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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 2, No. 10, September 22, 2003

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



King-size Problem
Wasbir Hussain
Associate Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi; Consulting Editor, The Sentinel, Guwahati

During his five-day state visit to New Delhi last week (September 14-18, 2003), King Jigme Singye Wangchuck of Bhutan said that his Government had extended written invitations to three Indian separatist rebel groups for talks in his capital, Thimphu, to finalize the question of their peaceful withdrawal from the Himalayan kingdom after their 'forcible occupation' of parts of it, beginning the early nineties. The King's statement was not only wrongly seen as a disclosure of sorts by a section of the Indian media, but has also been superficially interpreted as a 'positive development' that could hasten the process of the Indian insurgents pulling out of Bhutan lock, stock and barrel.

By far the only real disclosure that King Wangchuck made during his interaction with the media was his admission to the fact that there are '19 or 20' camps of Indian insurgent groups inside Bhutan. Besides, prominent Bhutanese leaders accompanying him, and who are privy to official information, have gone on record saying that the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) is now believed to have eight camps inside the kingdom with a total of 1,560 cadres. The National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), another banned Northeast Indian separatist organization, they added, has 740 cadres spread over another eight camps. And, finally, the Kamatapur Liberation Organization (KLO) has about 430 of its rebels in three or four camps inside Bhutan. While the ULFA and the NDFB are groups whose cadres are drawn from Assam, the KLO is active in the northern parts of West Bengal and Western Assam. All three groups are engaged in an armed struggle for independent homelands.

King Wangchuck's statement about invitations to the ULFA, NDFB and the KLO was not 'breaking news' because Bhutan's Home Minister, Thinley Gyamtsho, had told the country's National Assembly or Parliament in July 2003 that the insurgent groups had not responded to Thimphu's plea for fresh 'exit-talks' for the past two years. In fact, top Bhutanese officials like Ugyen Tshering, until recently the country's Foreign Secretary, had told this writer a few weeks ago, that Thimphu regarded as 'unfortunate' the rebels' lack of response to the Royal Government's invitation for fresh talks on their withdrawal from the kingdom. In December 2001, though, the ULFA, according to Bhutanese authorities, had 'dismantled' four of its nine camps following an earlier agreement. Evidently, the rebel group re-established or relocated some of these camps thereafter.

Even if King Wangchuck has sent out yet another invitation to the ULFA, NDFB and the KLO in recent weeks, and even if the rebels were to accept that and come over for dialogue on the pullout issue, the matter is unlikely to be easily resolved. There appears to be no simple way by which the rebels could leave the kingdom, even if they agree to the Royal Government's plea to do so. The rebels do have options in so far as alternative destinations are concerned, but intensified vigil by the Indian Army and Paramilitary Forces (PMF) along the 262-kilometer long Assam-Bhutan border and along the kingdom's border with the eastern Indian State of West Bengal, would make rebel movements into such alternative locations difficult, if not impossible. The issue, consequently, involves not just talks between the rebels and the Bhutanese Government, but between India and Bhutan as well.

At one stage in the past few years, some key officials at the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had talked about the possibility of granting the rebels safe passage to move through Assam, if the ULFA wanted to leave Bhutan and move into another country. That view was, however, dismissed by other MHA officials as soon it appeared in the media in the Northeast. Bhutan's Home Minister Gyamtsho, too, had said in the recent past that New Delhi might grant the rebels 'amnesty' if they were to withdraw from the kingdom and return to India. That the modalities for the pullout were a key issue hindering the rebels' withdrawal from Bhutan became clear when Bhutan's then foreign secretary Ugyen Tshering recently told this writer that the ULFA leadership had stated to the Bhutanese authorities that they were unable to fulfill their commitment of withdrawing from the kingdom in totality because of the increased presence of Indian troops on the Indo-Bhutan border in the Assam sector. Bhutanese authorities had confirmed that Thimphu had taken up this issue with New Delhi, but the Indian response was not known.

The possibilities of the ULFA accepting any 'amnesty' offer by New Delhi in the present scenario are remote, nor, indeed, has the Indian Government spoken of such an option. Were the ULFA to choose to honor King Wangchuck's wish, it could shift its men and military hardware to Bangladesh via Meghalaya's Garo Hills or to the Indo-Myanmar border in another northeastern Indian State, Arunachal Pradesh, to link up with the group's ally, the Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-K), which has bases in the area. Here, again, there are serious problems. If the rebels' movement to Arunachal Pradesh is fraught with dangers due to the Indian security presence along the routes, such difficulties are compounded with regard to their possible movement into Bangladesh. It is improbable that New Delhi would formally grant the insurgents a 'safe passage' into a third country such as Bangladesh, and were it to do so, Dhaka cannot officially permit Indian insurgents to enter the country openly, though it has long extended covert support to these groups.

The only other option available to Thimphu and New Delhi is, consequently, a joint pincer attack by Bhutanese and Indian security forces to flush out and neutralize the rebels. That would necessarily mean killing, capturing and disarming the rebels. While New Delhi may not be averse to the idea (Indian security agencies are said to have exact details of the location, strength and other details of the rebel camps), Thimphu still appears to be wary of pursuing such a course of action for fear of possible retaliation by the insurgents on innocent Bhutanese citizens who have to pass through Assam and West Bengal territory to reach some remote parts of the land-locked kingdom.

This fear may influence Thimphu to keep on trying to buy time, even while it fine-tunes its contingency plans. Fear of retaliation aside, Bhutan has concluded that a possible military action could result in massive loss of property, involving the lives of an estimated 66,000 people in 304 villages that are located in the areas around the insurgent camps. This is a sizeable figure, considering that the country's total population is just about 700,000. The National Assembly's latest directive to the Royal Government to try and have 'one last attempt' to persuade the rebels to dismantle their camps and leave the kingdom in a peaceful manner needs to be seen in this context. Unless New Delhi manages to prevail upon Thimphu to act tough, King Wangchuck and his Government leaders can be expected to continue to give out threats of using 'military force' to oust the Indian insurgents from the pristine nation in the Himalayas well into an indefinite future.




Jharkhand: Vigilantes in a Cycle of Violence
Nihar Nayak
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

  • On August 7, 2003, a local Village Resistance Group known as the Nagrik Suraksha Samiti (Citizens Protection Council) in Lango village under Dumaria police station in the east Singhbhum district of Jharkhand killed nine Left Wing extremists (called Naxalites) of the People's War Group (PWG), including two women and an 'area commander'. Two other Naxalites were maimed in the incident. The slain Naxalites included hardcore cadres of the PWG from Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa. The encounter was triggered by a feud between the extremists and the villagers over the formation of the citizens protection group, which had been set up by the Jharkhand Police to check the Naxalites. Villagers also resented the PWG's efforts to stop them from farming their land. The PWG had also instructed villagers not to accept seeds and other facilities from the Government. The victims of the lynching reportedly came to the village to warn the villagers against tying up with the local administration against the Naxalites.
  • On August 8, an irate mob of villagers lynched a PWG rebel in Chirugoda village under Potka police station in the East Singhbhum district of Jharkhand. The Naxalite killed was among the 14-member armed squad that had raided Lango on the previous day. The militant was caught when tribal men maintaining a night vigil got information that a PWG activist had taken refuge at the home of one of his relatives in Chirugoda.
  • On August 22, immediately after the Chief Minister's announcement of a Rs. 150 million development package for Naxalite-affected Dumaria block, the residents of Asthakuwale village of East Singhbhum district lynched one Naxalite when a group of 20 extremists, including women, arrived at the village under Ghorabandha police station and opened two rounds of fire when the residents refused to give in to their demand for food.

The lynching of 11 proscribed left-wing extremists last month by local Village Resistance Groups in three different incidents in East Singhbhum district in Jharkhand has been projected in official circles as a popular upheaval against the Naxalites. It is, however, far from the case that these incidents represent a decisive reversal of fortunes for the Naxalites. Retribution itself has been swift, though still limited. According to unconfirmed reports, a village watchman went missing after the killing of the PWG activists. The PWG killed two watchmen in Dumaria for passing on information to the police. Fear of retaliatory attacks continues to haunt the locals and villagers, as youth armed with bows and arrows guard strategic places in the villages in this hilly region.

At present Jharkhand is the worst Naxalite-affected State in India. Left Wing extremists, mostly the PWG and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) run virtual parallel governments in many areas, holding Jan Adalats (People's Courts) to settle both civil and criminal disputes, and imposing penalties that range from simple fines to mutilation and death. The Naxalites are active in 16 out of 22 districts of Jharkhand, of which the worst off include: Chatra, Palamu, Garhwa, Giridih, Latehar, Gumla, Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Lohardaga and Bokaro. Nearly 400 people, including 144 policemen, have been killed since November 2000, when Jharkhand was created after the bifurcation of the State of Bihar. Of late, the MCC is trying to expand and consolidate its presence in areas bordering Orissa as well. As a result, there has been a spurt in Naxalite activities in the Sardna forest areas in West Singhbhum district bordering Orissa. These rebels are also active in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

The increasing lethality of Naxalite groups is, to a considerable extent, due to the deepening understanding and coordination between the MCC and the PWG. In November 2002, a joint Statement issued by the two groups at Patna (Bihar) stated that the indiscriminate use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) against the activists and sympathizers of Naxalite groups by the Jharkhand Government had "compelled them to iron out differences" and fight jointly against the State machinery. The cementing over of differences between the two most powerful Naxalite groups in India is part of a larger strategy aimed at the unification of Maoist movements across South Asia.

Since the creation of the new State in November 2000, the authorities pursued a vigorous anti-Naxalite policy. The State has relied heavily on police operations to neutralize the armed groups. A team of civil society activists, which toured six districts of Jharkhand between January 29 and February 3, 2003, concluded that, "all the laws of the land are replaced by POTA". According to their findings, a total of 654 persons in Jharkhand had cases filed against them under POTA, 202 persons, including some 10 minors, had been arrested, and the total number of persons named under POTA stood at 3,200. The social profile of most of the arrested persons showed that a majority of them were either farmers, students or daily wagers. A majority of them were booked just because they gave the Naxalites food or were in possession of Naxalite literature. In contrast, the study noted, only 100 persons had been arrested and 400 accused under POTA in Jammu and Kashmir, a State far worse affected by terrorist violence. In Andhra Pradesh, another State significantly affected by persistent left-wing violence, an estimated 40 persons had been booked under POTA.

Little attention has been paid by State authorities to other critical issues that sustain Naxalite groups, such as the social roots and support structures of the Naxalite groups, their financial operations and empire, the relative unpreparedness of the police force, and the abysmal performance of the institutions of civil governance in Naxalite-affected areas. The result is that the Government's anti-Naxalite drive, despite the large scale use of the police and paramilitary forces, has failed to yield desired results. Rather, the Naxalite groups appear not only to have expanded their influence, but are increasingly using Jharkhand as an important base to secure their larger goal of the unification of Maoist movements in the country and across South Asia.

There have been allegations that the State is increasingly taking recourse to or promoting extra-judicial means to deal with the menace of Naxalism. The People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Jharkhand Unit questioned the role of the police in the lynching incidents and said: "No section of the community can be authorized / allowed for (sic) extra judicial execution and killing." The PUCL has also petitioned the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), accusing the police of persistent dereliction of duty in maintaining law and order in Dumaria block of the east Singhbhum district.

Isolated incidents of mob fury against the Naxalites, while they do reflect increasing popular frustrations with the 'revolutionaries', can hardly suffice to contain the menace of Left Wing extremism in the State. The Naxalites are evidently aware of this and continue to respond poorly to the repeated announcements of a 'surrender and rehabilitation' policy by the State Government. The recent offer by Chief Minister Arjun Munda to hold talks with the extremist groups active in the State has also received scant attention. Under the circumstances, incidents of random violence by civil protection groups or vigilantes can only result in an escalating cycle of violence in the State.



Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
September 15-21, 2003

Security Force Personnel






     Jammu &










Total (INDIA)



*   Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


Leader of Islamist extremist outfit Tamir-ul-Din secured training in Pakistan : Maulana Abdur Rauf, leader of the hitherto unknown Islamist outfit Tamir-ul-Din, who was arrested along with 17 others at Boalmari in Faridpur on September 19, 2003, has reportedly confessed to the police that he secured military training in Pakistan. These extremists were arrested from the house of Boalmari Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Kamruzzaman Mia Esken. Rauf, also a teacher of the Jamiatul Islamia Nurul Ulam Kawami Madrassah at Jibantala in Bhaluka, Mymensingh, revealed during interrogation that he fought in Afghanistan from 1989 till 1992. He was also at Deoband Madrassa (seminary) in India in 1982 as a fellow student of the main accused for the Gopalganj bomb planting during the Awami League rule, Mufti Hannan, and was trained in Karachi in 1989. After the arrests, police also conducted a raid on the seminary in Bhaluka and seized two cassettes on Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, covers of 500 audiocassettes on Jihad and subscription receipts of Tamir-ud-Din. Daily Star, September 20, 2003.

Government admits to plausible existence of ISI, Al-Qaeda in its territory: Bangladesh has admitted the possibility of existence of Pakistan's external intelligence agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), and Al Qaeda networks in its territory but stated that it has no evidence of their presence thus far. Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan reportedly said in Dhaka on September 19, 2003, "ISI and Al-Qaeda have their networks throughout the world and they might have their activities in our country also but we are not aware of this." He also expressed ignorance about the use of Bangladesh territory by the different terrorist outfits of Northeastern India and the aid of ISI and Al Qaeda to them in their subversive activities. This issue was reportedly also raised by the Tripura Chief Minister, Manik Sarkar, when he met Bangladesh Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia on September 18. Hindustan Times, September 20, 2003.


India and Bhutan agree to work closely against Northeast terrorists: India and Bhutan agreed in New Delhi on September 18, 2003, to work closely on checking the problem of Northeast terrorists operating from Bhutanese soil. A joint statement issued at the end of a five-day visit of Bhutanese King Jigme Singye Wangchuk stated that both countries would not allow their territories to be used by anyone to harm each other's interests. Indian Express , September 19, 2003.

Photographic evidence of terrorist camps in PoK, says Vice Chief of Army Staff: Army Vice Chief Lt. Gen. Shantonu Choudhary said in Delhi on September 17, 2003, that there has been "a quantum jump" in infiltration across the Line of Control (LoC) as well as terrorist violence in the hinterland in Jammu and Kashmir in the last three months. The General, while indicating that Pakistan had "revived" terrorist training camps in the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) region, added that "We have photographic evidence of this." An estimated 3,000 terrorists are being trained in these camps with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and other groups operating many recruitment centres. LeT 'district commander' Mohammed Shahzad, arrested from Banihal in the Doda district on September 13, has reportedly given a detailed account of this. Daily Excelsior, September 1, 2003.

Government representatives hold talks with Naga leaders in Amsterdam: Union Government's chief emissary K. Padmanabhaiah and Intelligence Bureau (IB) Director K.P. Singh commenced a fresh round of talks on September 17, 2003, with Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah, president and general secretary, respectively, of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland - Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM), at Amsterdam, capital city of the Netherlands. Approximately 31 issues relating to greater autonomy for the State of Nagaland raised by the NSCN-IM, among other aspects, were to be discussed. Northeast Tribune, September 17, 2003.


At least 57 Maoist insurgents killed in Rolpa district: Security forces had reportedly recovered the bodies of 57 Maoist insurgents in Rolpa district until September 18, 2003, where a clash with the insurgents had taken place. The security forces had launched an operation in the Bhagawn area of Rolpa district on September 17. Five SF personnel were also killed in the operation and five others injured. Nepal News, September 19, 2003.


Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar promises support to MMA: Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Maulana Masood Azhar is reported to have met Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) leaders recently and promised them his support. Azhar is reported to have met several MMA leaders, including MMA President Shah Ahmad Noorani, General Secretary Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Vice-President Maulana Samiul Haq, in the last fortnight and assured them that the Jaish, now known as Khuddam-ul-Islam, would support them. Reciprocally, he is alleged to have asked them to support him against the 'religious propaganda' that he had embezzled funds and provided information to intelligence agencies about Taliban's presence in Pakistan. Meanwhile, Maulana Samiul Haq, while confirming that Azhar met him and other MMA leaders said, "We discussed the allegations against Mr. Azhar. It is clear to me that he has devoted his life to jihad and he would not rat on the Taliban." Daily Times, September 19, 2003.

Jaish-e-Mohammed warns of suicide attacks on Indian leaders: The Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) warned on September 16, 2003, that it would target Indian leaders in suicide attacks that would be "shocking for India". A Jaish spokesperson, Wali Hassan Baba, reportedly said during a telephonic interview with the Associated Press that the attacks would be retaliation for the killing of Shahnawaz Khan aka Ghazi Baba, 'operational chief' of the outfit, by Indian security forces in Srinagar on August 30. Claiming to be speaking from an undisclosed location in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), he said "The purpose of killing these people is to avenge the martyrdom of Ghazi Baba… We have formed suicide bombing squads to kill top personalities. These killings will break India's backbone." Daily Times, September 17, 2003.

Declassified US intelligence documents reveal Pakistan helped Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in 1990s': Declassified US intelligence documents have reportedly revealed that Pakistan helped Al Qaeda terrorists launch their operations in Afghanistan in the 1990s and also clandestinely ran a major training camp used by Osama Bin Laden's network. The documents, prepared by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 2001 and declassified in a censored version this past week, also indicate that Afghan Northern Alliance guerrilla commander Ahmad Shah Masood may have been killed two days before the 9/11 attacks because he had discerned Bin Laden's plan and "began to warn the West". The documents were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive, a Washington-based think tank. However, the DIA has clarified that these documents represent only raw intelligence. "Taliban acceptance and approval of fundamentalist non-Afghans as part of their fighting force were merely an extension of Pakistani policy during the Soviet-Afghan war," said one of the DIA dispatches. It said that Pakistani agents "encouraged, facilitated and often escorted Arabs from the Middle East into Afghanistan". Pakistan is alleged to have built a training camp located outside the Afghan village of Zahawa, near the border between the two countries. According to the DIA, the camp was constructed by Pakistani contractors funded by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Daily Times, September 15, 2003.


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

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


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