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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 3, No. 5, August 16, 2004

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



Maoist Rhetoric for United Nations Mediation
P.G. Rajamohan
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

Reports indicate that the United Nations (UN) Additional Secretary General, Kul Chandra Gautam, and UN Special Envoy to Nepal, Samuel Tamrat, are due to arrive in Nepal on August 16 to "assess the present situation and report back to the UN headquarters, which will decide whether or not to mediate" between the Government and the insurgents of the Communist Party of Nepal - Maoist (CPN-M) to 'help resolve' the protracted insurgency plaguing the country. The UN's 'interventionism', in this context, has provoked at least some misgivings in certain quarters in Nepal and within the wider South Asian region. While the Government and political parties are yet to clarify their positions on UN mediation, the Maoists have, for some time now, been clamouring for such intervention, and have made it a precondition to any ceasefire and resumption of a 'peace process'.
  Also Read
Maoist Affiliates Sever Ties -- Keshab Poudel
Tentative Political Coherence and Insurgent Consolidation -- P.G. Rajamohan

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan also expressed his 'deep concern' about the deteriorating condition in the Himalayan Kingdom and offered his 'good offices' to facilitate the peace process, immediately after two consecutive attacks by the insurgents at Bhojpur and Beni Bazaar in Myagdi district in early March, where an estimated 250 persons were killed. The then Government of Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa had unambiguously rejected the UN's proposal for mediation declaring, "We remain convinced that, due to the geopolitical situation and complexities of our problems, third party mediation is unnecessary. We do, however, welcome appeals for peace from the United Nations or any other friendly country or organization." However, the currently incumbent four-party coalition Government under Sher Bahadur Deuba's leadership appears to be coming under immense national, international and public pressure to initiate a dialogue, and has failed to clarify its position on third party intervention. The Maoists have also come under significant pressure from various quarters, to restore the negotiation process.

The Maoists have, of course, been fairly enthusiastic about UN or other international mediation, which would immediately confer a high measure of legitimacy and recognition on their 'People's War'. In such a context, formal UN mediation would legitimize the Maoists proposition of 'new vs. old regime'. The Maoists are also projecting their current pretensions that they were not interested in sustaining an armed insurgent movement to change the system, but are committed to a negotiated settlement, if possible, through international mediation. In the eventuality that they are ever in a position to form a Government, such a position would help the Maoists politically, by procuring a larger measure of recognition and support from the international community. An emphasis on third party mediation is also based on the Maoists' disenchantment with bilateral processes, and a desire to have a 'neutral' third party to hold the Nepalese state to any agreements that may arise out of the negotiations. Historically, in other theatres, such pressures have tended to be far more binding for the negotiating state than on anti-state entities, which often violate conditionalities with impunity under the cover of 'credible deniability and a wider amplitude of tolerance of international and mediating agencies for their transgressions. It is notable, here, that during the second round of peace talks, there was significant friction over the demobilization and restriction of Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) forces, as demanded by the Maoists, even while recruitment, consolidation and killings by the insurgents continued in wide areas of the country.

Worse, as Nepali Congress (NC) leader Ram Sharan Mahat notes, "The UN's Security Council Resolution 1373 has clearly stated that the violent activities of the rebels constitute terrorism. By that definition, the rebels are terrorists." Any UN mediation in the process would, consequently, confer a measure of legitimacy on an organization that it acknowledges to be engaged in terrorist activities against a sovereign state.

The consensus within the region also militates against pushing the 'Third party mediation' agenda too vigorously. The two neighbouring giants, India and China, recognize the Maoist insurgency as Nepal's internal problem, vesting the decision for third party mediation entirely in the country's leadership. The European Union and the major European donors have urged the Government to announce a ceasefire and to begin the peace talks as early as possible, but do not appear to be supporting external mediation at this stage. The Nepal Government, till now, also appears lukewarm on such proposals, a problem that is compounded by the enormous political difficulties in Kathmandu at present, with the King, the Government and the various political parties themselves engaged in a life-and-death contest for the political space, and no clear agreements on the structure of national power that could guarantee any negotiated agreement - bilateral or multilateral - with the insurgents. King Gyanendra who sees himself as an 'active monarch' and directly controls the Army, may well defy any agreements reached, if these require him to sacrifice any of the powers currently exercised by him. On the other hand, the present Government has declared that the official position is that, at bottom, Nepal is a constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy.

In the meanwhile, the Maoists, on the one hand, argue for peace talks with UN mediation and, on the other, continue to violate all rules of war from all sides. During the two earlier rounds of peace negotiations, the Maoists used the ceasefire period to strengthen their cadre base and to acquire arms and ammunition from various sources, including subversive groups in India. And while they demand 'legitimate status' from the international community under the Geneva Convention, the Maoists have a history of unremitting violations of many of its crucial norms. On August 10, for instance, the insurgents attacked Army personnel in the premises of a hospital in the Dang district. They have, moreover, vigorously engaged in a campaign of terror through brutal killings, bombings and abductions across the country. They have also engaged in mass abductions and forced recruitment of large numbers of minors, and have now emerged as the terrorist group with the second largest recruitment and exploitation of child soldiers, after the LTTE, in South Asia. Since the collapse of the ceasefire on August 27, 2003, the Maoists have killed 1,029 people including 584 Security Force (SF) personnel and 445 civilians. Another 18,964 persons have been abducted, including 18,859 civilians and 105 SF personnel (till July 2004). Abductions - often in large numbers, sometimes exceeding fifteen hundred people - have included children, women, elderly people, teachers, farmers, journalists, and the very poor among the 'Dalits' (the 'lower castes'), who have then been forced to participate in Maoist 'People's Training Camps'.

The Maoists have now threatened to attack Phadim district and ordered all civilians to evacuate the town. They have also been using their sister and front organizations to disrupt normal life and exert pressure on the Government. After imposing successful transport and economic blockades in almost all the remote districts in since the breakdown of the ceasefire on August 27, 2003, the Maoist-affiliated United Revolutionary People's Council of Dhading, Nuwakot and Rasuwa districts, has announced that the major entry points in and around Kathmandu and its adjoining districts of Bhaktapur and Lalitpur, would be blockaded indefinitely in protest against the killing of some Maoist leaders. Another Maoist affiliated labour organization, the All Nepal Federation of Trade Unions (ANFTU) has threatened to close down 14 private companies on August 17, including Indian companies and joint ventures such as Surya Nepal, an ITC joint venture, and an Oberoi Group five star hotel. Meanwhile, the Maoist students' organization, the All Nepal National Independent Students' Union - Revolutionary (ANNISU-R) has been intimidating the Government through threats of a resumption of its strikes in educational institutions.

The recent split of two sister organizations of the CPN-M - the Kirant Workers Party (KWP) and Madhesi National Liberation Front (MNLF) - on July 27, 2004, creates new complications for future negotiations. Any, agreement with the Maoists alone may not be accepted by these splinter groups, and these circumstances will also need to be taken into the consideration, if at all a peace process resumes.

The danger of international third party negotiators - whatever their institutional affiliations - 'parachuting' into the conflict within such complex local conditions, to negotiate 'peace' with groups that have widely adopted the methods of terrorism and warlordism, cannot be ignored. As one commentator has noted, in another context, "We are all aware of the dangers to peace posed by warmongers; we must, however, guard equally against the 'evil that good men do' There has, in many theatres of intractable conflict, been an easy tendency on the part of mediators to seek to negotiate the future of millions of victims of extreme and barbaric violence with its worst perpetrators." There is, consequently, urgent need to guard against the self-righteousness and arrogance of the 'peace community', and to recognize the unfortunate and extended record of "impulsive, and often disastrous, intervention" by apparently 'neutral' and well intentioned third parties in different parts of the world.


Assam: ULFA's Success or a Counter-Insurgency Failure?
Wasbir Hussain
Associate Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi; Consulting Editor, The Sentinel, Guwahati

At 8.55 in the morning on August 15, 2004, five minutes before the Indian National Flag was to have been unfurled at the main Independence Day parade venue at a district town in the northeastern State of Assam, a powerful bomb went off. According to Khagen Sharma, Assam Inspector General of Police (Special Branch), 13 people, including six school children, died and twenty-one others were injured.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, and the insurgency-wracked State's security establishment, held the separatist United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) responsible for the attack at Dhemaji, a perennially flood-ravaged town, 462 KM east of Guwahati, Assam's capital. The ULFA has been fighting for a 'sovereign, socialist Assam' since the group came into existence in 1979.
  Also Read
Spreading Terror From the 'Kashmir Camp'? -- Wasbir Hussain
Abductions - A Challenge to Peace - Bibhu Prasad Routray

"It appears to have been a time device buried on the ground, and going by the modus operandi of the attack, we are convinced that it was the handiwork of the ULFA," Rockybul Hussain, Minister of State for Home, told this writer after he flew back from Dhemaji late on August 15, 2004, along with the Assam Police chief, P.V. Sumant.

Chief Minister Gogoi quickly admitted what was obvious - that it was a clear case of a major security lapse on the part of the police and the administration that led to the explosion. The blast, after all, took place at the main parade venue which was expected to have been sanitized by the security forces. The six children who died were from the local Christian missionary-run Don Bosco School, and the other seven killed were women, all spectators who had gathered to watch the parade.

That the State Government was quick to own up responsibility for the security lapse was evident by the speed with which the district Superintendent of Police (SP) and the Additional SP were placed under suspension and the District Magistrate transferred out. The same day, Chief Minister Gogoi announced ex-gratia payment of Rs 300,000 each to the kin of those killed and Rs 50,000 to those injured. A high-level probe into the incident is likely, if top Assam Government leaders are to be believed.

The blast at Dhemaji was by far the biggest attack carried out by the ULFA on Independence Day so far. On August 10, 2004, eight separatist groups, fighting for 'sovereignty' in India's Northeast, including the ULFA, had called for a boycott of the country's Independence Day, in keeping with a practice that has become the annual routine each year. In recent years, however, security forces have, by and large, been fairly successful in preventing a major terrorist incident from occurring on Independence Day and other national holidays.

This time around, eight insurgent groups had e-mailed a joint statement to journalists, declaring a 24-hour general strike commencing midnight of August 14, 2004, primarily to try and keep the general public indoors, away from Independence Day celebrations. But, in the statement the ULFA had categorically declared that, so far as Assam was concerned, the general strike would be confined only to Guwahati in view of the devastating floods that has hit millions of people.

Strikes called by insurgents in Northeast India, coinciding with important dates in the country's national calendar have been a routine affair for nearly two decades now, and a similar call by the militants earlier this month did not surprise anyone. Groups like the ULFA would attack symbols of governmental authority like railway stations, rail tracks, oil pipelines, police stations or a security patrol around such important dates.

Consequently, when suspected ULFA militants blew up a natural gas pipeline shortly before midnight on August 13, 2004, at village Dighaligaon, near the eastern town of Duliajan, headquarters of the public sector Oil India Limited (OIL), it was thought to be part of the 'established' pattern. The first surprise came on August 14, 2004, when suspected ULFA rebels threw Chinese grenades at a cinema hall in Gauripur, 270 kilometres west of Guwahati, killing one person and injuring 22 others.

The ULFA had clamped a ban on the screening of Hindi films from India's 'film capital' in Mumbai - Bollywood, as it is loosely called - beginning November 15, 2003, and had since carried out four earlier bomb and grenade attacks at theatres showing such films. But, the attack at the Urvi Theatre on August 14, 2004, came as a surprise because a Bengali movie was being shown.

The incident has been projected in some quarters as a demonstration that the ULFA was bent on creating general terror in the State, and had given up its earlier strategy of hitting out at select targets alone.

The fact that latest bomb attack occurred at Dhemaji, although the place did not fall under purview of the ULFA's strike call in view of the floods, is also being interpreted by security agencies as a sign that the group is currently desperate to raise the tally of deaths in attacks carried out by its cadres.

Such a tendency to dismiss these attacks as 'acts of desperation' by the ULFA is far too simplistic. The Dhemaji blast has exposed the fact that the State Police, Army and paramilitary forces which are engaged in counter-insurgency operations under a Unified Headquarters, have become complacent. There is also evidence that cooperation between these forces leaves a great deal to be desired.

The result is that entirely different sets of security measures are adopted in different districts across Assam. Authoritative sources told this writer that in some districts, ahead of Independence Day, police officers had taken note of the manner in which Chechen rebels had killed that country's President, Akhmad Kadyrov, on May 9, 2004, by apparently planting a bomb at capital Grozny's Dynamo Stadium, months in advance. As a result, the police had sanitised many Independence Day parade venues by checking for explosives and then called in the Army to use their deep-search metal detectors as a foolproof measure. Not only that, some of the district police authorities had even obtained written certificates from the Army declaring such venues fully sanitized. Clearly, however, this procedure had not been followed uniformly in all districts, with tragic consequences in Dhemaji.

That aside, there was hard intelligence available with the security establishment that the ULFA's Myanmar-based '28th Battallion', also called the 'Kashmir Camp,' was hell-bent on stepping up violence around Independence Day. Members of the intelligence community told this writer that self-styled Lieutenant Partho Gogoi, a hardcore ULFA militant, was placed in charge of operations in the three eastern Assam districts, Dhemaji, Jorhat and Sivasagar. They also disclosed that Bijoy Chinese, 'camp commander' of the '28th Battallion', who was in charge of operations, had specially instructed Partho Gogoi to try and carry out as many as 15 bomb attacks in Jorhat and Sivasagar districts, coinciding with Independence Day, a task which the group failed to fulfil.

By all indications, the ULFA's crack Myanmar-based unit has actually been bolstered after the Bhutanese military assault on the group inside the Himalayan kingdom in December 2003. Intelligence officials had earlier indicated that this was the case, and Assam Chief Minister Gogoi confirmed on August 15, 2004, that ULFA cadres who managed to flee their camps inside Bhutan in the wake of the Bhutanese offensive in December 2003 had headed for its camps in Myanmar, Bangladesh and in the Northeast Indian State of Arunachal Pradesh, which has a porous border with Myanmar.

The Bhutanese Government, at the beginning of the military assault on the Indian rebels in December 2003, had officially stated that its troops were battling 'in excess of 3,000 militants.' Later, by the time the offensive came to a halt, only about 600 Indian militants could be accounted for after all those killed, captured or those who had surrendered, were taken into account. The question regarding the whereabouts of the remaining 2,000-plus cadres was never satisfactorily answered, but the answers appear to be emerging now. And, it can be safely concluded that, contrary to what was sought to be projected, the ULFA's back is yet to be broken.




Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
August 9-15, 2004

Security Force Personnel






     Jammu &






Total (INDIA)







 Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


17 people killed during bomb blast in Assam: 17 people, including 16 children, were killed and approximately 40 others were injured in the Dhemaji district of Assam on August 15, 2004, when suspected terrorists of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) triggered a powerful blast. The blast, triggered by a remote-controlled device, reportedly occurred around 9 AM (IST) when the children gathered at Dhemaji College ground for the Independence Day parade. PTI, August 16, 2004.

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act repealed from parts of Manipur: The Manipur Chief Minister, Okram Ibobi Singh, announced on August 12, 2004, the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958, from the Imphal municipal area. The decision, taken at a State Cabinet meeting in the capital Imphal, was announced by Singh at a press conference. The Imphal municipal area covers the Assembly constituencies of Uripok, Thangmeiband, Sagolband, Khurai, Singjamei, Keishamthong and Yaiskul, which account for 10 per cent of the State's total population. Referring to the public demand for the complete withdrawal of the Act, the Chief Minister said, "we don't want the Act for a minute more in the State, but there are lots of compulsions, especially the presence of many unlawful organisations pushing for secession from India." The Hindu, August 13, 2004.

Union Cabinet decides to repeal Prevention of Terrorism Act 2002: The Union Cabinet on August 10, 2004, decided to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2002 (POTA), before it lapses on October 23 this year. Briefing reporters after a meeting of the Union Cabinet in New Delhi, the Information and Broadcasting Minister, S. Jaipal Reddy, said that the repeal would not have retrospective effect and all the cases would continued to be tried. Two Bills - one for the repeal of POTA and another to make amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 - would be introduced in the second half of the current Budget session of Parliament, due to begin on August 16. Reddy said the proposed amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act would take care of concerns relating to internal security, including funding of terrorist organisations. The Central POTA Review Committee would continue to function to review existing cases, he added. Hindustan Times, August 11, 2004.


India and Pakistan exchange lists of wanted men: Pakistan and India exchanged lists of wanted fugitives they say are hiding in each other's countries at the end of two-day talks on terrorism and drug trafficking in Islamabad, on August 11, 2004. Interior Secretary Tariq Mahmood also announced that Pakistan would soon release 449 Indian prisoners, including 41 civilians detained for visa violations and 408 fishermen detained for entering Pakistan's territorial waters. Pakistan has reportedly handed over a list of 53 wanted people currently hiding in India, whereas India has handed over a list of 25 people, including 20 wanted terrorists they demanded earlier. Daily Times, August 12, 2004.

Muslim majority states in India are part of Pakistan, says Lashkar-e-Toiba: Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) leader Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki is reported to have said during a press conference in Lahore on August 10, 2004, that Pakistan will be completed when the Muslim majority states of India would become part of it. He said Kashmir was an integral part of Pakistan and the Mujahideen were fighting for its liberation, but Muslim states of Hyderabad and Junagadh in India should not be ignored. "These are also the part of Pakistan. They were occupied by India after partition," he claimed. Daily Times, August 11, 2004.



Fatalities in Nepal since the Breakdown of Cease-fire on August 27, 2003

Security Force Personnel
Source: Computed from English language media.

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.


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