SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
There has been much breathless editorializing about ‘security reforms’ having been put on the ‘fast track’ since the hurried passage of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act (UAPA) by Parliament. Virtually no meaningful debate or discussion preceded the passage of these Acts, particularly regarding the mandate, provisions and resources of the proposed NIA, on the one hand, or the necessity or effectiveness of the clauses of the ‘tough law’ amendments to the UAPA. There was, however, much partisan posturing and, despite the enthusiasm of many a long-in-tooth expert, it can safely be said that these two instrumentalities have now already exhausted much (if not all) of their potential utility – neither can be expected to have any significant impact on India’s capacities to counter the relentless waves of terror that will inevitably come in the foreseeable future; the passage of these Bills has, however, served to deflect the attention of an uncomprehending public and an uncritical media from far more pressing CT imperatives. Within the political calculus – if there are no early repeats of Mumbai 26/11 – this may just get the parties over the hump of the coming General Elections with no extraordinary pressure to do much more.
Nevertheless, the cheerleaders of the regime would have us believe that, with the establishment of the NIA, India will now have an agency "like the FBI". This would be laughable, were it not, at once, both tragic and contemptible. What is not understood, when imitative remedies such as the NIA are proposed, is that every ‘solution’ occurs within a particular resource configuration. Simply saying that America has prevented attacks after 9/11, so we must do what America did, is plain stupid. America does not have Pakistan – the epicentre of global terrorism – as its immediate neighbour. America has launched two major wars purportedly with the objective of containing the ‘sources of terrorism’ abroad. And, with a GDP of USD 14.14 trillion and a population of just over 300 million, its resources are, in comparison to India’s, with a GDP just pushing USD 1 trillion and a population of 1.2 billion, virtually limitless. Specifically, the FBI’s annual budget stands at USD 7.1 billion – to match this for India’s population, we would need to envisage an expenditure of at least four times as much. The Centre’s outlay under ‘policing’ currently amounts to just USD 3 billion. While the total allocations for the NIA are still to be defined (indeed, would hardly have been estimated, given the haste and incoherence that attended the drafting of the NIA Bill) reports suggest that the ‘initial budget’ is to be a paltry INR 20 million (about USD 423,000) as ‘non-recurring expenditure’ and INR 30 million (about USD 634,000) as ‘recurring expenditure’ for the present financial year.
There is also some talk of carrying our imitation further to create a Department (or Ministry) of Homeland Security in India as well. It would be useful to remind ourselves that this Department’s declared Budget in the US amounts to USD 44 billion (excluding the budgets of the various agencies and departments it coordinates and controls). Its ‘secret’ budget is described by sources as ‘without limit’. The US also spends USD 650 billion on Defence alone, within a total expenditure bill of USD 2,730 billion. The total annual outlay of the Union Government in India amounts to just USD 150 billion.
Efforts to imitate American ‘solutions’ have already created a number of utterly dysfunctional agencies at the Centre over the past years, including the National Security Council (with its ponderous ‘secretariat’ and advisory board), the Defence Intelligence Agency, the Department of Net Assessment and the National Disaster Management Authority (imitating the Federal Emergency Management Agency). Most of these institutions remain under-manned and under-resourced across all parameters, and operate under ambiguous mandates, with little effective or statutory authority, and every one of them has failed to secure the objectives of its creation.
The NIA’s mandate, according to the Bill passed by the Lok Sabha on December 16, 2008, moreover, fails to correspond even remotely to the FBI’s mandate. Within the scope of the latter, the FBI is statutorily obligated to investigate every single incidence of a Federal Offence – that is, every violation of Federal Law, or offence on Federal property. The NIA, however, is going to cherry pick "fit cases to be investigated by the Agency… having regard to the gravity of the offence and other relevant factors." But this is entirely counter-productive since terrorism is a complex and ongoing offence and the distinction between ‘major’ and ‘minor’ incidents can be misleading. Major conspiracies often comprise a succession of minor offences, eventually culminating in the final strike. On the other hand, if the NIA’s mandate was to be expanded (at some indeterminate point in the future) to cover every offence relating to its charter – that is, "offences affecting the sovereignty, security and integrity of India, security of State, friendly relations with foreign States and offences under Acts enacted to implement international treaties, agreements, conventions and resolutions of the United Nations…" – this would yield tens of thousands of case every year, and require thousands of skilled investigators within the Agency. It is useful, in this context, to note that the Centre has failed to provide the requisite manpower and resources even for a comparatively tiny Central Bureau of Investigation to fulfil its relatively insignificant mandate.
It is useful to pause here, for a moment. The CBI has suffered chronic manpower shortages, which are particularly acute at the level of senior officers and investigators. At top levels, all three posts Special Director/Additional Directors, for instance, are currently vacant. Two posts of Joint Director are vacant, out of a sanctioned strength of 18; the deficit at DIG level is 12 of 38 posts; 22 of 100 posts in the rank of Superintendent of Police (SP) are vacant or held in ‘additional charge’. Crucially, current vacancies at the level of Investigating Officers (IO), the cutting edge of the Agency, number 91, against an unspecified total strength. The CBI’s manpower profile, moreover, is a complete muddle, with officers drawn on deputation from entirely unrelated services – the State Police Forces, the Central Paramilitary Forces, and other Police organisations. By the time they begin to learn the ropes of investigation, the time for repatriation to their parent departments, or, at senior levels, for retirement, looms at hand.
Against such a background, how can it even be imagined that the NIA would rise, fully formed, functional and efficient, from the womb of the earth? Given the Centre’s disastrous record of institution-building and the management of existing institutions, scepticism – indeed, cynicism – is not only reasonable, it is inescapable. The NIA can only cannibalize existing organisations – already suffering from acute skill and manpower shortages – for a small manpower component in the foreseeable future. Even in the long run, there will be inflexible caps to its capacities for recruitment of suitable personnel – caps that now afflict virtually every Government organisation at specialised and supervisory levels. In the relatively small pool of educated resources in the country (India has an abysmal 9 per cent Higher Education Participation Rate, compared to 35 to over 60 per cent in most Western countries – and 6 to 7 of this 9 per cent would be unemployable, given the quality of general education), a diminishing proportion is now willing to join the Government, despite a continuous dilution of standards in most services.
In its present form, consequently, the NIA is destined to irrelevance. A more comprehensive mandate, however, is an impossibility within the prevailing resource configurations. Moreover, several provisions – including those relating to the NIA’s authority to supersede State investigative agencies – may attract Constitutional impediments, and are certain to be challenged when the very first cases are taken up by the NIA. Further, it is not clear how an ‘investigative agency’, whose role comes into play after a crime has been committed, is going to prevent future attacks.
For a final reality check, it is useful to note that Pakistan has had a Federal Investigation Agency since 1975. In case no one has noticed, that has not put an end to terrorism in the land of the pure.
What is argued here is not that the NIA can have no conceivable utility within the architecture of counter-terrorist strategy, but that it can have no immediate utility within the circumstances currently prevailing in India; that this cannot be a national priority; and that the NIA that India is currently capable of putting up (in terms of manpower, resources and skills) can have no plausible bearing on the trajectory of terrorism in India.
Moving on, it is, indeed, astonishing that the very political formation that has been vociferously arguing for over a decade that POTA was ineffectual in containing terrorism – their favourite phrase was, "POTA could not prevent the attack on Parliament" – is now offering a ‘tough anti-terrorism law’ as a solution to terrorism. It is, of course, obvious that the opposition to POTA was inspired by electoral calculations, and it is the case that these calculations may have changed dramatically after Mumbai 26/11. Regrettably, the half-truth of that original argument remains inescapable. A counter-terrorism (CT) law is as ‘tough’ as its implementing mechanism. Within the degraded policing and security environment in India, and the equally debilitated justice system, a ‘tough law’ will be of no more than marginal utility, if not entirely toothless, in fighting terrorism.
The disturbing reality is that, far from offering any ‘solution’ to terrorism, the NIA and ‘tough law’ Acts simply confirm that India, today, is a country utterly consumed by irrational belief systems and unexamined faiths. What we see here, is a triumph of form over content, a kind of strategic vastu shastra – a symbolic shifting about of doors and windows, a shuffling of spaces, that has no realistic impact on the strength or utility of the edifice.
The Government’s responses have, of course, not been limited to just these two initiatives – although an overwhelming proportion of laudatory comment has been devoted to these. Crucially, there have been a large number of declarations of intent and official ‘sanctions’ for capacity augmentation in a number of critical organizations and agencies. It is useful to list the principal among these:
It is not possible, here, to give a detailed critique of each of these proposals. It can be said, however, that most of these are, at best, marginally incremental, and, at worst, entirely misdirected. The decision to locate ‘elite’ NSG units in several strategic and urban centres across India, for instance, – what can accurately be described as the ‘Rambo model’ of response – is ill-conceived. The idea is that these small contingents of this ‘crack’ Force would quickly be able to smash up any terrorist group that may have the audacity to attack. Regrettably, it can be anticipated that the terrorists will not do us the courtesy of attacking where we are prepared for them; consequently, delays in actual deployment of the NSG – while they may not be as interminable as was the case in the 26/11 attack at Mumbai, will still remain significant. Worse the NSG’s present record at Mumbai does not support a very positive assessment of its capabilities. Even if the delay in arrival at the incident sites is discounted, the awkward reality is that, considering the sheer protraction of the incident and the magnitude of damage just eight terrorists inflicted with small arms and grenades, their eventual neutralization can hardly be considered an exemplary operational success.
It is useful to reiterate, here, that any terrorist operation can only be contained or neutralized, in terms of its potential, in the first few minutes. Which means that the ‘first responders’ – invariably the local Police – have to be equipped, trained and capable of, if not neutralising, then, at least, containing the terrorists.
The reality is that, while ‘special forces’ such as the NSG (or, better, Quick Response Teams within the Police setup) may play a significant tactical role in counter-terrorism, the strategic success of India’s counter-terrorism responses will depend overwhelmingly on the capacities, mandate and effectiveness of its ‘general forces’. It is, however, in these that the greatest and most intolerable deficits currently exist.
It is crucial, in this context, to note that, despite so much hysteria and posturing over the ‘terrorist threat’ over the past years, the police-population ratio in India actually fell marginally from 126 per 100,000 in 2006 to 125 per 100,000 in 2007. As repeatedly emphasised on SAIR, most Western countries have ratios ranging between 225 per 100,000 to over 500 per 100,000. Western Police Forces, moreover, tend to confront challenges that are far less acute than those Indian Police Forces are facing, and are, in any event, infinitely better equipped, trained and resourced than their Indian counterparts, many of whom move around on foot, armed with nothing more than a lathi (cane) or an 1895 vintage .303 rifle, and with little training in the use of the latter.
While the various initiatives and sanctions announced can, at best, help in marginally augmenting capacities, it also remains the case that their implementation is, itself, suspect, given the Government’s past record. Specifically, one December 20 report in the Indian Express suggested comprehensive failures even in utilizing funds allocated for security upgrades. For instance, of INR 7.15 billion allocated for the Police under ‘plan expenditure’ in the current financial year – largely for acquisition of weapons and equipment – Police organisations under the MHA had spent a mere 10.7 per cent. The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), the apex technical intelligence body set up on the recommendations of the Kargil Review Committee, had spent, till November this year, just INR 1.95 billion of a total allocation of INR 24.20 billion. The NTRO received INR 18.5 billion in 2006-07, of which it ‘surrendered’ (as unspent) INR 14.14 billion on the grounds that it could not ‘finalize’ purchase of required communications equipment.
Sanctions and allocations, consequently, have little bearing on capacities and implementation within the Indian system. As one Western commentator notes, "You don’t deserve any praise for doing what you're supposed to do. But in India, bureaucrats who actually do their jobs are virtually heroes."
These are the core realities that need immediate attention. It is obvious that the Centre has come under enormous political pressure to show ‘quick results’. However, the will to address the tasks of capacity building, which constitute the real responses to terrorism is still lacking. A large part of the problem is that these tasks cannot be addressed within a timeframe that could have electoral relevance (the General Elections, we must remember, are just around the corner). However, unless the endemic capacity deficits – both in quantum and quality – are addressed across the intelligence, enforcement and justice spectrum, an ‘effective response’ to terrorism cannot be devised.
What stands out clearly in the present context is the sheer audacity of the enterprise of terror, and utter timidity of our responses. The panicky actions that have been announced by the Government will, in fact, threaten our national confidence even further, when new and horrific attacks occur in the future. The argument, then, will be: Why have we failed again? The Government told us that we now have a ‘strong law’, an NIA, more NSG commandos in more places, more boats and equipment with the Coast Guard, more capacities for intelligence gathering and operations… that it has, in other words, ‘responded’ effectively to Mumbai 26/11. Why then do we remain vulnerable?
The answer, to those who will bother to look at the facts, is obvious. The number of those who will bother to look at the facts, however, is minuscule. By and large, the general public is celebrating the creation of an agency "like the FBI" and the "strong law", which the Government is presently tom-tomming – and which will do nothing to add to our CT capabilities. And this general public will also respond with hysteria and an undiscriminating revulsion against politicians and particular political parties in the wake of the next, inevitable, attack.
Our greater strength is not going to come from ‘tough laws’ and from hollow metastructures like the NIA, or from incremental augmentations of capacity; they can only arise from greater efficiency and capability in the execution of the quotidian tasks of anti-crime and anti-terrorist intelligence and operations, policing, enforcement, and the imposition of the rule of law across all parameters. These tasks can only be fulfilled by objective-driven responses – capacity building on the basis, not of incremental augmentations of what we have, but of radical augmentations in terms of what we need.
Even the task of assessing these objective needs, is yet to begin.
Another Year of Fratricide
The Naga insurgency in India’s troubled Northeast has, over the years, become increasingly fratricidal, and trends in 2008 only demonstrate a further acceleration along this trajectory. While 154 deaths were caused by militancy in 2007, fatalities increased to 201 in 2008, with another week to go before the current year ends. The fatalities put Nagaland in the third place in the vortex of violence in the States of India’s Northeast, behind Manipur (484) and Assam (384).
Insurgency-related Fatalities in Nagaland: 2001-2008
*Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India
** South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP)
Nagaland registered 154 fatalities in 272 insurgency-related incidents in 2007, according to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Year 2008 has seen 244 such incidents, claiming the lives of 175 persons till August 31, according to the MHA. The SATP database indicates, further, that 26 persons, including 7 civilians and 19 militants, were killed in the subsequent three months, till December 21, 2008, yielding a provisional total of 201 fatalities in the year, including 68 civilians, three Security Force (SF) personnel and 130 insurgents. Total fatalities in 2007 and 2008 signal a dramatic escalation of violence in the State, registering the worst levels since the ceasefire signed with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim – Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), the dominant insurgent outfit in the State, in 1997.
The insurgents comprise nearly 65 per cent of the total fatalities, with virtually the entire number ascribed to internecine clashes, in the absence of any significant insurgent-SF standoffs. The SATP database, indicates that at least 98 insurgents and 12 civilians were killed in as many as 75 internecine clashes in the State. Providing figures on the impact of such clashes, on September 9, 2008, the State Home Minister Imkong L. Imchen informed the State Legislative Assembly that 144 people, including 110 militants, 31 civilians and three security personnel, were killed in insurgency-related incidents in Nagaland from January 1 to August 15, 2008. He further said that a total of 21 people were arrested by Police in connection with insurgency-related violence and booked under the National Security Act. He added that that, between May 2006 and July 2008, the State Police and Security Forces had seized 155 pistols, ten carbines and stenguns, 33 AK rifles, one SLR, 24 assorted rifles, 17 SBBL, 12 grenades and 15,344 rounds of assorted ammunition.
The now comprehends at least 10 of the 11 Districts in the State. Seven of these Districts have, witnessed all of its 75 internecine clashes. 54 such incidents occurred in Dimapur alone, while 12 were located in Kohima, four in Mokokchung, two in Peren, and one each in Phek, Mon and Wokha. Two principal groupings, the IM and Khapalng (K) factions of the NSCN, are the traditional actors in this continuing attritional war since 1988. The year 2008 saw the emergence of a new player, the NSCN-Unification, which was formed following the ‘Niuland Declaration’ of November 2007, within the ongoing tug of war between the NSCN-IM and K. Subsequent battle lines have been drawn between an allied NSCN-K and NSCN-U, on the one hand, and the NSCN-IM, on the other. The NSCN-U, however, appears to have vanished from the conflict after the fist week of August 2008, with the past months seeing a reemergence of the earlier trend of fatricidal conflict between the IM and K factions. The sudden disappearance of the NSCN-U from the battlefield does not, however, undermine the reality that sub-ethnicity remains the major faultine of the current Naga confrontation. While the Tangkhul Naga tribe dominates the NSCN-IM, the Konyaks dominated the NSCN-K, and the Semas, the NSCN-U.
The major incidents of Year 2008 include:
January 14: Three senior cadres of the NSCN-K were shot dead and another cadre was abducted by the rival NSCN-IM militants in a hideout at Mingkong in the Mokokchung District, for their alleged involvement in extortion.
April 17: Two NSCN-U cadres and one from the rival NSCN-IM were killed while another cadre from the NSCN-IM was abducted in three separate incidents of factional violence in Dimapur.
April 22: Two NSCN-U militants and two NSCN-IM militants were killed during an internecine clash between the two outfits at Tenyiphe-I near St. Joseph’s School along the road towards Khopanalla in Dimapur.
May 1: Two civilians and a NSCN-U cadre were killed during an internecine clash between rival NSCN-IM and NSCN-U militants at Old Showuba village under Niuland sub-division in Dimapur.
May 16: At least 14 cadres of the NSCN-K and the NSCN-U were killed by rival NSCN-IM militants during a clash at Seithekema C village in Dimapur. Two civilians were later killed by NSCN-IM militants when they opened fire on people who attacked the Cease-fire Monitoring Cell of the outfit located in the same area.
June 4: At least 15 cadres of the NSCN-IM and NSCN-U were killed in separate factional clashes in and around Dimapur.
June 26: Seven NSCN-U militants were killed when their main camp located at Vihokhu in Dimapur was overrun by NSCN-IM militants.
October 3: Three NSCN-K cadres were killed when the NSCN-IM attacked a transit camp of the NSCN-K at Lower Agri colony in Kohima.
Though no accurate break-up of the fatalities attributed to each of the three insurgent groups involved in the ethnic clashes exists, a rough appraisal indicates that the NSCN-K and U combine has lost relatively more cadres than that of their bete noire, the IM faction, in the current year. According one estimate dating back to February 2008, the NSCN-IM had raised its cadre strength from 3,000 to 5,000 and had also nearly doubled its weapon holdings since 1997. Further, major Naga civil society groups – the Naga Hoho (apex tribal body), Naga Mother’s Association (NMA), Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR), Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) and United Naga Council (UNC) – continued to actively support the NSCN-IM cause. There is a consequent continuity with earlier trends in which the IM faction prevailed over its rival formations.
There have been several instances of defection of cadres among the warring Naga groups in the year 2008, prominently including:
March 16: Two NSCN-K militants, Kivi Kips and Vikiye Zhimomi, defected to the NSCN-IM.
April 30: One self-styled ‘colonel’ of the NSCN-IM, identified as L.Y. Shanga alias Yurthing, died when a lethod bomb accidentally exploded in his hand at Camp Hebron in Dimapur. Meanwhile, the NSCN-U alleged that Shanga was ‘executed’ at Camp Hebron on the suspicion of his attempt to defect to the NSCN-U.
May 19: The formation of a new militant outfit, United Naga People's Council (UNPC), was formally declared before the media at an unspecified location in the Senapati District of Manipur. The UNPC reportedly consisted of cadres who had defected from the NSCN-IM.
July 1: Nine NCSN-K cadres and one cadre of the Naga National Council (NNC) defected to the NSCN-IM. A welcome ceremony on their joining the outfit with arms and ammunition was held at an unspecified location in the Tamenglong District of neighbouring Manipur.
July 21: The Dimapur District Police recovered the dead body of an NSCN-IM cadre, Hokheshe Kinimi, from the Burma Camp area. According to unconfirmed reports, Hokheshe had defected from the rival NSCN-K.
August 20: Police arrested one NSCN-K cadre, ‘2nd Lt.’ Akato Yepthomi, during a search operation at Kalibari Junction. One M20 pistol with 16 live rounds, two magazines and a mobile phone were recovered from his possession. Police said Akato had earlier defected from the NSCN-IM.
October 11: A NSCN-K cadre, Nekavi Chishi, was shot dead by the rival NSCN-IM militants at Diphupar village in the Dimapur District. According to Police sources, Nekavi defected from the NSCN-IM.
October 12: Two NSCN-IM militants were shot dead by their own cadres at Mahur town near Haflong of North Cachar Hills District in Assam. The latter had joined the NSCN-IM after defecting from the rival NSCN-K faction.
November 4: Four NSCN-K cadres defected to the NSCN-IM camp in the Mokokchung District. A declaration to that effect was made by the NSCN-IM.
This sub-ethnic war of attrition is being waged under the camouflage of extended cease-fire agreements, which the Union of Government signed with the NSCN-IM in 1997 and the NSCN-K in 2001.There is, thus, little evidence of compliance with the cease-fire ground rules, which stipulate that the militants stay in designated camps, ban their movement in uniform and with arms, and prohibit extortion. A November 21 report indicated that the Naga insurgent groups smuggled huge quantities of sophisticated arms and ammunition across the India-Myanmar border in October 2008. The NSCN-K displayed M-series rifles, AK-47 rifles, rocket launchers, RPGs and other ammunition at Zunheboto on October 26 and even issued a Press Release to that effect. The report, quoting MHA sources, mentioned that more than 30 AK-47 rifles, about 40 M-Series rifles and 200 grenades, were on display. Intelligence reports suggest that nearly 100 cadres, led by Niki Sumi of the Khaplang group, transported the contraband to Nagaland with the help of Meitei outfits in Manipur. The NSCN-IM was reportedly in contact with Thai arms smugglers who used to get arms and ammunition transported through the India-Myanmar border with the help of local agents.
What makes the mockery of cease-fire ground rules much more glaring is the frequent movement of armed cadres in civilian-populated areas. Such movement is almost continuous, but has been brought to light on some occasions as a result of protests by civilian groups. For instance, on May 18, the District Level Co-ordination Group of Dimapur appealed to the rival factions of the NSCN to immediately vacate civilian-populated areas and move to their designated camps. The appeal, however, made little difference to the prevailing state of affairs. Finally, on June 6, armed cadres of NSCN-IM and NSCN-U were evicted from the civilian areas, when the Dimapur District Co-ordination Group, assisted by around 800 armed Police, India Reserve Battalions and Assam Rifles personnel, conducted a thirteen-hour ‘flush out’ exercise in different colonies of the town and in nearby villages.
The Naga Reconciliation Forum, headed by Baptist clergyman Wati Aier, Baptist World Alliance and a UK-based Quaker group, organised a reconciliation meeting of the Naga factions, mass-based Naga organisations and tribal Hohos at Chiang Mai in Thailand in June, 2008. The unification move subsequently received a jolt when the NSCN-K rejected the offer made by the rival NSCN-IM for a dialogue outside the country.
Legislative Assembly elections were held in the State on March 5, 2008, resulting in the formation of a 12-member Ministry of the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) led by Neiphiu Rio as Chief Minister. Prior to the election, the Adino faction of the NNC had asked the people to boycott the polls. The NSCN-K had also warned of stringent action against its cadres in case of their failure to boycott the polls. The NSCN-IM, which had earlier made an appeal for support to the candidates who had extended help to the organization in its pursuit of a solution to the protracted Naga political problem, subsequently said that it would not get involved in the election process. There were, however, some instances of pre-poll violence involving militant groups. For instance, on February 26, two persons, Talisubo and Yangersenba, were shot dead by suspected militants at Tzudikong town in the Mokokchung District. On the same day, unidentified militants set ablaze two vehicles belonging to supporters of the Congress party candidate, K Therie, near Zuketsa village in the Phek District and took away another vehicle. Again, on February 27, two activists of the Nagaland People’s Front party, including one Ngupe Lasuh, were abducted by unidentified militants from the party camp at ‘D’ Block in Kohima. Two days later, on February 29, Police recovered Ngupe’s dead body from Medzhephima. Further, on March 3, two unidentified militants killed Farkanudin, chairman of the Dimapur Muslim Council and gaonbura (headman) of New Market, at his residence in Dimapur. He was a supporter of the Congress party. On the poll day (March 5), unidentified militants hurled a bomb at the residence of I. Imkong, Congress Legislature Party leader, at Sangtemla ward in Mokokchung Town. Imkong was also the Congress party candidate from 29 Jangpetkong Assembly Constituency. On the same day, a major attack was averted at Dimapur when Assam Rifles (AR) personnel recovered a mine, two hand grenades and two AK-47 rifles meant to attack polling booths during the elections.
Naga political violence is also peppered with purely criminal offences. On September 20, around fifteen people, including two NSCN-IM cadres, died and 40 others fell seriously ill after inhaling a poisonous gas while pilfering crude oil from a goods train at Chaiding between Dhansiri and Rangapahar of Karbi Anglong District in the neighbouring State of Assam.
Extortion remains the dominant form of militancy-related offences in the State. The militants operate a "regime of extortion and abduction targeting not just the civilian population in the State, but also the transit traffic and travellers bound for neighbouring Manipur, on the National Highways passing through Nagaland". Confirming this, the MHA on January 29, 2008, wrote to the Nagaland Government, broadening the definition of cease-fire violations to include, among others, extortion in the garb of collecting ‘taxes’, as well as abduction and killings for ransom. The MHA’s letter has, however, had no impact on the ground, with the state of affairs undergoing little change since then. Sources indicate that, in the first seven months of 2008, three factions of the NSCN had extracted over INR 2 billion through their extortion drives in Nagaland’s commercial township of Dimapur alone. Naga militant groups extort money not just from all and sundry in cities like Dimapur, capital Kohima and various District headquarters and townships, the ‘tax collection’ net is also spread over almost all of Nagaland’s 1,317 villages. A conservative estimate of the annual budget of the NSCN-IM alone is in the range of INR 2 billion to INR 2.5 billion.
The patterns of extortion indicate that non-Naga traders have been made frequent targets of the militants’ ‘tax net’. Police sources revealed that more than a dozen non-Naga traders had been killed by the NSCN militants for ransom or over payment of extortion demands in 2008. Over a hundred had been abducted for ransom.
Commercial vehicles plying on National Highway–39, en route, to Manipur are subjected to a variety of ‘taxes’ by the militant factions with the full knowledge of state agencies in Dimapur. The IM faction has set up 26 permanent ‘tax’ collection points along the National Highway. The modus operandi of ‘tax’ collection at these points is systematic and elaborate. According to one estimate, every commercial vehicle passing through this route pays out at least INR 4,000 per trip as ‘taxes’ to the outfit. Truckers who fail to pay are often assaulted and forced to pay exorbitant ‘fines’. On many occasions, trucks have been looted or set ablaze for ‘non-compliance’. With the Government remaining indifferent, the impact of this sustained extortion is severely felt on the prices of essential commodities in adjoining Manipur, on a permanent basis.
The overriding dominance of the Naga militants has not been challenged either by any effective Police action, or by the Army or Central Para Military Forces (CPMFs), which remain constrained by the cease-fire rules, and reluctant to carry out any necessary counter-insurgency operations to stop the activities of the militant groups and implement the cease-fire rules. On the contrary, political patronage has sustained militancy in Nagaland. The State Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio on April 23, 2008, said: "The State Government and the constituent units of the DAN will support the cause of the Eastern Nagas in Myanmar to help them get due political recognition and rights from the Government there… They have been neglected by Yangon. The Nagas in Nagaland should unanimously support them to facilitate their development along with other Naga communities." He also asked the military regime in Myanmar to declare a truce with the NSCN-K. Within a month, on May 10, 2008, kilonser (minister) of the same outfit, Kughalu Mulatonu, accused the Chief Minister and Opposition Leader I. Imkong of funding the NSCN-IM with INR 150 million and INR 50 milion respectively, just before the Assembly Elections in March 2008. Imkong, however, refuted the allegation. "I urge Mr. Mulatonu to come out with facts and evidence to prove his allegations. This is not the first time he has tried to drag me into controversies," Imkong, the Congress party leader, said.
Two rounds of peace talks with the NSCN-IM were held on April 16 and May 28, 2008. The Union Labour and Employment Minister Oscar Fernandes on July 13 said that the NSCN-IM has met senior Government functionaries at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and is "inching towards accepting the Indian Constitution." Meanwhile, the Union Government extended the cease-fire with the NSCN-K by another year from April 28. The Government, on June 1, 2008, appointed M. L. Kumawat, Special Secretary (Internal Security) of the MHA, as Chairman of the Cease-fire Monitoring Group (CFMG) and Cease-fire Supervisory Board (CFSB) in Nagaland. The official reshuffle was explained by some sources saying, "Gen. Kulkarni has miserably failed to stop the inter-factional clashes and implement the agreed Ceasefire Ground Rules (CFGR) in the State, for which the MHA has replaced him by Mr. Kumawat." The sources added, "The appointment of an MHA officer as the chairman of the CFMG and CFSB is likely to change the entire insurgency scenario and lead towards a peaceful atmosphere in this decades-long insurgency-affected State." On June 13, a meeting of the CFSB between the Union Government and the NSCN-K was held at Chumukedima near Dimapur. Official sources said that the discussion took place on shifting the Vihokhu camp of the outfit to a new location at Khetoi under Niuland sub-division in the Dimapur District. Nearly six months later – with Kumawat now having been moved out of the MHA (he has taken over as Director General of the Border Security Force) – the situation appears to have undergone no measurable change.
Several initiatives for de-escalation of violence have been taken up by concerned citizens of the State. Peace rallies, consisting of thousands of people, were organised by the gaon buras (village chiefs) and dubashis (chiefs of Naga customary courts) in all 11 District headquarter towns on May 20, 2008, asking the warring Naga factions to stop violence in the State. Spontaneous protests by harried citizens have also occurred in the wake of escalating tensions between warring NSCN factions in various locations across the State.
The Nagaland Police has played little role in imposing a measure of order in this dismal scenario, despite the fact that the State boasts a Police-population ratio (Policemen per 100,000 population) of 475. While this is lower than Manipur (627), the State worst affected by militancy in the region (where the Police remains just as inactive and irrelevant to counter-insurgency operations), it is dramatically higher than Assam (176), where the Police have played a significant role in the counter-insurgency battle. Nagaland’s ratio is also far in excess of the national average, at 125. Similarly, Police density (Policemen per 100 square kilometre area) is 62.2 for Nagaland. While this is lower than Assam (66.4) and Manipur (73.2), it is significantly higher than the national average (45.0). On the front of Police modernisation, available data indicates that Nagaland’s utilisation of the central funds between 2000-01 and 2003-04 was 100 per cent, against an allocation of INR 472.5 million [In 2004-05, the usage was 68.98 percent, with incomplete utilisation figures, and an allocation of INR 130.9 million]. The impact of relative Police strength and ‘modernisation’, however, has been fully undermined by political ambivalence and a succession of policy failures, leaving little effective role for the State Police.
The existing constraints on Army and CPMF operations, coupled with improper political and administrative direction over the State Police, leave little space for an effective counter-insurgency response in Nagaland that could establish any order within the intense intra-group violence and the dominance of the militant groups at any point in the foreseeable future.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
December 15-21, 2008
State of emergency ends: On December 16, 2008, an ordinance promulgated by the President repealed the Emergency Powers Ordinance 2007 and Emergency Powers Rules 2007, thereby ending the state of Emergency and restoring fundamental rights. The state of Emergency had been enforced on January 11, 2007 amid political turmoil over the ninth parliamentary elections. Political parties and candidates are now free to participate in electioneering for the December 29 General Election without having to face any restrictions. The Daily Star, December 17, 2008.
Two anti-terror Bills passed in Parliament: The Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) on December 17, 2008, passed the National Investigation Agency Bill, 2008, and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act Amendment Bill, 2008, by a voice vote. The House rejected amendments moved by the Communist Party of India-Marxist, and the bills were passed with broad unanimity and was later passed by the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) on December 18. Times of India, December 18, 2008.
889 persons killed and 2,072 injured in 61 suicide attacks in 2008: Suicide bombings in 2008 surpassed last year’s figures, with 61 attacks so far, killing at least 889 people and injuring 2,072, a source in the investigation agencies disclosed to The News. The total number of suicide blasts in Pakistan since 2002 has risen to 140 to date, while 56 bombers struck in 2007. Suicide bombers struck in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) on at least 29 occasions in 2008, while 16 others hit their targets in the adjacent Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Swat topped the list of Districts where 11 suicide bombers hit targets, killing 101 people and injuring 294 others. Four suicide bombers struck in Peshawar in 2008, killing 99 and wounding 226 others. Punjab witnessed 10 suicide blasts with five in Lahore alone. Three suicide bombers hit their targets in the federal capital, Islamabad, during 2008. Apart from the killing of three alleged bombers in Karachi, no suicide attack took place in the entire Sindh province. A single incident was reported in Balochistan, when a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing a young girl student and injuring 22 persons in Quetta on September 23.
Apart from 60 suicide bombers, who accomplished their mission, 12 were caught by the security agencies before hitting their targets, and are still in Police custody. All the tribal agencies, Khyber, Mohmand, Bajaur, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan and South Waziristan have witnessed either one or more suicide attacks during 2008. The Districts and towns where suicide attacks occurred during the current year include Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Bhakkar, Attock, Peshawar, Mardan, Parachinar, Swat, Darra Adamkhel, Landikotal, Bannu, Bara, Dera Ismail Khan, Dir Upper, Buner, Charsadda, Hangu and Quetta. The News, December 22, 2008.
Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar is at large, says Government: The Foreign Ministry has said that the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar "is wanted by the law enforcement authorities of Pakistan and is at large." The clarification came after Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told a television channel that Azhar was among the "important people" who had been taken into custody. A few hours earlier, Pakistan High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik told CNBC that his Government was still looking for Azhar. "He is not under house arrest. As far as I know, [the report of his house arrest] is wrong. He is not in Pakistan... We don’t know where he is," Malik said. Last week, Pakistan Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar told an Indian television channel that Azhar had been "picked up." The Hindu, December 19, 2008.
Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Saeed cannot be tried without solid proof, says Defence Minister: Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, chief of the banned Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), cannot be tried without solid proof, Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar said on December 17, 2008. According to a private TV channel, Mukhtar said Saeed had been detained under the Maintenance of Public Order regulation, which only allowed detaining a citizen for 90 days. The detention could be extended, he said, but India had not given solid proof to Pakistan about the involvement of Saeed or the LeT in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008. "In the absence of solid proof, neither Hafiz Saeed nor any other leader detained at the moment can be tried in any court of law," the channel quoted him as saying. Daily Times, December 18, 2008.
Plot to kill former President Pervez Musharraf unearthed: Authorities have claimed neutralizing a clandestine terror network set up by the jailed killer of Daniel Pearl inside the Hyderabad Jail, and the Sindh Government has suspended senior Police and jail officials after a large number of cell phones, SIM cards and other equipment were recovered. Highly-placed Interior Ministry sources said on December 17, 2008, that the jailed terrorist, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) cadre Ahmed Omar Sheikh, had also threatened General Pervez Musharraf on his personal cell phone in the second week of November 2008 and planned to get him assassinated by a suicide bomber. The caller reportedly told Musharraf: "I am after you, get ready to die." Subsequent investigations by the authorities revealed the threatening phone call was made by someone from the Hyderabad Central Jail. Being a suspect, Omar Sheikh was placed under observation before it transpired that he was the one who had threatened the former President. Authorities discovered that a plot had been hatched by Omar Sheikh to kill Musharraf with the connivance of some Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militants, with whom he had been in contact for a long time over the phone. Three mobile phones, six batteries, 18 SIM cards of almost every cellular company, and chargers were seized from Omar’s cell. Further scanning of his telephone records revealed he had been making calls all over Pakistan to former jihadis and relatives in Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi and Peshawar. Following the recovery of mobile phones and SIM cards from Omar Sheikh, the Sindh Home Department suspended (on Dec 1, 2008) Hyderabad Central Jail Superintendent Abdul Majid Siddiqui, his deputy Gul Mohammad Sheikh and four other jail officials on charges of showing criminal negligence. The News, December 18, 2008.
153 LTTE militants and 37 soldiers killed as fighting intensifies in North: 153 Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) militants and 37 soldiers were among 190 persons killed in separate incidents between December 15 and December 21, 2008, as fighting intensified in the North. Consequent to heavy fighting with the LTTE, troops of Task Force III captured the strategic Ampakamam village in Mullaitivu District in the morning of December 15. The town, located approximately seven kilometres north of Olumaduwai, was a main administrative hub of the outfit. In addition, the 59 Division troops took control of a three kilometres stretch of the Oddusudan– Mullaitivu (A-34) road from the south west of Mulliyavali village, totally cutting off links between Mullaitivu and Oddusudan which was a vital supply route connecting the coastal town with the southern part of Mullaitivu District. Earlier on December 14, the troops had captured a section of the Mullaitivu-Nedunkerni road and were operating close to the A-34 road that linked Mullaitivu to the Jaffna-Kandy (A-9) road. On December 16, 120 LTTE militants and 25 soldiers were killed during clashes between the two sides near the Kilaly and Muhamalai Forward Defence Lines (FDLs) of Jaffna District and elsewhere in the Kilinochchi sector. 250 militants and 160 soldiers sustained injuries while another 10 soldiers went missing. The troops also destroyed a part of the outfit’s five kilometre-long stretch of defensive earth bund (embankment) in the Kilinochchi sector from many different places, Army Headquarters stated. Further, the troops captured Chorikenkulam village, about seven kilometres to the west of the A-9 highway pushing militants further into the jungle areas. The pro-LTTE Website Tamil Net, however, claimed that more than 40 Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers were killed and at least 120 soldiers wounded in the morning of December 16, when the LTTE repulsed an offensive push by the SLA along the Kilali area of Jaffna District. Further, on December 17, the LTTE claimed that 130 SLA soldiers were killed and more than 300 wounded when the LTTE repulsed the multi-front offensive push by the SLA in Kilinochchi on December 16, which continued throughout the day on four main localities and along a wide stretch of the Kilinochchi frontiers. LTTE’s director of peace secretariat, S. Puleedevan, said on December 16, that the major push, which was foiled by the outfit, was the third debacle of the SLA in recent days in Kilinochchi. Further, the 59 Division troops now operating in the southern perimeter of the Mullaitivu centre totally cut off LTTE movement along the A-34 road as they captured a few kilometres-long swathe of land parallel to the road which lies about 6.5 kilometres southwest of Mullaitivu. On the same day, 15 dead bodies of LTTE militants were recovered, along with a cache of arms and ammunition from the Chorikenkulam area, about seven kilometres to the west of the A-9 highway, in the Kilinochchi District. Also, troops handed over 15 dead bodies of the LTTE militants to International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) officials to be taken across the Omanthai Entry/Exit point in Vavuniya to be delivered to the outfit. On December 18, troops expanded the existing Security Force’s Forward Defence Line (FDL) in the Karuppaddamurippu area of Mullaitivu District. The 57th Division troops captured the northern edge of the LTTE’s earth-cum-ditch bund from the western side of Iranamadu tank in the Kilinochchi District on December 19. Troops also destroyed a few more bunkers on the earth bund before they took control of an area of about 200 metres length, away from the pierced earth bund. With this the whole area east of the A-9 road up to the Iranamadu tank was brought under troop’s control. Troops of Task Force IV captured the LTTE controlled Nedunkerni in Mullaitivu District on December 21. The troops took full control of the area which lies 19 kilometres northeast of Puliyankulam, following an offensive launched in the morning of December 20. Meanwhile, troops repulsed an LTTE attack in the in the north of the Iranamadu area in the Kilinochchi District in the morning of December 21. However, 12 soldiers were killed and another 16 went missing, sources said, adding that another 34 soldiers suffered injuries in action. Meanwhile, the pro-LTTE Website Tamil Net claimed that 60 soldiers were killed in the battle and the Army was pushed back. The Defence Ministry, however, rejecting the LTTE claim, claimed that monitored LTTE radio transmissions revealed that the outfit suffered heavy casualties. Sri Lanka Army; Daily News; Tamil Net; Colombo Page, December 16-22, 2008.
TMVP splits as Karuna forms a new party: The leader of the Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal Party (TMVP) and parliamentarian Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias ‘Colonel’ Karuna Amman, has formed a new party named Tamileela Makkal Viduthalai Koddani (TMVK) or Tamil People’s Liberation Alliance. According to sources, the new party was a result of the crisis between Karuna and a faction led by his deputy, the Eastern Province Chief Minister Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan. Sources in the new party said Karuna wanted to change his former party’s name to drop the Tiger part from its English version of the Tamil People’s Liberation Tigers but couldn’t do it due to this crisis. This situation resulted in the new party, sources said. The TMVP may now appoint Pillayan as its leader, reports indicated. Colombo Page, December 21, 2008.