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SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 1, No. 27, January 20, 2003

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal



ASSESSMENT

INDIA

The Northeast: Tackling a Rebellion, Quelling a Revolt
Wasbir Hussain
Associate Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi; Consulting Editor, The Sentinel, Guwahati

New Delhi has, once again, landed itself in an unenviable position. While forging ahead in its efforts to tackle the 55-year-old Naga rebellion, it is confronted with a revolt in other States in the Northeast, and particularly in Manipur. The fresh uprising by the majority Meiteis in Manipur, and the as yet feeble voice of protest in neighbouring Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, has been triggered off by fears of the Indian Government slashing off Naga inhabited areas in these States and merging them into the existing State of Nagaland as part of a possible deal with the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM).

On the night of January 16, 2003, thousands of Meiteis carrying flaming bamboo torches and shouting slogans took to the streets in a menacing demonstration across the Manipur Valley, declaring that they would launch an 'independence movement' if New Delhi decided to dismember their State as part of any 'deal' to resolve the Naga conflict. Police and paramilitary troopers, who were deployed in strength, fired rubber bullets and lobbed tear gas to prevent the mob from breaking barricades and descending on several high-security areas like the Governor's House, the Chief Minister's secretariat and other important government buildings. At least 20 of the protestors, who had come out en masse into the streets at the call of the United Committee of Manipur, an apex group of political, social and student organizations, were injured in the ensuing mle. The authorities were forced to clamp an indefinite night curfew in Imphal, the State capital, and in other areas in the Manipur Valley, to prevent the situation from going out of hand.

The current buildup is reminiscent of the prelude to the mob violence in Imphal in June 2001, when 18 protestors were killed in police firing. On that occasion, the mob had burnt down the State legislature building and several other government offices after the federal authorities decided to extend the ceasefire between the NSCN-IM and the Government to areas outside Nagaland. Previously, the ceasefire extended only to Nagaland, where it had been in force ever since the truce came into effect on August 1, 1997. New Delhi subsequently succumbed to the pressure from the Manipuris - who feared that the extension of the truce outside Nagaland could be the first step before parts of their territory was ceded to the Nagas. The extension of ceasefire to territories outside Nagaland was, consequently, revoked, and the truce continues to apply only to the jurisdiction of the State of Nagaland.

The latest burst of protest in Manipur was triggered off by the categorical statement of the visiting NSCN-IM leaders, Chairman Isak Chishi Swu and General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah, that their group's demand for a 'Greater Nagaland' cannot be compromised on. They said that the Nagas had been only claiming land of their 'natural habitation.' Muivah, in fact, went a step further when he added: "I live in Ukhrul (a Naga-dominated district town in Manipur), I was born there, my forefathers were born and lived there. This land belongs to us. We are not living in the land of Meiteis." Statements such as these convinced the Meiteis, and sections in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, that the NSCN-IM was still bent on integrating the Naga inhabited areas in the region into a single politico-administrative unit, to fulfill their dream of a 'Greater Nagaland.'

The revolt in Manipur is not confined to mainstream groups. The Manipur People's Liberation Front (MPLF)-an umbrella group of three of the State's most potent Meitei insurgent groups, the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), the People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) and the Revolutionary People's Front (RPF) - has declared that it will 'not remain a silent spectator' and would use its might to thwart any move to redraw Manipur's map as a means to solve the Naga conflict. Last fortnight, the MPLF engaged the paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF) in a massive 60-hour gun battle on the border with Myanmar that led to the death of two BSF men, including an Assistant Commandant.

Within the prevailing context of suspicion, fear and apprehension in various States and communities in the Northeast, New Delhi could have done a great deal to clear the air, but instead chose to do nothing, encouraging the voice of dissent to grow till it assumed threatening proportions. If this silence is a position that the Indian Government has deliberately chosen to take in so far as the content of its talks with the NSCN-IM is concerned, disastrous consequences are likely to follow. There has been no official briefing to the media on the nature or progress of the talks between the visiting NSCN-IM leaders and the Indian leadership, including Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani. The only briefings that came about were by the NSCN-IM leaders, who, of course, lauded the 'sincerity' of the Indian leaders, reiterating that the talks were moving in a 'positive' direction. If anything, this one sided flow of ambiguous information could only further inflame the fears of those who feel they may be the losers in any 'deal' the Government chooses to strike with the NSCN-IM. It is this lack of transparency on New Delhi's part that has made matters murky - precisely what happened in 2001, when vociferous protests gripped Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Things had gone out of hand at that time, mainly because the Indian Government negotiators had entered into a secret deal with the NSCN-IM leadership in Amsterdam over the truce extension, and no attempt had been made to take different shades of opinion in the Northeast into consideration, or to take other parties in the conflict into confidence, before announcing the extension of the ceasefire. The result was that, eventually, New Delhi had to buckle under pressure and reverse its decision.

The current rounds of talks with NSCN-IM leaders are also mired in secrecy, and was not preceded by any effort or exercise to initiate a process of consultation with political and other groups in States such as Manipur, Assam or Arunachal Pradesh, whose interests and concerns are integrally linked to, and threatened by, many of the demands raised by the NSCN-IM. It is, of course, not clear whether the current revolt in Manipur could have been prevented. But tensions could certainly have been contained if New Delhi had been in a antecedent process of dialogue with Meitei leaders, and had sought to instill some confidence among them that their interests would not be sacrificed in arriving at a 'solution' to the Naga problem. In the atmosphere of secrecy in which the current talks are being held, the rumour mills in the Northeast are feeding fears that New Delhi's silence implies that 'Greater Nagaland' is actually the compromise formula that is being discussed, and that the possibility of this outcome is what has tempted the NSCN-IM leaders to accept Indian travel documents and come to New Delhi.

There is no doubt that the NSCN-IM leaders' decision to come to New Delhi for talks is itself a breakthrough of sorts. Besides, there is a dominant mood for peace among the Nagas themselves, and the untiring efforts of the Church and other front-ranking non-governmental and political groups in Nagaland to end the conflict have now brought about a deep yearning for an end to India's longest insurgency. It is, however, unwise and counter-productive to try and end one conflict, only to simultaneously open up several new fronts. The revolt in Manipur aside, voices of dissent are emerging from among the Nagas themselves. The Naga National Council (NNC) - the premier Naga nationalist group that took shape under the legendary Angami Zapu Phizo before India attained independence from the British - has opposed the ongoing peace talks between the NSCN-IM and the Indian Government. "The NSCN-IM is only a faction and thus does not constitute a properly mandated organization which represent the views of the whole Naga populace," NNC president I. Panger Walling and general secretary Vizosielhou Nagi said in a statement last week. This is exactly the same argument put forward by the other NSCN faction headed by S.S. Khaplang (NSCN-K).

The NSCN-IM leaders, moreover, have described Nagaland's Congress party Chief Minister S.C. Jamir as a 'roadblock' to the peace process. Jamir may not have the best of regard for the NSCN-IM or its leaders, but his repeated assertion that a piecemeal solution to the Naga problem cannot bring about lasting peace, and that all the Naga rebel factions must be involved with the peace process, is not at all an unsound position to take. That, in fact, is the reality. And this reality only shows that the road to peace in the Naga areas in India's Northeast is long and thorny, with no end immediately in sight.


ASSESSMENT

NEPAL

Maoist Violence Amidst Political Confusion
Guest Writer: Dr. Lok Raj Baral
Executive Chairman, Nepal Centre for Contemporary Studies (NCCS), Kathmandu

Nepal is no longer the favourite tourist destination of South Asia. Violence is widespread, and human rights violations by the Communist Party of Nepal - Maoist (CPN-M or Maoists) in its 'people's war', and by the state, are regularly reported in the Press. Despite frequent protests against such incidents by human rights groups in Nepal, neither combatant party appears to listen to them. In just the past month, some 1,000 school children have been kidnapped, including 250 recently abducted in the Jajarkot district of in the Western hills. These kidnappings have added a greater complexity to the nature, motives and strategy of the Maoist war. Indiscriminate kidnappings and murders of members of political parties have also become common, though they are not uniform across the country, with the Maoists adopting different tactics in different places. By December 2002, more than 7,000 people had lost their lives in this conflict, and the Amnesty International report disclosed that a large number of innocent civilians had lost their lives because the Maoists used them as human shields during encounters with the security forces. However, most of these fatalities are clubbed with the rebels, and the Army and the Home Ministry records indicate that, of the 4,366 killed in the current phase of escalated conflict, till October 2002, 4,050 were 'Maoists'. This reflects an enormous rise in violence, with some 2,700 people killed over the preceding five years (1996-2001). Killings have risen sharply since the Emergency was declared in November 2001, and it is certainly difficult, if not impossible, to positively identify each person killed on the Maoist side as a 'terrorist'.

The Maoists have also engaged in over 1,000 deliberate and targeted killings till the middle of January 2003, describing their victims as 'enemies of the revolution'. Taking hostages for ransom, torture, long periods of detention, and kidnappings for coercive recruitment into the Maoist Militia, have forced young villagers to flee their homes, creating yet another crisis of displacement among the people. Many of these have trekked to India for jobs and safety; others, including schoolteachers, are reported to have found refuge in district headquarters and at Kathmandu. The flight of the labour force from the villages and the swelling of population in urban centres has already impacted adversely on the economy, and placed enormous burdens on the existing and overstretched infrastructure of urban society.

Within this context, the frequent kidnapping of school children and other young villagers suggests that the Maoists are having some difficulty with recruitment to their forces. These kidnappings may also represent another tactic to attract the attention of the government and of the international community, and to bring pressure to bear on speeding up the initiation of a process of negotiation. Through these kidnappings and targeted killings, the Maoists also appear to project their 'message' that supporters or informers of the regime would be penalized. At least some of the kidnapping victims who were released recently stated that they were abducted for organizing political meetings without taking permission from the Maoists. Some party activists also disclosed that the Maoists took them into captivity because their respective parties had supported the Emergency.

The Nepali government declared the Maoists a terrorist organization following the declaration of a State of Emergency in November 2001. Both the Government of India and the US have categorized the Maoists as terrorists and had promised to provide necessary assistance to Nepal for its counter-insurgency campaign. Nevertheless, despite the fact that both the US and India were committed to providing assistance to Nepal to combat Maoist violence, neither the international support, nor the State of Emergency imposed to facilitate Army and security forces' operations have produced any tangible results. The Maoists have demonstrated their presence and operational capabilities virtually throughout the country, and the levels of violence that they have been able to sustain despite the Emergency indicate that the campaign of attrition that the state has launched against them is still to destroy or significantly erode their operational capabilities. The security forces, however, dismiss such an interpretation, asserting that the Maoists' capacity to mobilize both manpower and resources had been considerably affected in recent months.

The Maoists reaped major, if inadvertent, political advantage as a result of King Gyanendra's decision to take executive power into his own hand on October 4, 2002, after Sher Bahadur Deuba, then Prime Minister of the 'interim government', was removed on charges of 'incompetence' after he recommended to the King that general elections be deferred for at least thirteen months. All major political parties have opposed King Gyanendra's transformation from a constitutional to an executive monarch, though the King continues to ignore them. The Maoists have also opposed the King's move, thus making the protection and consolidation of the gains of the restoration of democracy in 1990 a common political agenda. Nevertheless, the situation is far more complex than this simple dichotomy between monarchists and democrats may suggest. Political parties operating within the system do not support the Maoist demands - the abolition of the monarchy; creation of a constituent assembly to frame a new constitution; formation of an interim government; and the holding of a round table conference to forge a solution to the current crisis. The Maoists, moreover, have now expressed their preference for the inclusion of the King in such a round table conference, presumably because of the changed power equations in the country.

The parliamentary parties, on the other hand, have divergent approaches to the emergent constitutional process and the continuing Maoist crisis. The Nepali Congress (NC) wants to restore the dissolved parliament in order to set the trend for future reforms and negotiation with the Maoists. The Communist Party of Nepal - United Marxist Lenninist (CPN-UML) wants the constitution of an all-party government to steer the country out of the current constitutional crisis; other communist groups in and outside parliament support the NC's demand for the restoration of parliament first, followed by the initiation of suitable reforms to be introduced in the Constitution. The democratic political parties of the country have come under substantial public criticism for their failure to agree on a common agenda, but their leaders argue that their divergent positions on these issues do not contradict or undermine their collective petition to the King, urging him to constitute an all-party government.

The split in the NC in 2002, and the growing intra-party conflict that is manifesting itself within the CPN (UML) have weakened these democratic formations considerably, though the leaders of these parties do not fail to blame the Palace for contriving divisions within their ranks. The weakening of these parties and their gradual marginalization from mainstream politics has also put the Maoists in difficult situation: if they negotiate with the King, they would have to compromise on some of their basic demands, such as the abolition of the monarchy, the formation of a constituent assembly, etc., and this would make them vulnerable to criticism from other parties, and possibly within their own cadres. It is apparent that the Maoists want to involve all political forces in the country in any process of negotiated settlement or reform, in order to secure their own acceptability and legitimacy. Since no concrete efforts for negotiation have been visible so far, all the three sides of the political spectrum - the King, the systemic (democratic) parties and the Maoists - have little clarity of vision regarding the new roadmap of Nepali politics. And unless the row between the King and other parties is settled, any fresh negotiations with the Maoists seem to be a remote prospect. Tactically, however, a wedge between the King and the constitutional parties is in the Maoists' favour, because the probabilities of the polarization of anti-monarchical forces would be greatly enhanced if the King continues to ignore them.

 

NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major conflicts in South Asia
January 13-19, 2003

 
Civilian
Security Force Personnel
Terrorist
Total

BANGLADESH

7
0
0
7

INDIA

25
9
36
70

Assam

0
0
1
1

Jammu & Kashmir

14
7
34
55

Left-wing Extremism

1
2
1
4

Meghalaya

3
0
0
3

Tripura

7
0
0
7

NEPAL

6
2
24
32

PAKISTAN

2
0
0
2
*   Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.



BANGLADESH

Seven persons killed in bomb explosions at Tangail district: Seven persons were killed and 15 others injured in a twin bomb explosion at a remote village in Shakhipur, Tangail district, on January 17, 2003. The explosions occurred at a decade-old fair, locally known as the Failya Paglar Mela, the largest in greater Mymensingh. Meanwhile, Md. Nazmul Haque, a Special Superintendent of the Criminal Investigation Department, was quoted as saying on January 19 that the explosives used in Tangail were similar to those exploded in the cinema halls of Mymensingh on December 7, 2002, in which 17 persons were killed and more than 300 injured. Independent Bangladesh, January 20, 2003; Daily Star, January 19, 2003.

Chittagong underworld in possession of 50,000 illegal arms: A media report of January 18, 2003, claimed that approximately 50,000 illegal weapons - including several hundred sophisticated weapons like the AK-47, AK-56, M-16 - besides a large stock of ammunition, are in the possession of the underworld in Chittagong. However, no official confirmation was available, as police do not have specific and complete data on either licensed or illegal weapons. Reportedly, these arms are to be used in the forthcoming Union Parishad elections in Chittagong, Cox's Bazaar and three hill districts. A large number of these arms were legally issued but were not surrendered when the government issued a directive to this effect in November 2002. Independent Bangladesh, January 18, 2003.



INDIA


Blueprint for Naga peace talks ready, says Deputy Premier Advani: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani said in Guwahati, Assam, on January 13, 2003, that the Union government was ready with a blueprint to resolve the Naga issue. He, however, gave no details. According to him, the visit of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) leaders, Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chisi Swu, to New Delhi and the subsequent talks was an important development in this direction. He said, "The Naga peace process has shifted its focus from foreign soil to India. This itself is a very positive sign". While Advani expressed satisfaction over the progress of the peace talks, he remained silent on the NSCN-IM's demand for the integration of all Naga inhabited areas into Nagalim (Greater Nagaland). Sentinel Assam, January 14, 2003.



PAKISTAN

FBI raids three seminaries in Islamabad for Al Qaeda, Taliban suspects: Pakistani authorities accompanied by US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents raided at least three madrassas (seminaries) in the federal capital of Islamabad looking for Al Qaeda and Taliban suspects, seminary officials said on January 17, 2003. About six Ulema (religious scholars) reportedly filed a complaint with Islamabad police demanding that charges of unlawful interference in the affairs of seminaries be brought against the FBI. "They illegally entered our Madaris and are interfering in the affairs of our religious institutions," said Abdul Rashid Ghazi, deputy head of the Jamia Faridia, one of the seminaries. The other two seminaries raided were Jamia Misbah-ul-Uloom and Masjid Abdullah bin Masood. Jang, January 17, 2003.

Australian Al Qaeda operative arrested in Karachi: An Australian national suspected to have trained with the Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was arrested at the international airport in Karachi on January 4, and is being probed for links to the terrorist network, official sources said on January 13, 2003. The suspect, identified as Jack Thomas, is reported to have traveled to Pakistan in 2001 to study Islam before heading to Afghanistan. An unnamed security official was quoted as saying in Karachi that his arrest was connected to the January 9 arrest of two Arab Al Qaeda suspects during a pre-dawn raid on a private residence in Karachi. The Australian is reportedly connected with an Islamist fundamentalist group operating in Chechnya. Meanwhile, Australia's Attorney General Darryl Williams confirmed to the media in Adelaide that the suspect is believed to have trained with the Al Qaeda and added that Australian authorities had been trying to trace him for the past year. Daily Times, January 14, 2003.

18 million illegal weapons in country, indicates Small Arms Survey 2002: Officials at the Interior Ministry were quoted as saying in a report in Dawn, a Pakistani daily, that according to the Small Arms Survey, 2002, there were approximately 18 million illegally-held weapons in Pakistan compared to some two million legally-licensed weapons. There are nine illegal arms for every licensed weapon currently held by individuals in the country. The report said, despite the official ban on sale and purchase of non-licensed weapons, unauthorized arms and ammunition remain in circulation and illegal arms trade and gunrunning continued to flourish. The tribal town of Darra Adamkhel near Peshawar, bordering Afghanistan, is reported to be the largest manufacturer and supplier of low-cost arms in the area. Dawn, January 14, 2003.


The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

SAIR is a project of the Institute for Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

 

South Asia Intelligence Review [SAIR]

Publisher
K. P. S. Gill

Editor
Dr. Ajai Sahni



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