’s Northeast in the
current year (data till April 14, 2017) as compared to 53 such
fatalities (18 civilians, three SF personnel, 32 militants) recorded
in the region during the corresponding period of 2016. The dip
witnessed in level of violence reaffirms the gains registered
Through 2016, India’s
Northeast accounted for 160 fatalities (61 civilians, 17 SF personnel,
82 militants) as against 273 such fatalities (62 civilians, 49
SF personnel, 162 militants) recorded in 2015. In terms of overall
fatalities, 2016 recorded the lowest ever fatalities in the State
since 1992 [SATP data for the region is available only since 1992].
A previous low of 246 fatalities was recorded in 2011. Significantly,
at the peak of insurgency the region saw 1,696 fatalities in 2000.
The Northeast comprises
eight states: Arunachal
Sikkim, and Tripura.
Barring Sikkim which has had no insurgency in its history, all
the others have seen enduring movements of armed violence, though
their intensity and dispersal have varied across States and across
time. With the exception of Assam, overall fatalities declined
in all these States in 2016. In Assam, the death toll increased
from 59 in 2015 to 86 in 2016. As in 2015, Tripura did not record
a single fatality in 2016.
Year 2016 also
recorded the lowest number of civilian fatalities (61) registered
in the region since 1992. The previous lowest of 62 was recorded
in 2015 and thus the declining trend continued. Fatalities in
this category have been rising since 2011, with 79 civilians killed
that year, as against 77 in 2010; rising to 90 in 2012 and further
to 95 in 2013, to a massive 245 in 2014. At the peak of multiple
insurgencies in the region, 946 civilian fatalities were recorded
In 2016, civilian
fatalities were not recorded in three States – Arunachal Pradesh,
Mizoram and Tripura, as against two such States in 2015 – Mizoram
and Tripura. Among the States from where civilian fatalities were
reported in 2016, with the exception of Assam, which registered
a significant increase from 10 to 33, all the other States registered
a fall in civilian fatalities.
The number of Districts
from where fatalities were reported in 2016 stood at 31, as against
40 in 2015. The seven troubled States of the Northeast (excluding
Sikkim) have a total of 108 Districts.
of violence also witnessed improvements. As against 16 major incidents
(involving three or more fatalities) resulting in 82 deaths in
2015, there were 10 such incidents resulting in 50 deaths in 2016.
The number of explosions and resultant fatalities also recorded
a decline, from 69 incidents and 14 killed in 2015, to 65 incidents
and eight killed in 2016.
kill ratio for 2016 worked out at 1:4.76 against the militants,
significantly better than 2015, at 1:2.16. 106 militant fatalities
at the hands of SFs were recorded in 2015, out of a total of 162
killed; with the remaining 56 killed in factional clashes. Out
of 82 militants killed in 2016, one was killed in a factional
clash, while SFs eliminated the remaining 81.
Despite these gains,
numerous challenges remain in a region that has seen cyclical
surges and recessions in the levels of violence over decades.
Never since 1992 have overall fatalities registered a decline,
on year on year basis, for more than three consecutive years.
This positive trend was achieved twice – between 2004 and 2006;
and between 2009 and 2011. Fatalities increased for five consecutive
years between 1993 and 1997, the longest span of continuously
The region remains
home to 13 of the 39 terrorist formations banned by the Union
Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) as on November 19, 2015. According
to the SATP database, apart from these 13 proscribed terror outfits,
there are another 139
militant outfits that have operated in the
region at one point of time or another. These include 19 militant
formations which are still active; 97 that operated in the past
but have seized operations; and another 23 which are at various
stages of peace talks with the Government.
Reports also indicate
that many of the militant groups in the region continue to operate
to fight jointly for the 'sovereignty' of their respective imagined
states. After the November 19, 2016, attack at Pengaree near Digboi,
Tinsukia District, Assam, in which three SF personnel were killed,
the United Liberation Front of Asom – Independent (ULFA-I)
faction claimed that this was a “joint operation” carried out
by the its cadres and four members of the Manipur-based Coordination
– comprising the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF, the political
wing of the People's Liberation Army, PLA), UNLF, People’s Revolutionary
Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK),
and the progressive faction of PREPAK (PREPAK-Pro). The other
two members of the CorCom, a conglomerate of six Manipur Valley-based
militant outfits formed in July 2011, are the Kangleipak Communist
and the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL).
The same group also carried out a second attack on the Army in
the Chandel District of Manipur on November 26, 2016, and injured
five SF personnel. The attacks, codenamed ‘Operation Barak’, were
the first instance of Meitei groups carrying out strikes in Assam,
and of ULFA-I operating in Manipur. On December 3, 2016, the 'commander-in-chief'
of ULFA-I, Paresh Baruah, clarified that “Operation Barak, named
after the Barak River that flows from Manipur to Assam, is a symbol
of friendship between the two States."
Earlier, on April
17, 2015, the Khaplang faction of NSCN (NSCN-K)
joined hands with three of the most active terror outfits in the
Northeast: ULFA-I; NDFB-IKS; and Kamtapur Liberation Organisation
to form the United National Liberation Front of Western South
East Asia (UNLFWESEA). The UNLFWESEA, headed by S.S. Khaplang,
was formed with the objective of setting up a ‘northeast government-in-exile’,
reportedly to be based in Myanmar. Another two outfits, the Tripura-based
National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT)
and the Assam based People’s Democratic Council of Karbi-Longri
(PDCK) have also associated with UNLFWESA.
Despite the ‘historic
accord, signed between the Government of India
(GoI) and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland–Isak Muivah
on August 3, 2015, to resolve the ‘mother of all insurgencies’
in the region, the Naga insurgency, the process has, so far, failed
to bring the concerned parties to an agreeable settlement. The
Naga problem retains the potential to derail the process of deepening
peace in the region. Media reports indicate that numerous ambiguities
remain in the ‘framework agreement’, making progress difficult.
The NSCN-IM leadership is showing increasing signs of desperation,
making allegations against the Union Government. In a media interview
published on April 23, 2017, for instance, NSCN-IM ‘commander-in-chief’
Phunting Shimrang accused the Union Government of delaying the
final settlement of the Naga issue and warned “even if only 30
to 100 people are left, we will start (the movement again)… The
Indian Army may be the biggest force in the world, but we are
not scared. We will fight them.”
groups backed by Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, the
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), have been a challenge
for peace in the region, though their ‘effectiveness’
has suffered over a period. Nevertheless, the threat exists. On
July 24, 2016, Union Minister of State (MoS) for Home Affairs
Kiren Rijiju thus observed,
and the entire northeast are sensitive places. The region
shares a major portion of the international border and so
its vulnerability is high. It is also prone to jihadi
activities. Steps have been taken and arrangements made
to ensure the region's safety.
In the meantime,
several other issues with a potential to undermine peace in the
region remain unaddressed. Prominent among these are the issue
of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 that has created troubles
the decision to carve
out new Districts from the existing nine districts
in Manipur that had a cascading impact on the lives of people
in the State as a result of a 139-day blockade; and the lingering
of displaced Bru (Reang) refugees from Tripura.
The Manipur blockade that began on November 1, 2016, ended with
tripartite talks between the Centre, the Manipur Government and
the United Naga Council (UNC) on March 19, 2017.
economic disparity that has existed in the region for long because
of decades of neglect on the part of successive regimes, remains
a major problem. Though the Government has now initiated some
steps to address these disparities, the desired pace of development
is far from being achieved. Indeed, of the 761 North Eastern Council
(NEC) funded projects, with an approved cost of INR 7484.71 crores
[INR 74.84 billion], currently under implementations, only 35
projects costing INR 554.40 crores [5.54 billion], sanctioned
at different times, have been completed during the financial year
Peace in the region
has also been compromised by its extensive, geographically challenging
and troubled international borders, with continuous infiltration
across a wide range of points and a multiplicity of relative safe
havens still in existence, facilitating militant activities. All
seven insurgency affected states share international border with
one or more of four countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, and
Myanmar – all of which have, at some stage, provided refuge to
militants operating in India’s Northeast, including their top
leadership. While the problem with Bhutan and Bangladesh is by
no measure as severe as it once was, Myanmar and China remain
a significant problem. L.R. Bishnoi, Additional Director General
of Police, Assam, observed, on January 10, 2017, "Chinese
intelligences have been helping, directly or indirectly various
insurgent groups of the North-eastern region that have their bases
and hideouts inside Myanmar. These groups are under increasing
influence of the Chinese agencies, and ULFA [ULFA-I] leader Paresh
Barua is among those top leaders who have been in regular touch
with the Chinese liaison office in Ruili on the China-Myanmar
border.” According to reports, Paresh Barua has set up a base
in Ruili, a Chinese town along the China-Myanmar border.
Securing the border
is, consequently, of paramount importance. The Government has
taken several steps in this direction. Border Outposts (BOPs)
along the land border and floating BOPs in riverine segments have
been established and strengthened periodically. Border guarding
Forces are on round-the-clock surveillance, patrolling and laying
nakas (checkposts) all along the land border. In the riverine
segments, patrolling is done by water crafts/speed boats. Further,
on November 22, 2016, the Government informed Parliament:
sanctioned length of fence along Indo-Bangladesh Border
is 3326 km [kilometers], out of which 2731 km has been completed.
The ongoing fence work along the complete Indo-Bangladesh
border is targeted for completion by March 2019. Further,
in the stretches in which site is not available, fence work
will be completed in three years from the date of availability
of site... A total of 9.12 km fencing along Indo-Myanmar
Border in Moreh Sector (between Border Pillars 79-81), Manipur,
was approved by Ministry and accordingly Phase-I construction
of fencing commenced in the year 2010. The construction
of the fence was however temporarily halted on 21.12.2013.
At the time of stopping of work only around 3.47 km of border
fencing work was completed. No progress on the work has
been taken place thereafter. Construction of Border fencing
of total length of 35.90 km along the Indo Bhutan Border
has been approved by the Government. There is no fencing
on Indo-China Border.
Clearly, a great
deal remains to be done to make the border impenetrable.
At a time when
the violence in the region is at its lowest, there are tremendous
opportunities for a consolidation of governance, security and
peace in India’s Northeast.