SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Nagaland: The Public Mockery of Peace
Another round to talks between the Union Government and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) concluded at The Hague on June 25, 2006. The usual statements regarding the talks being “quite good and very fruitful”, were made by Union Minister, Oscar Fernandes, after three days of talks with the insurgent leaders, along with Union Minister of State for Home, S. Reghupathy, and Minister of State at the Prime Minister’s Office, Prithviraj Chouhan. Fernandes, Reghupathy and Chouhan are members of the Group of Ministers constituted by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to look into the long drawn Naga peace process. The interlocutor for the Naga talks, K. Padmanabhiah, was also present at the meeting. Chairman Isak Chishi Swu and General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah represented the NSCN-IM. The Union Government began talks with the NSCN-IM in 1997 after the two sides agreed to a cease-fire.
However, the ground situation continues to cause serious concern, raising the crucial question: is Nagaland heading back to the days of continuous fratricidal wars between the ‘national workers’ out to restore all that was wonderful in the State before ‘India’ decided to ‘plunder and subjugate’? The question hangs heavy in the wake of the recent escalation in violent clashes between two rival National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) factions. The clashes appear to indicate that the cease-fire agreements signed between the Union Government and separately with the NSCN-Isak-Muivah (IM) faction in 1997, and the Khaplang faction in 2001, are being violated at will. Worse, efforts to end the abiding and violent confrontation have had no visible impact on the warring factions.
The May 19, 2006, killing of the NSCN-K ‘Education Kilonser’ (minister), Ngampan Konyak, by the rival NSCN-IM at Mon provoked the NSCN-K to launch a campaign codenamed, "Operation Blueland", under which it has stepped up attacks against the IM group. On the other side, the IM faction also alerted its armed cadres to reinforce their dominance in different parts of the State. As rebel factions, both claiming to represent the wishes and aspirations of the Nagas, build up their manpower and resources for future mutual carnage, the common people in remote and interior locales, are increasingly worried.
Although the ceasefires with the Union Government still hold formally, escalating violence, large-scale extortion and intimidation put a question mark on the very arrangement that supposedly prohibits the movement of armed cadres, armed violence, intimidation and disturbance to peace that are, in fact, endemic. According to the ceasefire agreements, the cadres of each faction are to remain confined to their respective designated camps, but the rule if flouted more often than it is kept. Indeed, the ceasefire has been exploited by militant groups to consolidate and expand. Since the NSCN-IM entered into its formal ceasefire in 1997, it has reportedly raised its cadre strength from 3,000 to 5,000 and nearly doubled its weapon holdings.
Factional violence continues at regular intervals as both groups vie to augment their territorial supremacy. In a statement made available to the local media on May 31, 2006, senior NSCN-K leader A.Z. Jami threatened to take control of Dimapur, Nagaland’s commercial hub, known to be a stronghold of the rival NSCN-IM. Jami declared: "We will certainly take over Dimapur. Our cadres are all over the town, waiting for the opportunity to strike." Alarmed, the NSCN-IM responded that it would never compromise with such a threat “by anti-nationalist like A.Z. Jami." A release issued by NSCN-IM’s ‘Secretary, Union Territory - I’, Romeo Sankhil, asserted that his outfit was "well prepared to meet any eventuality at any cost to protect the Naga peoples in general and Dimapurian (sic) in particular and also the ongoing peace process." The release further added that the NSCN-IM had already intensified its vigil and deployed its men across Dimapur to meet any eventuality. The desperation of both the factions is perfectly understandable. Dimapur is a flourishing commercial town – the largest and the only one in Nagaland – promising enormous profits to whoever controls it.
It is significant that, between 2002 and 2005 – a period during which both factions of the NSCN were party to a ceasefire - 171 persons have been killed in militancy related violence in the State, of which 113 (66.08 per cent) were militants, 52 (30.40 per cent) were civilians and the rest 6 (3.50 per cent) were security force (SF) personnel. With rare exception, most militant deaths have been the result of factional clashes. 2004 saw at least 17 factional clashes, while 2005 witnessed another 14. 2006 has already seen 27 such incidents, (till June 25) in which at least 28 militants have been killed (14 of the NSCN-IM, 10 of the NSCN-K and two of the Naga National Council (NNC), and two unidentified). There is no available record of the numbers of injured.
Some of the significant incidents in just the last month and a half include:
Naga factional violence has not remained confined to the State itself, and has spilled over to neighbouring Manipur. On May 5, 2006, a clash occurred at Tinkhai Khulen in Manipur’s Senapati district bordering Nagaland. Earlier on May 2, another clash took place at Aling Saan village in the Tamenglong District. The NSCN-K, on May 5, claimed to have ‘neutralized’ a rival hideout at Alingson village under Nungba Police Station limits in the Tamenglong District on May 2. On April 12, 2006, the NSCN-K shot dead two rival cadres and injured another at Keimai in the Tamenglong District.
The impact of this unending friction on the lives of the common people is enormous. The Chakhesang Public Organisation, an apex body of the Chakhesang tribe, on March 7, 2006, made a declaration prohibiting extortion, movement of cadres in combatant uniform and the establishment of militants camps within the periphery of the tribe’s habitation. Again, on April 17, 2006, several Phek-based organizations under the banner of Phek Area Public Organisation (PAPO) urged the State government to take up the issue of factional clashes with the rival outfits and the Union Government, and to ensure that cadres belonging to the two rival factions move out of the Phek and the Chakhesang areas. A Press Release issued by PAPO stated: Ninety per cent of our people are agriculturists, who depend on agriculture for their survival. Although March and April is a time for sowing seeds, yet the villagers are afraid of going to the fields for fear of being mingled in cross fire." The gathering also condemned the unabated illegal ‘tax collection’ imposed by the militant groups.
The Chakhesang Baptist Church Council (CBCC) at a meeting held at Pfutsero in the Phek District on May 11 and 12, 2006, said that, in Phek district, innocent citizens had suffered because of threats, intimidation, extortion, and forced taxation imposed by the various militant groups. The church body alleged that the armed factions had forcibly occupied a number of private houses and educational institutions in the District. The meeting described the existing ceasefire with the Union Government as a "public mockery".
The State Government, often described as soft on the militants – especially the NSCN-IM – tends to surrender to their caprice. Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, while presenting the State Budget in the Legislative Assembly in capital Kohima on March 20, 2006, stated: "It is not possible for any Government to prevent this (extortion) completely." The hapless Chief Minister termed the factional killings "mindless and senseless”, but has displayed little intent or capacity to do anything about them, and all past attempts to contain the factional feud have remained subservient to short-term political calculations. In March 2003, the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) coalition Government formed a ‘Consultative Committee for Peace’ comprising various political parties and major non-governmental organisations. However, the opposition Congress party, known to be sympathetic to the NSCN-K, was not included in the committee. As a result, the committee remained a partisan and useless jamboree.
Since the 1990s, the church and the Naga Hoho (the apex tribal council of Nagaland) have been attempting to bring all warring underground factions together through a ‘reconciliation process’, but their efforts have proven futile. The NSCN-K has accused the Naga Hoho, the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), the Nagaland People’s Movement for Human Right (NPMHR), the Naga Mothers Association (NMA) and even the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) Government of a pro-NSCN-IM stance. On May 29, 2006, the NSCN-K on accused Chief Minister Rio of providing security to NSCN-IM cadres at Dimapur and Zunheboto. The Chairman of the NSCN-K Ceasefire Supervisory Board, Kughalu Mulatonu, had alleged that the Chief Minister dispatched security personnel belonging to the Indian Reserve Battalion to protect the NSCN-IM cadres.
There appear to be no principled and non-discriminatory efforts to contain the factional violence in Nagaland, and the militant groups remain a law unto themselves, immune to any suggestions or corrective measures. Under the circumstances, and in view of the enormous suffering continuously being inflicted on innocent civilians, it is time the Centre reviewed its ‘hands off’ policy and made a proper assessment of the anarchy on the ground that its deals with the insurgent outfits have yielded. The conditions of the Government’s ceasefire with the NSCN factions have been clearly defined, and they cannot be allowed to be habitually violated with impunity.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
June 19 - 25, 2006
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Defence Minister rules out troop reduction in Jammu and Kashmir: India ruled out any reduction of troops in Jammu and Kashmir in the present situation, two days after Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf sought "demilitarisation" in the State. Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee told CNN-IBN on June 25, 2006, that, "With the present situation, I am not confident that we can reduce troops." He pointed out that reduction of troops was not possible as lately there has been an increase in terrorist incidents, involving attacks on soft targets and security forces and added that infiltration and attempts at infiltration have also increased. Earlier on June 23, Gen. Musharraf had stated, "I have proposed demilitarisation as a final resolution. Demilitarise Kashmir, give self-governance to people of Kashmir with a joint management arrangement on top. This is an idea I am proposing." Daily Excelsior, June 26, 2006.
Maoists kill seven persons in Chhattisgarh: Maoists killed seven persons and injured two others at Chikuarguda in the Konta region on June 20, 2006, following their refusal to accompany the insurgents to attack a relief camp in the Dantewada District. The Deputy Inspector General of Police, T.J. Lonkumer, said that more than a 100--armed Maoists asked people of village Chikuarguda to join them to attack the relief camp. However, the villagers refused, resulting in the killing of seven of them by the Maoists. The Pioneer, June 21, 2006.
Khalistan Commando Force terrorist extradited from the US: A Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) terrorist, Kulbir Singh Kulbeera alias Barapind, was arrested and later brought to India by a Punjab Police team on June 18, 2006, following his extradition from the United States. Kulbeera, whose extradition to India was made possible after a nine-year legal battle, is allegedly involved in at least 20 cases ranging from mass murder to snatching of weapons from the police, killing of police personnel and bank dacoity. The Pioneer, June 20, 2006.
Factional clashes in Nagaland are a law and order problem, says Prime Minister: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a seven member Congress party team from Nagaland that called on him in New Delhi last week that the conflict between the Naga militant factions is a law and order problem which the State Home Department has to solve on its own instead of blaming Delhi for it. The Telegraph, June 20, 2006.
No participation of Maoists in interim Government before arms management, says Home Minister: The Home Minister and the coordinator of the Government’s talks team, Krishna Prasad Sitaula, has ruled out the possibility of the Maoists joining an interim Government before the management of arms. Speaking at a function in the capital Kathmandu on June 24, 2006, Sitaula said, “Maoists will not be brought to interim Government before the weapons are managed. At the moment the Government and the Maoists are in homework on managing the weapons and the armies”. Nepal News, June 25, 2006.
Militants announce a month-long unilateral cease-fire in North Waziristan: Militants in North Waziristan announced a month-long unilateral cease-fire to allow a tribal Jirga (council) to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the security problems in the volatile tribal agency. Abdullah Farhad, a self proclaimed spokesperson for the Taliban in North Waziristan, said on June 25, 2006, that the truce was temporary and the militants had the right to defend themselves if attacked. He demanded the return of security forces operating in the agency to their bases during the cease-fire period and that the forces leave the tribal area within the next month. He also demanded abolishing all new check posts in the tribal areas and said that only the Khasadar force (a local tribal force) should be deployed at check posts established before the military operation. The Taliban spokesperson also demanded the release of “all people” arrested by the authorities during the military operation and said the Government should also revive incentives to tribal elders which were stopped because of the elders’ “non-cooperation”. Daily Times, June 26, 2006.
Support for Osama bin Laden remains relatively high in Pakistan, indicates global poll: Support for the Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden has declined but remains relatively high in Pakistan, where many people regard Westerners as intolerant, cheap and dishonest, according to the results of a global poll released on June 22, 2006. A majority of Pakistanis also expressed concerns about the spread of Islamic militancy, and there has been a marked decline in support for suicide attacks against civilians, the poll found. The survey was conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project in 13 Western and Muslim countries, including Pakistan, from March to May 2006, in which 1,277 Pakistanis were polled. Daily Times, June 23, 2006.
Al Qaeda planning to attack army installations and important persons, indicate intelligence reports: An Al Qaeda mission tasked with conducting suicide attacks targeting Army installations and prominent personalities has arrived in Pakistan from Afghanistan, according to intelligence reports submitted to the Interior Ministry. Reports said that members of the Al Qaeda and other banned terrorist groups met in Kabul some time ago and drew up the plan to target Army installations in Islamabad and Rawalpindi and important persons associated with the Government in a campaign to bring down the regime of General Pervez Musharraf. An Arab, identified as ‘Sheikh’, is said to have chaired the meeting, sources said, adding that, Salam Rehmani, a resident of Helmand and former deputy vice-chancellor of Kabul University under the Taliban, was appointed chief of the mission. Daily Times, June 22, 2006.
Pakistan-born Australian convicted on terrorism-related charges in Australia: A Pakistan-born Australian citizen, Faheem Khalid Lodhi, who was accused of plotting a Jihad bombing campaign in Australia, was convicted on three terrorism-related charges on June 19, 2006, and could face life in jail. He had been accused of planning to blow up the electrical grid in Sydney as well as several defence sites in 2003. The indictment said that Lodhi, who denied four counts of preparing to commit a terrorist act, had “the intent of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause, namely violent jihad”. Daily Times, June 20, 2006.
President Rajapakse offers two-week truce to LTTE: President Mahinda Rajapakse is reported to have offered a two-week cease-fire to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). According to The Sunday Leader, the President's initiative came with the promise that the Government would rein in the outfit’s breakaway faction led by ‘Colonel’ Karuna and it was communicated to the LTTE through the Tamil newspaper Sudaroli's editor, N. Vidyatharan, and its publisher, E. Saravanapavan. "Both the LTTE and the Army are preparing for war and the people and I are caught in the middle. We don't have to work through Norway, why don't we deal directly?" the President was quoted as saying. There was no immediate comment from the President’s office, but official sources said the President had made contact with a Tamil newspaper editor last week.
Meanwhile, the head of the LTTE Peace Secretariat, S. Pulidevan, told BBC Sandeshaya, that the outfit has no intention of sidelining the peace facilitators. He stated, “There have been some attempts by Mahinda Rajapaksa Government to make direct links with the LTTE sidelining the Norwegian facilitators. We firmly informed the Norwegian facilitators that we would like to keep them as the official channel between the parties.” He also denied that the outfit’s political wing leader, S.P. Thamilselvan responded to an offer by the President to engage in direct talks. The Hindu, Yahoo, June 26, 2006.
Government not to ban the LTTE: The Sri Lankan Government stated that it has no plans to ban the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as demanded by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) party. The Minister of Policy Planning and Defence spokesperson, Keheliya Rambukwella, said, “We will not do anything that will hinder a political settlement of the country's major (ethnic) problem. As far as terrorism is concerned, there is no stepping back. But we won't do anything that will preclude negotiations.” As reported earlier, the JVP had demanded that the Government ban the LTTE in Sri Lanka, as done by various other countries. Colombo Page, June 22, 2006.
‘Colonel’ Karuna faction kills eight LTTE cadres in Trincomalee District: Eight Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) cadres were killed during an overnight clash with ‘Colonel’ Karuna group cadres in the Trincomalee District on June 20, 2006. An unnamed military official stated, "There was an incident between the Karuna faction and the LTTE in Trincomalee just after midnight. There was some firing going on from both sides. Ground and technical sources revealed eight Tiger cadres had been killed," adding, "Government forces were not involved." Meanwhile, Puratchi, head of the LTTE students’ union in Trincomalee, told Reuters on June 21, "Our forward defense lines were shelled in Trincomalee. But no one was killed or injured. We don't think Karuna was involved. It was military forces.” Reuters, June 22, 2006.
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