SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Settlements and Principled Settlements
126 persons were killed in Jammu & Kashmir between May 1 and May 26, in the run-up to and during the two-day Round Table Conference chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, despite the fact that the State capital and venue of the Conference, Srinagar, was locked down under a security blanket and curbs on movement that were extraordinary even for this terror ravaged State. The dead included 69 civilians and 11 Security Force (SF) personnel. April had witnessed 91 fatalities (37 civilians and 16 SF), while March accounted for 70 dead (14 civilians and 13 SF).
May has, of course, been a month of consistently high fatalities each year, marking the melting of snows over the States high passes. Nevertheless, the focused fury unleashed on Srinagar where an unstable normalcy has been in evidence for some time now, resulting in a flood of summer tourists was clearly linked to the Conference and the message that Pakistan-backed jehadis and their front organizations in Srinagar wished to communicate. This fury peaked in the final few days culminating in the Conference with a spate of incidents that brought exceptional pressure to bear on the harried SFs, and eventually led to the Prime Ministers decision to cut his visit short. The most significant of these incidents included:
May 25: Four tourists two children and two teenagers from Gujarat were killed and six others injured when terrorists hurled a grenade at a tourist bus at Botapora near Hazratbal on the outskirts of Srinagar.
May 24: At least 11 persons, including three Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, were injured at Qamarwari in Srinagar, when terrorists lobbed a grenade at a CRPF picket. The Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) claimed responsibility for the attack. In a second attack in Srinagar, two civilians and a CRPF soldier were injured in a bomb blast at Sarafkadal. In a third incident, at Zadibal, terrorists targeted a police station, wounding four police personnel and six civilians.
May 23: A few hours ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs arrival in the Kashmir Valley, a suicide bomber blew himself up as a patrol party of the Border Security Force passed Hyderpora colony near the Srinagar Airport, injuring at least 25 BSF personnel. The Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) claimed responsibility for the attack.
May 22: Thirty-four persons, including 23 civilians, were injured in separate grenade attacks in Srinagar. In the first incident, terrorists hurled a grenade on a Police gypsy at Chatipadshahi-Rainawari, injuring 13 civilians and five police personnel. Another grenade attack was carried out on a Police Gypsy at Barbarshah. Six civilians and two police persons were injured in the attack. A separate grenade attack by the terrorists at Fatah-Kadal injured four Central Reserve Police Force personnel and an equal number of civilians. The Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility for these attacks.
May 21: Two terrorists in police uniform attacked a rally of the Youth Congress at Sher-e-Kashmir Park in Srinagar, killing three political activists and two police personnel minutes before the scheduled arrival of Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. Inspector General of Police (Kashmir), K. Rajendra Kumar, was among 25 persons injured in the attack, which was claimed by the LeT and Al-Mansoorian. The two terrorists were subsequently killed in the exchange of fire.
It cannot be unreasonable to inquire whether there are at least some avoidable deficiencies in a peace process that so escalates violence, destabilizes established equations, provokes a dramatic hardening of positions, pushes areas of relative peace into sudden carnage, raises political tempers and polarizes political constituencies. Such an inquiry becomes the more significant in view of the fact that the process failed to secure the participation of any of the groups that appeared to have been projected as its principle target the various factions of the Hurriyat; that created so little that is new in terms of options or avenues of resolution; and that has already irritated at least some of the participants in the Conference into strong dissent. A faction of Panun Kashmir, the organization representing the displaced and long-neglected Kashmiri Pandits, and which participated in the Conference, has already voiced strong objections to the Prime Ministers creation of a Working Group to look into the issue of greater autonomy for the State. The Prime Minister did not, in fact, use the expression autonomy, but referred, rather, to effective devolution of powers among different regions to meet regional, sub-regional and ethnic aspirations. Panun Kashmirs General Secretary, Ramesh Manvati, nevertheless, saw fit to declare, We are strongly opposed to grant of autonomy to J&K. We wonder whether the Prime Ministers announcement amounts to negating the 1994 Parliament resolution that the entire undivided State belongs to India. He argued further that the State already enjoyed enough autonomy, and there was need to integrate it with the Union more strongly, so that Indian Constitutional guarantees flowed freely in the State.
In their rejection of the autonomy issue, though for diametrically opposite reasons, Panun Kashmir was one with the moderate Hurriyat. The Chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, declared, We will not be part of the dialogue wherein internal autonomy will be discussed, which is a futile exercise, and further, Hurriyat want to clarify that the Kashmir issue is a trilateral problem involving India, Pakistan and people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Chairman of the more radical Tehrik-e-Hurriyat (TeH) faction, rejected the Prime Ministers efforts to focus on issues of current relief to the people of J&K, similarly echoing the Pakistani position: First, resolve the core issue, then talk about development. Decide the destination, then everything can follow.
Further down the extremist spectrum, the United Jehad Council (UJC) based at Muzaffarabad in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir rejected the Round Table as a futile exercise, with its Chairman, Syed Salahuddin of the Hizb-ul-Mujahiddeen, declaring that the struggle would continue until the entire region secedes from India: No other solution is acceptable to us Militants will continue their struggle until they get freedom from India.
The occasional dissident voice, however, cannot be the only measure of the success or failure of the Conference. But even its strongest advocates would need to be modest regarding the achievements of the Srinagar Round Table, which, in sum, amount to the participation of the Prime Minister and a small group (eventually, according to reports, just 30 of the 41 invitees), and the determination to set up five working groups to look into a number of issues that have already been looked into several times before, and that, in substantial measure, tend to pre-decide several issues (such as, for instance, autonomy) that need far greater consultation and consensus before they can be accorded any priority in the processes of resolution.
The chief cause of problems, it has been remarked in another context, is solutions; this applies substantially to the current peace process, and to the circumstances and content of the Second Round Table at Srinagar. For one thing, by announcing its dates well in advance, and without any consensus on participation, the Round Table created the context of enormous political posturing and stridency, particularly among the extremist overground leadership. The arbitrary inclusion and exclusion of particular groups and participants, and the last minute hustling to force some sort of credible quorum for a meeting headed by the Prime Minister can only qualify as cause for embarrassment, and the location in Srinagar points to another organizational miscalculation, presenting the terrorists and their Pakistani handlers with a readymade and widely publicized platform for their propaganda of the deed.
It is not possible, here, to itemize each of the many deficiencies in the current process, but some of the more glaring anomalies are reflected in elements of the Prime Ministers own speeches. To take an example, he referred to two dimensions to the problems of Jammu & Kashmir one being the relationship between Delhi and Srinagar and the other being the relationship between Delhi and Islamabad. In this, the Prime Minister gives credence to a distortion that Pakistan has consistently promoted (it is useful to notice how closely this echoes the statement of the APHC Chairman, and the sentiments of the TeH Chairman), and that militates against some of his own earlier observations. On June 11, 2005, at Leh, the Prime Minister had noted that Baltistan is under the occupation of foreign troops. The people of the Gilgit-Baltistan region are denied all political rights and a constitutional status, and have been subjected to systematic state-backed pogroms and experiments in demographic re-engineering. The Pakistan Administered Azad Jammu & Kashmir region, which has, at best, a nominally democratic system with no devolution of power, and qualified political rights that are essentially a contemptuous hand-out from Islamabad than any real measure of freedom or autonomy. These are certainly another two dimensions that continue to be neglected among the problems of Jammu & Kashmir, and no solution that ignores these long disregarded and oppressed constituencies can have any current legitimacy or lasting merit. The grievances of the people of Jammu and of the Ladakh region have also been pushed out of view by the exclusive focus on the Valley. By declaring his intention of building a new Kashmir in Jammu & Kashmir the Prime Minister can only have rubbed salt into the wounds of the people of these diverse regions.
The problem is that specifics have been allowed to dominate the peace process long before the general principles of resolution have been settled. Unfortunately, unless specific proposals are articulated within the context of consensual general principles, what we have is not elements of a solution, but rather the roots of new complexities, the beginnings of new problems.
This point was driven home by delegates drawn from every major region of the wider pre-1947 Jammu & Kashmir State including Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Jammu & Kashmir, and the Leh-Ladakh region in another, relatively low-profile Conference held at Manesar near Delhi on May 18 and 19, under the aegis of the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM), just days before the Srinagar Round Table. The unanimously passed Resolutions of the ICM Conference rejected a wide range of elements that are currently embedded in the discourse on the Kashmir issue, including the role of violence and terrorism, isolationism, communal, ethnic or regional exclusionism and ghettoisation as elements of, or pressures towards, a solution; they rejected, equally, any resolution based on a mere political redistribution of power between regional or factional elites. This Conference sought, instead, a just, non-discriminatory and integrative solution based on democratic norms, clear representation of all constituencies in the region, and the protection of all civil and political rights within the framework of a Constitutional Democracy.
Regrettably, the high-profile Round Table at Srinagar has given credence, authority and legitimacy to elements of an agenda and perspective that has long been dictated by terrorist groups and their front organizations at the behest of their Pakistani handlers, reinforcing a Valley-centric approach that has been an essential part of the problem, rather than any part of a potential solution. The sooner the peace discourse on J&K can break through this conceptual logjam, the closer will it come to a constructive approach that can yield a credible and lasting solution.
The Delhi High Court, taking serious note of infiltration of Bangladeshi nationals into India, served notices, on April 26, 2006, to the Chief Secretaries of the five bordering States, West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram, to depute their respective counsels to appraise the Court on the action taken by their State Governments in this regard. A division bench of the High Court, comprising Justice M.K. Sharma and Justice Reva Khetrapal, reportedly said that illegal Bangladeshi migrants had been infiltrating into India in hordes and should be deported immediately.
Much has been talked about illegal migration from Bangladesh into States like Assam and Tripura and its impact on the demography of these States. But there has been little systematic study of the problem even in these States, and none whatsoever in States such as Meghalaya. Worse, States such as Manipur and Nagaland, which do not share a border with Bangladesh, but which have already been subjected to the negative impact of trends in illegal migration, are entirely outside the scope of current scrutiny. Data is conspicuous by its absence, but anecdotal evidence is abundant.
In Manipur, for instance, illegal migration from Bangladesh via Assam is adding to the complexities of the existing problem of Chin infiltration from Myanmar. In late April, 2003, Bangladeshi immigrants in Jiribam sub-division of the Imphal East District teamed up with a local Islamist militant outfit, the Peoples United Liberation Front (PULF), to avenge the death of an illegal migrant. At least 300 Bengali Hindus were hounded out of their villages.
Such has been the scale of Bangladeshi immigration into Manipur that an influential civil society organization, the United Committee Manipur (UCM), published a 231-page report, Influx of Migrants into Manipur: A Threat to the Indigenous Ethnic People in December 2005, indicating that migrants from Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal would, in 30 years time, either marginalise or wipe out all the ethnic groups in the State.
Similarly, Bangladeshi migrants in Nagaland now constitute a serious threat to the demographic balance of the State. Nagaland, in the 2001 Census, registered the highest population growth rate (64.41 per cent) in the country, and a major proportion of this increase can be ascribed to illegal migration. All the manual works, construction labour, taxi drivers, rickshaw pullers and cultivation are largely done by Bangladeshi migrants. According to one estimate, Bangladeshi nationals run almost half of the shops in Dimapur, the commercial hub of the State, and in the capital, Kohima. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland Khaplang (NSCN-K) has been reportedly issuing temporary work permits to the immigrants and has even set a permissible number of immigrants per district. Many of the illegal immigrants have married local Naga women.
Tripura, which shares an 856 kilometre border with Bangladesh, has been widely acknowledged to have been transformed from a tribal majority State into a tribal minority State in less than six decades, and this is now an irreversible feature of the States demography. There is ample evidence that illegal migration continues to take place in the State, though the scale fluctuates with changes in the political dispensations in Bangladesh. In addition, the porous border also facilitates the movement of militants, criminals, smugglers and drug peddlers, mostly acting under the protection or at the behest of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) officers and personnel. Some incidents reported in 2006 are illustrative:
As recently as May 20, 2006, BSF personnel pushed back a group of Bangladesh Rifles jawans who were escorting unidentified men to measure land inside Indian territory near the Indo-Bangladesh border along the Jaintia Hills District. Police sources said the men, claiming to be landlords, came to Lakuna and Amki (under Amlarem sub-division) villages and started measuring land, which they claimed, belonged to Bangladesh (both India and Bangladesh have been claiming a 12-acre stretch in Lakuna and Amki villages on the border).
Meghalaya, which shares a 443 kilometre border with Bangladesh, has served as a traditional route for Bangladesh-based militants operating in Indias Northeast. The Garo Hills have also provided significant routes for drugs and arms smuggling. Little, however, is known about the scale of infiltration of Bangladeshis into the State. According to one estimate, illegal migrants, outnumber locals in the Jaintia coal belt. In fact, official inaction in containing infiltration is forcing locals to arbitrarily adopt harsh measures. Thus, on March 6, 2006, villagers from Nongjri-Umnuih-Nongshken area along the India-Bangladesh border in the East Khasi Hills district announced a pogrom under the call, Gun down a Bangladeshi criminal and collect Rupees 3,000, in protest against the alleged killing of people and looting of agricultural produce by Bangladeshi infiltrators. Such vigilantism threatens to grow in the wake of a spate of criminal incidents involving Bangladeshis. Some recent incidents include:
Available data indicates that the State Governments efforts at containing the ongoing infiltration have been handicapped by poor detection and an even poorer record of prosecutions and convictions. Meghalaya Home Minister, H. Donkupar R. Lyngdoh, while responding to a supplementary question raised by a Congress legislator, Robert Garnett Lyngdoh, on March 21, 2006, informed the State Legislative Assembly that 3,094 infiltrators were detained in 2001 out of which just 54 were prosecuted. In 2002, a total of 2,537 persons were detained on suspicion and 42 of them were convicted. In the 2003, the number of detentions was 2,157 and the conviction figure was 72. The detention figure in 2004 was 1,596 with just 18 convictions. Till March 2006, 1,463 persons had been detected as foreigners and 14 convicted.
The Central Forces havent fared any better. According to a status report submitted by the BSF before the Delhi High Court on May 22, just 31 Bangladeshi nationals were deported from Meghalaya between January and April 2006. None of the other States have yet filed a reply with the High Court, but a similar scenario is believed to prevail as far as the other States are concerned.
Detection, however, can hardly be the solution to the infiltration problem. Deportation of such infiltrators remains a troublesome affair as Bangladesh continues to refuse to acknowledge the nationality of such illegal migrants, or to permit or accept their return to its territory. The Bangladeshi Press is, in fact, rife with reports that claim that the BSF pushes in Indians to Bangladeshi territory. And on many occasions such pushed in people are pushed out by BDR personnel in no time. There can be little doubt that infiltration and other cross-border criminal enterprises need to be dealt on the border itself. And this further underlines the need for better border management of which border fencing is an integral part.
Fencing has been suggested as an effective method against infiltration worldwide, as the American example explicitly demonstrates. The United States House of Representatives passed a measure, (H.R. 4437) on December 16, 2005, that calls for 698 miles of border fencing to be built in five strategic locations along the international border with Mexico. The Senate on May 25, 2006, also passed a measure (S. 2611) to authorize 370 miles of new fencing. Currently, there are only about 75 miles of existing fence along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. Border Patrol statistics reveal that these measures have had significant impact; the numbers of illegal aliens apprehended and amounts of narcotics seized have decreased drastically since fencing was installed.
Fencing has also been extremely effective in India, along the western borders, curbing the movement of militants and activities of smugglers and subversives. There is little reason to believe that such steps cannot be replicated along Indias eastern frontiers.
Indian attempts at fencing the borders with Bangladesh have, however, remained tardy, to say the least. Under Phase-I, which started as far back as 1986, 854 kilometres of fencing was erected, as on March 31, 2006. Another 1,448 kilometres of fencing was completed under Phase-II, which in fact aimed to fence 2,429 kilometres. Worse, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the 854 kilometre fence built in Phase-I has already been damaged at most of the stretches and thus, has ceased to be effective in controlling illegal cross border activities. The Ministry plans to start replacing the damaged fencing during 2006-07.
With political perspectives cloud the vision of the policy makers, and a high measure of administrative foot-dragging and incompetence, infiltration into the northeastern region can be expected to remain a serious problem in the foreseeable future.
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
May 22- 28, 2006
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Centre and NDFB agree to extend cease-fire in Assam by another year: The Centre and the Assam-based militant outfit National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) agreed to extend their cease-fire agreement for another one year after a meeting in New Delhi on May 27, 2006. Talking to the media after the meeting, Gobinda Basumatary, NDFB General Secretary, said, "The cease-fire has been extended, the talks were held in a cordial atmosphere and the talks for political issues will go on, it will continue. The peace process will continue." The Centre and NDFB had entered into a one-year ceasefire agreement in May 2005. The Telegraph, May 28, 2006.
Prime Minister announces Five Working Groups for Jammu and Kashmir: Addressing a press conference at the end of the two-day Roundtable Conference in Srinagar on May 25, 2006 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the setting up of five Working Groups to discuss various issues relating to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Noting that time had come to establish "credible mechanisms" to carry on the dialogue process with various sections in J&K, he said that setting up of the Working Groups was the "best way to move forward and ensure that the views of different segments are incorporated." The groups will deal with improving the Centre's relations with J&K, furthering the relations across the Line of Control (LoC), giving a boost to the State's economic development, rehabilitating the destitute families of militants and reviewing the cases of detainees and ensuring good governance.
The Prime Minister also reportedly declared his Governments readiness to talk to terrorist groups if they gave up the path of violence. "Anybody who shuns violence and gives up the path of terror, we are willing to find ways and means to interact with all such groups," he said. On the issue of alleged human right violations by the security forces, he said "our armed force is not an armed force of occupation.... They have a proud record, though there could be some aberrations, but these aberrations cannot be allowed. There should be zero tolerance for human rights violations for all our security forces." The Hindu, May 26, 2006.
Northeast India is prime destination for drugs smuggled from Myanmar, says UNODC: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has reported the increasing flow of illicit drugs into Indias Northeast from neighbouring Myanmar. The UNODC, in association with the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, released a report on May 24, 2006, highlighting the emerging trends of drug use in the region. The report added that at least seven major routes running through four States sharing borders with Myanmar Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh have been identified through which drugs such as Number 4 (heroin) and amphetamine are easily smuggled. The Districts that are worst affected by the drugs trafficking are Chandel and Imphal in Manipur, and Kohima and Tuensang in Nagaland. There has been a crackdown on drug barons in Thailand and Laos recently, following which drug traders from Myanmar must have shifted their attention to the North-East. Also there are possibilities of amphetamine producing units being shifted to areas adjacent to Manipur and Nagaland, said an official of the Narcotics Control Bureau. Indian Express, May 25, 2006.
Union Home Minister rules out dialogue with Maoists: On May 22, 2006, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil informed the Lower House of Parliament (Lok Sabha) that there will be no dialogue with the Maoists unless they agreed to abjure violence and give up arms. He said the Government "remains committed to providing all possible help to coordinate and supplement efforts and resources of Naxal [Maoist]-affected states to successfully counter the menace." Patil said Maoist violence had badly affected parts of nine States of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. He further said available reports suggest that Maoists were trying to expand their sphere of activity and influence in parts of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Uttaranchal and in new areas in some of the already affected States. Providing data, he said, in the first four months of 2006, while the quantum of Maoist violence by way of number of incidents has registered a decrease of 12.7 per cent over the corresponding period in 2005, casualties of police personnel and civilians have gone up by 31.9 per cent. Chhattisgarh alone accounted for 42.5 per cent of the total incidents and 66.5 per cent of resultant deaths.The Times of India, May 23, 2006.
Government and Maoists begin peace talks with 25-point Cease-fire Code of Conduct: Representatives of the Government and the Maoists met at Gokarna near the capital, Kathmandu, on May 26, 2006, and held the first-round meeting of the peace talks. They made public a 25-point Cease-fire Code of Conduct to pave the way for elections to the Constituent Assembly, modalities of which would be discussed during the next round of talks. The coordinator of the Government team, Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, and the coordinator from the Maoists side, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, signed the Cease-fire Code of Conduct. We will soon hold election to the Constituent Assembly and will create an environment in which people will be able to exercise their democratic rights without fear and threats, said Sitaula after signing the code and added that the next round of the talks will focus on the process and modalities of election to the Constituent Assembly and whatever differences we may have will be settled amicably. Meanwhile, Mahara reportedly said, election to the Constituent Assembly is our one-point agenda.
of the points agreed upon at the meeting included: both sides
to refrain from activities that may provoke the other side; mobilisation
of arms to stop; both sides shall not attack security bases of
the other side or use landmine or ambush against each other; fresh
recruitment to stop and bandh (shutdown) or strike will
not be called during the truce. Nepal
News, May 27, 2006.
Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline execution to face difficulties, says Baloch leader: Jamhoori Watan Party chairman Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti has said the procedure for Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline would face difficulties if carried out without the participation of Baloch element. He cited grave times ahead for the ongoing struggle for Baloch resistance movement and cautioned that Baloch coastline was getting out of Baloch jurisdiction. Replying to a question about the resistance limits of resistance fighters, he said that it would continue in defence of our resources and region. He said that this conflict had been imposed by the Government and would end only after the latter withdraws from our land. Daily Times, May 27, 2006.
Over 1,000 Al Qaeda suspects held in Pakistan, claims research study: Security agencies arrested more than 1,000 Al Qaeda suspects between January 2002 and May 2006, according to a study conducted by the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS). Of the arrested men, 70 belonged to Algeria, 86 from Saudi Arabia, 20 from Morocco, 22 from the United Arab Emirates, 11 from Libya, seven from Kuwait, 20 from Egypt, 28 from Indonesia, 18 from Malaysia and 36 others from West Asian countries. 18 of those arrested belonged to western countries: Five from the United States, two from Australia and 11 from the United Kingdom. They also included an unknown number of French and German citizens. The study is based upon media reports and does not include arrests of Afghans and Pakistanis involved in clashes with Pakistani security forces in tribal areas, reported Dawn. The study included only important Pakistani and Afghan members of Al Qaeda from these areas. Moreover, the security forces also killed more than 1,000 Al Qaeda members in operations in Pakistan, the PIPS report said. However, the report said, Pakistan Government had announced the arrests of only 660 Al Qaeda operatives. Dawn, May 26, 2006.
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