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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 5, No. 5, August 14, 2006

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





Assam: Delhi’s I-Day Gambit
Wasbir Hussain
Guwahati-based Political Analyst and Associate Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi

New Delhi has come up with an Independence Day gambit in Northeast India’s troubled Assam State. On Sunday, August 13, 2006, federal authorities suddenly suspended Army operations against the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) at a time when the insurgent group was engaged in a routine stepping up of violence ahead of Independence Day. Specifically, the Sunday announcement came hours after ULFA rebels shot and killed a petty trader in Joypur town, in the eastern District of Dibrugarh, hurled a grenade at the private residence of a senior Assam minister at Digboi in the adjacent Tinsukia District (the minister was present but there was no casualties), and made an abortive grenade attack on the Police in the western district town of Nalbari. In ten days, beginning August 4, 2006, the ULFA had launched several grenade or bomb attacks, killing a dozen people, including six security personnel, five of them of the Assam Police, and injured up to 40 others.

Assam Chief Secretary S. Kabilan, who also heads the policy-making Strategy Group of the Unified Command Headquarters of the Army, Police and Paramilitary Forces in the State, was quick to confirm the Central Government’s decision to suspend Army operations. “Offensive action against ULFA will remain suspended for 10 days in a goodwill gesture by the Government,” he told this writer late Sunday night. He clarified though that it cannot be called a ceasefire yet. Pressed for the immediate reasons for this go-slow order to the Army, Kabilan said, “There may have been some positive feelers from the other side.” He did not elaborate, but his comment did indicate that the ULFA on its own or the People’s Consultative Group (PCG), the 11-member peace panel appointed by the rebel outfit, may have succeeded in convincing New Delhi that such a gesture would result in the insurgent group reciprocating by putting violence on hold.

There was, however, significant evidence of confusion and a wide diversity of perceptions within the Government. On the morning of August 14, the Assam Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, told this writer, “This is certainly a unilateral ceasefire. There can be no other meaning to a suspension of operations by the Government.” He added, however, that “We cannot lower our vigilance. Day to day policing will go on,” and further, “The ball is now in ULFA’s court, and it must respond positively and come forward for talks, now that the Government has taken this major initiative.”

The Government’s decision to halt Army operations before Independence Day, that too, when the ULFA has called for a boycott of the celebrations and has sought to enforce it through a 17-hour general strike beginning 1 a.m. on August 15, is certainly significant. The ULFA would now be under tremendous pressure to reciprocate and enter into the process of direct talks with New Delhi. Over the past few weeks, civil society organizations in Assam have been vocal in asking the Government to act first and take some major initiatives, like a temporary ceasefire, to break the current impasse over the holding of direct ULFA-New Delhi talks. At a civil society Round Table last fortnight organized by Gauhati University, the State’s premier institution for higher learning, a resolution was adopted urging the Government of India to initiate immediate steps like a ceasefire, that would ‘have to be reciprocated’ by the ULFA. Another resolution called for the release of five top ULFA leaders, all members of the group’s highest policy-making body, the central executive committee. ULFA has been seeking their release so that it could discuss the issue of entering into direct talks with New Delhi and take things forward.

Groups like the PCG itself have been drawing flak, just like several other components of the State’s disjointed civil society, for not condemning violence by the militants in the same way as they condemn killing of rebels by security forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations. On August 13, 2006, however, the PCG issued a significant press statement where it called upon both the ULFA and the Government to maintain restraint for the sake of peace in Assam, and condemned the killing of innocent people by the two sides. “The acts of violence since the peace process started have hurt the PCG,” the statement said. This plain and straightforward condemnation of violence and killing of innocent people by the PCG, whose members were hand-picked by the ULFA in September 2005, and the group’s decision to meet with India’s National Security Adviser and Home Secretary in New Delhi by August 16, 2006, does indicate that the two sides could actually be working overtime to put violence on hold and start direct talks.

There have, however, been several roadblocks thus far, obstructing a possible face-to-face meeting between the ULFA and the Government of India:

  • New Delhi has asked ULFA to name its negotiating team. ULFA says the team cannot be named unless five of its top detained leaders are freed.

  • New Delhi has asked ULFA to give its consent for the talks in writing. ULFA responded by saying the Government must also state in writing that it would discuss the group’s key demand of ‘sovereignty’.

  • ULFA has demanded information on the whereabouts of 14 of its cadres ‘missing’ after the Bhutanese military assault in December 2003.

  • Charges and counter-charges of violence and excesses by both sides.

It is possible that, over the past few days, back-channel contacts may have been established between the ULFA and the Government, either directly or otherwise, facilitating an understanding to remove some of these bottlenecks.

Over the coming ten days, it is likely that a contact mechanism will be put in place and New Delhi could even grant ‘safe passage’ to some ULFA leaders to emerge from hiding and meet with key Government officials to prepare the modalities for talks. ULFA could also reciprocate this time round, taking the public mood against all forms of violence into account, and arrive at an understanding with the Government on the crucial issue of a truce, an essential element to take a peace process forward.

But, once again, the Government of India has goofed up things by failing to speak in one voice on crucial issues. Till late Sunday afternoon, the Assam Government was not aware of New Delhi’s decision. The General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Army’s Tezpur-based IV Corps, who heads the operations under the Unified Headquarters, got in touch with the State Police chief, but the latter apparently told him he had no instructions from the State Government. Even in New Delhi, officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs were not forthcoming on the matter, indicating the decision was taken at some other level. By late night, however, key officials started talking on the same lines, confirming that a temporary halt to Army operations had been ordered. The need for the Government to speak in a cohesive voice is of utmost importance to avoid confusing signals from going out.

The decision to go for a ten-day halt to Army operations, which have been on almost continuously in Assam since November 1990, with only brief breaks in between, has the potential to actually put the ULFA on the defensive. If the rebel group does not respond positively this time around, the odds may well go against it as never before.


Bihar & Jharkhand: Playground of the Maoists
Saji Cherian
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

Even as the Maoist juggernaut continues to roll on across a vast expanse of the country, there is little hope in the States of Bihar and Jharkhand, long afflicted by this menace, that the administration will find a way out of its enveloping helplessness and confusion. These States may appear, for the moment, to be better off than Chhattisgarh, which currently accounts for nearly half of all Maoist-related fatalities, but a closer scrutiny reveals a troubling picture of consolidation and the loss of state control. .

Data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management indicates that, in 2006, till August 9, close to 296 persons (167 Civilians, 48 Security Force Personnel and 81 Maoists) were killed in Chhattisgarh. Jharkhand saw 67 fatalities in the same period (10 civilians, 31 security forces and 26 Maoists), and Bihar, 40 (16 Civilians, 5 security forces and 19 Maoists). Home Ministry data indicates that, in the first six months of 2006, out of a total of 806 Maoist-related incidents, Chhattisgarh accounted for 360, Jharkhand 169, Andhra Pradesh 104, and Bihar 63. In all these States, property worth Rs.116.7 million was destroyed till June in 2006. In the entire year 2004, property worth Rs. 64.7 million was destroyed due to Maoist violence and in 2005, the figure was Rs.57.1 million.

The misery of Bihar and Jharkhand is further amplified by the sheer economic backwardness, administrative collapse and lawlessness that grip a majority of their districts. According to the Planning Commission of India, out of the 100 most backward districts in the country, these two states are home to 38. An independent study done by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in 2003 listed 69 most backward districts of the country, of which 35 were from Bihar and Jharkhand. These numbers may give headaches to the administrators, but for the Maoists, they are a boon. The sheer backwardness of the region and its people presents a fertile ground for Maoist ideological mobilization and operations. Further, the quality of law and order and general administration in these States is uniformly poor, considerably weakening any possibility of effective counter-insurgency campaigns.

Barring sporadic actions in the Patna, Jehanabad, Arwal and Bhojpur Districts, the police in Bihar have seldom initiated counter-insurgency operations. In May 2006, the Bihar Police Association released a ‘report card’ stating that 23 police personnel were killed in 22 extremist-related incidents in the State during preceding year. During this period more than 50 firearms and thousands of cartridges were also looted by the extremists, the Association’s General Secretary K.K. Jha disclosed. The report further stated that the amount allocated for police modernisation remained unspent, even as over 300 Police Stations, 92 Police pickets and over hundred town outposts located in extremist-hit Districts were without boundary walls and minimum infrastructures. Jha also added that the State Police department was still to draft a police manual. The integrity of police functioning was further undermined, as an affidavit filed by the Police Headquarters in the Patna High Court revealed, by the fact that over 740 policemen in Bihar, from constables to Superintendents, are facing criminal cases that include charges of dacoity, murder, rape and extortion.

The Jharkhand administration is similarly devoid of ideas. A ‘surrender policy’ proudly announced by the State’s Home Minister on April 20, 2006, declared that every extremist who surrenders in Jharkhand will be free to hire a lawyer of his choice at Government expense and also be extended a life-insurance cover of INR One million. The policy also promised the allotment of an acre of land to the family of every surrendered extremist. The family, in addition, would be entitled to free housing, free education for children and free healthcare facilities in one of the country’s poorest States, where a majority of law abiding citizens lack access to basic necessities. Fortunately, the State Cabinet shot down this idea, embarrassing the Home Minister who was at that time boasting that the policy was the first of its kind in the country.

This, however, does not bring such eccentricities to an end in a State that is manifestly bereft of any focused counter-insurgency strategy or perspective. Senior Government officials have now come up with schemes to use the families of the Maoists to disarm them. The ‘plan’, according to one senior official quoted by the media, was based on the premise that “Wife and children are always a person's weakness. We want to use this emotional tool to change hardcore Maoists.” The Government is consequently preparing a list of Maoist leaders whose families live in the State, and whose wives will be asked to appeal to their spouses to abandon their cause for the sake of their children. Such appeals will be communicated to the rebels through posters and over the radio.

One of the primary reasons for the administration’s dependency on such childish gimmicks is the apparent lack of will that extends throughout the security and political hierarchy. A.K. Pathak, the President of Jharkhand State Police Association, notes, “Naxalites are a dedicated cadre who move fearlessly with a do or die motto, but policemen are here to do a job and take home their salaries.”. .

‘Dedication’ is but just one of the many pillars that have allowed the Maoists in these two States to achieve domination over the security forces. Tactics, planning, organizational capabilities, continuous technical and technological adaptation, and great inventiveness in operational tactics mark Maoist operations, but tend to be uniformly absent in the State’s responses.

In vast areas where civil governance has collapsed, or has historically remained absent (as in the extended tribal belt across Jharkhand and in parts of Bihar) the Maoists have taken advantage by initiating people-friendly schemes. For instance, in the drought-hit regions of the Gaya District of Bihar in April 2006, the Maoists stepped in with money to help villagers repair and dig water handpumps under ‘Operation Paani-Paani’.

Lack of land reforms in these two states, have also pushed the landless into supporting the Maoists. In Jharkhand, although the State aims at offering bhoodan (voluntarily donated land) and ceiling surplus land to the landless villagers, only 308 persons benefited from the scheme in 2005. Figures with the land revenue department show that even when the State had more than 110,000 acres of bhoodan and another 3,350 acres of ceiling surplus land, only 3,232 acres of bhoodan and ceiling surplus land had been distributed to a little over 9,500 beneficiaries (averaging a unviable 0.34 acres per beneficiary) over the past five years,.

Maoists have also managed to remain one step ahead of the state in terms of modernization. They have set up technical wings, which employ Information Technology ‘experts’ on monthly payment, to draw up plans to develop more potent explosives, tap Government messages and get the latest on techniques in guerrilla warfare. The monthly payment for these ‘experts’ varies between INR 6,000 and INR 15,000. According to a report by the Jharkhand State intelligence (Special Branch), two technical wings have been set up by the CPI-Maoist – for their southern zone and northern zone, respectively. Each zone has four experts at the top level. Police reports claimed that the Maoists have already spent more than INR Two million on their technical wings in the State. Incidentally, Shyam Sinku, a Maoist activist arrested in Jamshedpur in June 2006, admitted to using FM radio to intercept security forces’ communications.

The financial meat to back such expansion has been created through a vast network of extortion. In August 2006, the CPI-Maoist in Jharkhand distributed to its cadres an extortion ‘rate card’, fixing charges for manual crushers, petrol pump owners, brick-kiln owners and the like. According to the card, INR 8,000 was to be ‘claimed’ annually from manual crushers, INR 15,000 from brick-kiln owners, INR 17,000 from mechanised crushers, INR 25,000 from petrol pump owners and INR 70,000 from coal sidings. Besides this, the rate card also takes into account contractors involved in road and building construction, railway track construction, repair work and auctions. The levy from contractors varies between five and 10 per cent of revenues, depending on the work order and amount. Unofficial figures peg the annual turnover from extortion in the Bihar-Jharkhand region alone at INR 3.2 billion.

The Maoists have also, from time to time, flexed their muscle by stalling the railway networks in the twin states. The railways are easy targets and serve as symbols of ‘state oppression’. Over 90 per cent of the railway stations in the Coal India Company section of the Dhanbad division have been earmarked ‘sensitive’ or ‘hypersensitive’ by the authorities in the face of growing Maoist activities. Some of the recent attacks on the rail network include:

  • March 13, 2006: Cadres of the CPI-Maoist captured the 628 Down Barwadih-Mughalsarai passenger train carrying more than 100 passengers near the Heyagarha station in Latehar District of Jharkhand. The passengers and the train were later released.

  • April 9, 2006: Maoists blew up both the Up and Down tracks of the important Grand Chord section at Bansi Nala Halt of the Gaya District in Bihar, paralysing train traffic.

  • April 26. 2006: Maoists abducted three railway staff of Narganjo station, eight kilometers from Jhajha under Kiul-Asansol section of the Eastern Railway, soon after demolishing the cabin in the halt station. Maoists also blew up railway tracks near Dashrathpur Railway Station on the Kiul-Bhagalpur loop section.

  • July 25, 2006: CPI-Maoist cadres attacked Rafiganj station on the Gaya-Mughalsarai section in Aurangabad district of Bihar and killed a Railway Protection Force constable.

The Maoist expansion is not just limited to the rural hinterland. Seized documents reflect elaborate plans for the urban areas as well. ‘Arjun’, the CPI-Maoist ‘area commander’ for Dumara and Giridih, in a recent interview, highlighted efforts to make inroads into cities and towns, with the ‘party’ deciding to open up schools and colleges in urban areas. “Our battles are fought through guns and pens. Villagers are with us as they like our ideology, but revolution in urban areas is possible only through education,” the ‘area commander’ stated. Arjun added further that a blueprint for this had already been prepared and the Maoists would try to rope in like-minded people, and schools and colleges would be funded by the Maoists, but operated by its sympathisers in the urban areas. “We carry guns, but that does not mean our activities are confined to jungles only. We are active in cities and towns also,” he remarked, ominously.

The Maoists have long displayed the capacity to work to and realize their plans, and these disclosures, should raise alarms among security agencies and the administration. Regrettably, the Governments of Bihar and Jharkhand show little capacity or intention to extract themselves from their current predicament and there is little evidence that they would, in the foreseeable future, wake up to the enveloping threat and devise an effective counter-insurgency strategy. To the extent that this remains the case, the Maoists will continue to erode the skeletal vestiges of state in these areas.


Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
August 7-13, 2006

Security Force Personnel




     Jammu &








Total (INDIA)



 Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


Military operations against ULFA suspended in Assam: The Union government on August 13, 2006 decided to halt all operations by security forces against the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) for a few days. Union Home Secretary V.K. Duggal said, “We have advised army and other security forces in Assam to suspend their operations against ULFA for a few days.” He added, “However, this does not mean that if they resort to any misadventure that will not be replied back. Appropriate action will be taken.” This decision comes days ahead of a crucial meeting between representatives of the Union Government and the mediators appointed by the ULFA in New Delhi to discuss modalities for initiation of direct peace talks. Hindustan Times, August 14, 2006.

Two Indian women and five Bangladesh Rifles personnel killed in Assam: Two Indian women, Shanta Dey and Sabita Dey, and five personnel of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) were killed in a two-day long gun battle between the BDR and Border Security Force (BSF) at village Harinagar and Kinokhal in the Cachar district along the India-Bangladesh border on August 9-night and August 10-morning. According to BSF sources, BDR personnel opened unprovoked firing at the BSF personnel who retaliated. "They opened unprovoked and heavy volume of fire using Universal Machine Guns, Heavy Machine Guns, rifles", said Inspector General of BSF, S.K. Datta. Tripura Info, August 11, 2006.


Government-Maoist leaders reach five-point agreement to seek UN assistance: On August 9, 2006, the Government and Maoists reached a five-point agreement to seek the assistance of the United Nations in the entire peace process and create a free and fair atmosphere for the election to a Constituent Assembly. Chief Government negotiator and Home Minister, Krishna Prasad Sitaula, and leader of the Maoist talks team, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, handed over separate letters having the same content, signed by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist Chairman Prachanda, to the UN General Secretary Kofi Annan through Abraham Abraham, the UN representative in Nepal, at the Peace Secretariat in Kathmandu.

According to the separate letters, the five points agreed to are: (i) the Government and the Maoists will continue human rights monitoring through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal; (ii) they will assist in the monitoring of the Code of Conduct during the ceasefire; (iii) On the basis of the agreement to seek UN assistance in the “management of arms and armed personnel of both the sides”, qualified civilian personnel will be deployed to monitor and verify the confinement of CPN-Maoist combatants and their weapons within the designated cantonment areas. Later, the modalities for all arrangements, including of arms and munitions, will be worked out among the parties and the UN; (iv) Monitor the Nepali Army to ensure that it remains in its barracks and its weapons are not used for or against any side. The modalities will be worked out among the parties and the UN, and (v) Election to the Constituent Assembly will be observed in consultation with the parties. Nepal News, August 10, 2006.

Maoist leader Bhattarai warns of collapse of peace talks: On August 7, 2006 the CPN (Maoist) leader Baburam Bhattarai said that Prime Minister G.P. Koirala's comments a day earlier on giving space to the King would hamper the ongoing peace talks. Addressing a programme in the capital Kathmandu, Bhattarai said, "If they (government and the parties) breach the peace talks, if they stick to the old notion of preserving the ‘royal army’ and the King, we will detach ourselves from the peace talks and continue our struggle right here in the city but peacefully." Bhattarai added, "We will form another "front", "republican front" comprising the people of Nepal that would bring another enormous change which would not only sweep monarchy but also all forces who support monarchy." Nepal News, August 8, 2006.


Key figure in London terror plot arrested in Pakistan:Pakistan said on August 11, 2006 it had arrested 24 people, including an Al Qaeda operative with links in Afghanistan, in connection with the alleged UK terror plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners. Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said the foiling of the terror plot was the result of close cooperation between Pakistan, the United States and the United Kingdom. She told the media that 24 people have been arrested in connection with the terror conspiracy and those arrested would be handed over to the UK for investigations. “There are indications of Afghanistan based Al Qaeda connection,” she informed, adding “The case has wider international dimensions ... the intelligence cooperation and coordination at the international level to get to the bottom in this case are continuing.”

Further, Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said Pakistan had arrested an Al Qaeda operative who had played a key role in the terror plot. “He is a British citizen of Pakistani origin. He is an Al Qaeda operative with linkages in Afghanistan,” Sherpao told Reuters. He said the arrest of the man, identified as Rashid Rauf, had led to a wave of arrests in Britain that headed off the alleged plot to blow up as many as 10 aircraft flying from Britain to the US. “We arrested him from the border area and on his disclosure we shared the information with British authorities, which led to further arrests in Britain,” he told Associated Press.

Newspapers in London cited British Government sources as saying the police launched an operation after a message was sent from Pakistan, following the arrests there apparently urging the plotters to go ahead. “An intercepted message from Pakistan telling the bombers to ‘go now’ had triggered the arrests, reported London’s Guardian. ABC News quoting Pakistani officials identified the ringleader of the bomb plot as Matiur Rehman, said to be a 29-year-old Al Qaeda ‘commander’ accused of involvement in plots to kill President Pervez Musharraf. He was said to be missing along with five others, ABC News said, adding that Rehman was known to be planning a “terror spectacular” to mark the fifth anniversary of 9/11. The News, August 12, 2006.

Earthquake relief money used to finance UK plane bombing plot:A UK-based Islamic charity organisation remitted a huge amount of money to three individuals in three different bank accounts at Mirpur in Azad Kashmir [Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK)], in December 2005 with the sole purpose of helping its recipients and their organisations carry out the aircraft bombing plan in the UK, sources told Daily Times on August 11, 2006. An investigation carried out by Daily Times showed that Muslim Charity of UK remitted not so long ago a huge amount of money under the head of “earthquake relief” to the accounts of three individuals in three different banks — Saudi Pak Bank, Standard Chartered and Habib Bank Ltd. One of these banks is UK based and has its presence in PoK because of a huge number of British citizens of Kashmir origin in UK. The money was transferred from UK to banks in PoK reportedly through Barclays.

Two of the recipients of the transaction are British citizens of Kashmir origin while the third is an Islamabad-based builder, also of Kashmir origin. They were reportedly arrested in the last two weeks at three different places in Pakistan. One of them was arrested in Karachi, the “builder” was arrested in Islamabad while the place of the arrest of the third suspect is still not known. Daily Times, August 12, 2006.

Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Saeed put under house arrest in Lahore: The Punjab Government put Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed under house arrest for one month at his house in Lahore on August 10, 2006, two days ahead of a public meeting he was scheduled to address in the city. “We have orders from the government to detain the Dawa [Jamaat-ud-Dawa] leader,” said city police chief Khwaja Khalid Farooq. Police sources said the Jamaat-ud-Dawa had planned to hold a public meeting on August 12 at Minar-i-Pakistan in connection with Pakistan’s Independence Day. Dawn, August 11, 2006.


128 persons killed in fighting between Army and LTTE: At least 128 people, including 28 Army and Navy personnel, were reportedly killed in battles between the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) on August 12-13 in the east and north. Clashes occurred when the LTTE attempted to overrun the Army's forward defence line in the Jaffna peninsula on August 11-evening. The SLA claimed that it repulsed the attack and neutralised the LTTE forces. .

At a press conference in the capital, Colombo, on August 12, the Government Defence spokesperson and Minister, Keheliya Rambukwella, said the LTTE offensive had all the trappings of "Eelam IV" (fourth war by the LTTE in its goal of establishment of an independent Eelam). Military spokesperson Athula Jayawardena informed the media that 280 people were wounded in the latest fighting. The LTTE used 400-500 cadres to attack the forward defence line and a nearby islet. The outfit also reportedly fired 130-mm artillery at the Palaly airbase and damaged a Bell 212 helicopter but the airport was operational. The Hindu, August 13, 2006.

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.

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