Northeast: Troubling Externalities
Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, Institute
for Conflict Management & SATP
Northeast, troubled by decades of militancy and ethnic
extremism, has seen dramatic improvements in the prevailing
security scenario over the past years, with a multiplicity
of enduring insurgencies weakening considerably, disintegrating
or seeking peace through negotiated settlements with the
Government. Trends in fatalities for the Northeast demonstrate
sustained and dramatic improvements, from a recent peak
in insurgency-related fatalities across the region, at
1,051 in 2008, collapsing to a total of just 247 fatalities
South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), *Data till
March 25, 2012
year-end review for 2011, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs
described the year as one of the most successful in terms
of bringing rebel groups to the negotiation table in India’s
significant recent improvements have been witnessed in
Assam and Manipur, the two States in the region that accounted
for the overwhelming majority of recent fatalities.
the SATP database recorded a 39.87 per cent decline in
militancy-related fatalities, from 158 in 2010, to 95
in 2011. More importantly, a 27 per cent drop was registered
in civilian killings in 2011 as compared to 2010, indicating
considerable improvement in the general security situation.
45 militants, 35 civilians and 15 Security Forces (SF)
personnel, were killed in 67 incidents in 2011, as against
98 militants, 48 civilians and 12 SF personnel, in 100
incidents, in 2010.
had been recorded by SATP in 2012 [Data till March 25],
as compared to 26 fatalities in 2011 during the same period.
2012 fatalities included seven militants and two civilians.
There has been no SF killing this year.
groups remain present in Assam, with existing armed cadres,
though many of these are under various processes of negotiation
with the Government. Of these, the National Democratic
Front of Bodoland – Ranjan Daimary faction (NDFB-RD)
and the Karbi People’s Liberation Tigers (KPLT),
were responsible for most fatalities in 2011. The
various ‘active’ militant groups in the State which retain
armed cadres include [A groups is categorized ‘active’
if it has been involved in any incident (including extortion,
intimidation, arrests, shootings, abductions bomb blasts,
encounters, fratricidal clashes, etc.) over the preceding
Liberation Front of Asom – Pro Talks Faction (ULFA-PTF):
The ULFA-PTF signed a tripartite Suspension of Operations
(SoO) agreement with the Central and State Government
on September 3, 2011, after declaring a ceasefire on July
13, 2011. The first formal talks with Central Government
were held on October 25. 496 militants belonging to ULFA-PTF
are located in seven ‘designated camps’.
Talks Faction (ULFA-ATF): Paresh Baruah and Abhijeet Barman
head the ULFA-ATF, which has an estimated surviving strength
of some 225 to 250 militants. The group’s leadership and
principal cadre strength is currently located in camps
in Myanmar. ULFA-ATF continues to carry out occasional
terrorist attacks in the State.
Democratic Front of Bodoland - Pro Talks Faction (NDFB-PTF):
NDFB-PTF signed a SoO agreement on May 25, 2005. Talks
with the formation remains in a very early stage. The
group has demanded the replacement of the present interlocutor,
P.C. Haldar, a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau,
by a politician from the Northeast. The outfit has recently
come out in public demanding a separate Bodoland State
within the Indian Union. 936 NDFB-PTF militants are staying
in three ‘designated camps’ in the State.
NDFB-RD declared an indefinite ceasefire on August 1,
2011, but Security Operations against the group have continued.
Daimary and other top leaders of the group had been arrested
in Bangladesh in 2010, and were handed over to Indian
authorities. The Central Government has appointed P.C.
Hadar as the interlocutor with the outfit and informal
meeting between Halder and Daimari have taken place in
Guwahati Jail. The group’s strength is estimated at about
325 to 350 militants.
Daogah - Nunisa faction (DHD-N):
The group signed a SoO on January 1, 2003. The talks with
the formation have hit a roadblock over its demand for
incorporation of additional villages of the Districts
of Cachar and Nagaon with Dima Hasao District. 512 DHD-N
militants are staying in four ‘designated camps’.
faction of DHD (DHD-J)/ Black Widow (BW):
The group lay down arms on September 2009. Peace talks
with the outfit are close to completion according to Government
sources. 440 DHD-J members are staying in four ‘designated
Peoples Democratic Solidarity (UPDS):
UPDS signed a tripartite accord on September 25, 2011,
with the Centre and State Government.
North Cachar Liberation Front (KLNLF):
The group lay down arms on February 11, 2010. Talks
are on, but the issue of ‘Karbi self rule’ remains the
roadblock to resolution. The group isdemanding the status
of a State within a State. 288 militants of the KLNLF
are staying in three designated camps.
Liberation Tigers (KPLT): KPLT has an estimated strength
of about 60 to 70 armed cadres and has been involved in
frequent acts of violence.
Force (HTF): A militant outfit of the non-Dimasa hill
tribes in Dima Hasao District, was formed following the
ethnic clashes among the Dimasas and the Zeme Nagas in
the NC Hills District in 2009. The group suffered major
setbacks. Specifically, on November 13, 2011, SFs arrested
nine HTF militants, including its ‘commander-in-chief’
Benjamin Jaolin Zaute and ‘finance secretary’ Alex Thiek,
from the deep jungles at the Hmar village of Arda under
Harangajao Police Station in Dima Hasao District.
formations – the Adivasi People’s Army (APA), All Adivasi
National Liberation Army (AANLA),
Santhal Tiger Force (STF), United Kukigam Defence Army
(UKDA), Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA),
Kuki Liberation Army (KLA)
and Hmar Peoples Convention-Democratic (HPC-D)
– lay down arms on January 24, 2012.
militant formations remain active in the State: Muslim
United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA)
and Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen (HuM).
MULTA has an estimated 60 cadres while HuM is reported
to have some 40 armed cadres.
Communist Party of India–Maoist (CPI-Maoist)
has also made inroads
into the State.
there are many smaller outfits operating in certain pockets.
They include: Liberation Democratic Council of
Mising Land (LDCMS), a rebel formation in Lakhimpur and
Jorhat Districts; United Tribal Liberation Front (UTLF);
the United Tribal Revolutionary Army (UTRA); Dimasa National
Liberation Front (DNLF); Bodoland Royal Tigers Force (BRTF);
National Dimasa Protection Army (NDPA); and Gorkha Liberation
also recorded a steep decline (52.89 per cent) in the
number of overall fatalities from 138 in 2010 to 65 in
2011. The number of civilian and SF personnel killed has,
however, remained more or less the same. Militant fatalities
have registered a sharp drop of 74.03 percent from 104
in 2010 to 27 in 2011. 47 encounters between SFs and militants
were recorded by the SATP database in 2010, while just
nine were registered in 2011. Fratricidal clashes between
the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak-Muivah
and the Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF) – a breakaway faction
of the NSCN-IM – became very prominent in the State after
the latter’s formation on February 25, 2011.
months of 2012 give cause for rising concern, with 42
fatalities recorded by March 25, 2012, dramatically higher
than the previous year’s figure of 16 fatalities over
the same period. The 2012 fatalities included 22 militants,
nine SF personnel and 11 civilians. CorCom – an umbrella
organization of seven Valley-based militant groups – which
called for a boycott of the ruling Indian National Congress
(INC) during the recently concluded Assembly Elections,
was responsible for the largest number (10) of attributable
fatalities this year, with the NSCN-IM following (7).
15 active groups in Manipur, while some of these groups
have a number of factions. The Kangleipak Communist Party
for instance, is known to have more than 12 factions.
significant active groups in the State include:
– The ‘Coordination Committee’ comprising seven militant
outfits, including the KCP, Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL),
People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK),
PREPAK – Progressive faction (PREPAK-Pro), Revolutionary
Peoples Front (RPF), United National Liberation Front
and United Peoples Party of Kangleipak (UPPK). The committee
had banned the Congress from contesting the recently held
Assembly elections (January 28) in Manipur. The ban failed,
and the Congress won an overwhelming majority of 42 out
of the State’s 60 Assembly constituencies.
The former Chinglemba Mangang group of PREPAK re-incarnated
itself under a new identity, the UPPK, with its armed
wing Kangleipak People’s Army (KPA). The party with its
armed wing was founded on November 6, 2008.
The Naga formation, which has been engaged in extended
peace talks in Nagaland, seeks the inclusion of Naga dominated
areas of Manipur in its projected ‘Greater Nagalim’, and
has been involved in continuous mobilization of the Naga
tribes in the Manipur hills, as well as in some violent
operations in this State.
has bucked the broad trend of improvement in the Northeast,
registering an increase in insurgency-related fatalities
from 20 in 2010 (in 11 incidents of killing), to 29 in
2011 (in 13 incidents of killing). More worryingly, civilian
fatalities nearly quadrupled, from three in 2010 to 11
in 2011. This is the first time since 2003 that fatalities
among civilians have reached double digits. Similarly,
the State recorded double-digit fatalities among the SFs
for the first time since 2002, with 10 fatalities among
SF personnel in 2011, as against none in 2010. In fact,
it was on December 7, 2008, that a trooper had last been
killed in the State. Meanwhile, militant fatalities declined,
with eight killed in 2011, as compared to 17 in 2010.
2009 had recorded four insurgent fatalities.
has already recorded 10 fatalities in year 2012, including
nine civilians and one militant [until March 25].
two active groups in Meghalaya, the Hynniewtrep National
Liberation Council (HNLC)
and Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA).
GNLA remains the most potent threat in the State and is
responsible for most casualties. HNLC has expressed interest
in initiating talks, but has alleged that the Meghalaya
Government was ‘not sincere’, and warned that it would,
consequently, continue its ‘armed struggle. Groups like
the Liberation A'chik Elite Force (LAEF)
and Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC)
remain dormant. LAEF ‘chief’ Nikseng G. Momin had been
killed on December 2, 2010, while the ANVC had entered
into a cease-fire with the Government on July 23, 2004.
On October 11, 2011, the tripartite cease-fire agreement
between the Centre, State Government and the ANVC was
extended by another year, effective from October 1, 2011.
50 persons were killed and eight injured in 16 fratricidal
clashes between Naga militant formations in 2011, both
within and outside Nagaland. In 2010, the number
of persons killed in just two such incidents was two.
Insurgency related fatalities within Nagaland have increased
from just three in 2010 to 15 in 2011. More worryingly,
seven civilians were killed in six incidents in 2011.
There were no civilian killings in 2010. The last civilian
killing before the spike in 2011 was reported on July
23, 2009. While the number of militants killed increased
to eight in 2011, from just three in 2010, there has been
no SF casualty since May 11, 2008.
Nagaland has already recorded 18 fatalities [until March
25], including 16 militants and two civilians. The NSCN-Khaplang
suffered a split in June 2011, with the Khole-Kitovi
group forming another faction. The maximum fatalities
in 2012 are due to fratricidal clashes between the two
outfits, NSCN-Khole-Kitovi and NSCN-K.
five active groups in the State: the NSCN-IM, NSCN-K,
NSCN-Khole-Kitovi, NSCN-Unification and the Naga National
recorded just one militancy-related fatality in 2011,
as against three in 2010, a remarkable contrast with the
514 fatalities recorded in 2000, when terrorism was at
its peak in the State. National Liberation Front of Tripura
was responsible for the single fatality in the State in
2011. An October 20, 2011, Police report indicated that
74 people, mostly tribals, were abducted by militants
in Tripura in 2011, as against 114 and 121 people in 2010
and 2009 respectively. One militant fatality has been
recorded so far in 2012.
two active militant groups in Tripura:
a series of splits suffered by the NLFT, only the Biswamohan
faction of the group (NLFT-B) remains active. It has,
however, suffered a severe loss in cadre strength. The
group continues to operate from Bangladesh, with occasional
strikes against civilian targets, principally abductions
for ransom, across the border into Tripura. The State
Government estimates the cadre strength of the outfit
at approximately 150.
Tiger Force (ATTF):
Two factions, headed by Ranjit Debbarma (ATTF-RD) and
Sachin Debbarma (ATTF-SD) have been decimated, and have
a minimal surviving strength based in Bangladesh. The
Sachin Group has reportedly joined NLFT. The combined
strength of the ATTF is currently estimated at no more
than 10 to 12 militants.
long insurgency in Mizoram ended in 1986, and peace has
held since. Occasional incidents, principally the result
of overflows from neighbouring States, or of unresolved
issues relating to refugees populations, still occur.
to the SATP database, Mizoram recorded a single fatality
(civilian killed by the Assam-based UDLA) in 2011. No
fatalities have yet been recorded in 2012. There were
no fatalities in the State in 2010, and one in 2009.
militant groups with a presence in Mizoram include the
Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF), which surrendered
in 2005, and is currently in negotiations with the Mizoram
Government for the repatriation of Bru refugees, currently
housed in camps in Tripura; and the Hmar People’s Convention-Democracy
(HPC-D), which entered into a Suspension of Operations
(SoO) agreement with the Government on November 11, 2010
for six months. The SoO expired on May 11, 2011, and was
not extended by the Mizoram Government on the grounds
that the HPC-D was violating SoO ground rules. The HPC-D
continues to demand the formation of separate Hmar Territorial
Council in the north eastern part of the State. Peace
talks with the outfit were supposed to start in January
2011. However, the Government has refused to resume talks
on the grounds that HPC-D has involved a foreigner, a
US citizen (Rochunga Pudaite), as interlocutor.
no major indigenous insurgency in Arunachal Pradesh,
though an ‘overflow’ from neighbouring Nagaland has resulted
in regular fatalities in this State as well. According
to SATP data, the State recorded 41 fatalities during
the year 2011, up from none in 2010. All 41 fatalities
were militants. The State recorded three major incidence
of killing during the year. There were no militancy-related
fatalities in the State in 2010, while 2009 had recorded
nine militant fatalities.
Pradesh has already recorded two (militant) fatalities
in 2012. Significant groups operating in the State include
the NSCN-IM and NSCN-K, as well as the Arunachal Naga
Liberation Front (ANLF), which was formed in May 2010.
The ANLF, however, formally merged with NSCN-K on June
positive trends in the security environment in India’s
Northeast are, however, tainted by a number of emerging
factors, including a number of crucial and potentially
disruptive ‘externalities’. For one, an Intelligence Bureau
(IB) note reportedly indicates that the idea of a Strategic
United Front, designed to bring a number of terrorist
groups in the Northeast and in Jammu & Kashmir under
a single umbrella, has been chalked out by China, to launch
what has been described as ‘synergised attacks in India’.
The Manipur-based People’s Liberation Army (PLA)
has elaborated this vision of evolving a ‘Strong United
Front’, along with CPI-Maoist and Kashmiri militants,
backed by Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI)
and China. The PLA has claimed that the ‘United Front’
so formed had been promised ‘Chinese support’, but only
after the militant conglomerate had secured cadre strength
of ‘over 30,000’. The PLA also declared that it would
extend support to Myanmar’s insurgent groups in days to
groups in India’s Northeast have also created linkages
with other insurgent groupings in India, most prominently
the CPI-Maoist. The CPI-Maoist has already signed an agreement
with the PLA of Manipur.
also indicate that the ULFA-ATF was imparting arms training
to Maoist cadres in the forests of Arunachal Pradesh.
An MHA internal note warned of a new ‘Red Terror Corridor’
along the Assam-Arunachal border, and indicated that the
Maoists had started making extortion demands on local
villagers in this area. In a March 14, 2012, report, the
Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) confirmed that the
CPI-Maoist was making inroads into Northeastern States.
Reports also indicate that PLA cadres had travelled to
Jharkhand to provide weapons’ training to Maoist recruits
significant, potentially destabilizing, externalities,
however, include accelerating foreign interventions in
the region, particularly by China and Pakistan. Pakistan
has, of course, supported insurgencies in India’s Northeast
since the commencement of the first Naga insurgency in
1951, providing insurgent groups safe-haven and support
in what was then East Pakistan. After the creation of
Bangladesh in 1971, this support became difficult for
a brief period, till the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur
Rehman in August 1975 restored certain pro-Pakistan element
to influence in Bangladesh. Over time, a strong alliance
was built up between Pakistan’s ISI and Bangladesh’s Directorate
General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), and full support
was restored to Northeast Indian insurgent groups, through
Bangladeshi soil, in operations jointly controlled by
these agencies. On March 14, 2012, former ISI Chief Asad
Durrani admitted, before a three-member bench of the Pakistan
Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad
Chaudhary, that the notorious agency had continuously
intervened to support the insurgencies in India’s Northeast.
agency cooperation between Pakistan and Bangladesh, however,
went into a gradual decline under the interim military-backed
Government between 2006 and 2008, and finally terminated
under the Sheikh Hasina Government, with the arrest, hand
over, or expulsion of most Northeast insurgent leaders
and cadres, over the past three years.
loss of Bangladesh as a staging ground, the ISI has now
shifted its strategy. Intelligence sources indicate that
the ISI has sought to extend its support to insurgent
groupings in India’s hinterland – implying efforts to
establish links with the Maoists – and to deepen its engagement
with groups such as Paresh Baruah’s ULFA-ATF and the Kamtapur
Liberation Organisation (KLO). The KLO is now believed
to have emerged as one of the principal weapons’ suppliers
to the Maoists, in turn, sourcing its own supplies from
11, 2012, news report cited intelligence sources to claim
that the ISI ‘recently’ spent over INR 200 million towards
supplying arms to militant outfits in Assam, and through
these, to the Maoists. Stockpiles of sophisticated weapons
were transferred in two installments through the Kalishara
area of Bangladesh, and handed over to militant outfits
of the Northeast. Separately, between April and November
2011, the Tripura-based NLFT received a consignment of
weapons in the Pheni (Feni) area on the Indo-Bangladesh
border; the NDFB-RD received weapons at the border near
Sylhet; the Garo rebel outfit GNLA collected its consignment
at the Sherpur border area; the ULFA-ATF at the Haluwaghat
border area; the NSCN-IM at Moulavibazar; the KLO at the
Charonmola and Maheshkhali border areas. The handing over
of weapons is reported to have been supervised by ISI
agent G.K. Choudhury.
on August 9, 2011, Shasadhar Choudhury, 'foreign secretary'
ULFA-PTF had disclosed, "Pakistan's ISI trained ULFA.
In 1991, I was part of the first batch of ULFA members
to go to Pakistan for training in small arms, including
main battle rifles." Media reports of January 9,
2010, cited a ‘senior Bangladesh Minister’ to allege that
former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf had a secret
meeting with jailed ULFA leader Anup Chetia during a visit
to Dhaka, when the then Premier, Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh
Nationalist Party (BNP), was in power.
loss of Bangladeshi safe havens, several of the surviving
insurgent formations in the Northeast have moved into,
or increased their presence in, Myanmar. ULFA-ATF, headed
by Paresh Baruah, is reported to be located in the Taga
Area in Myanmar, in close contact with the leaders of
the Manipur-based groups, as well as with the Khaplang
faction of NSCN (NSCN-K). The ‘commander-in-chief’ of
the anti-talk faction of the NDFB-ATF, I.K. Sangbijit,
along with several hardcore members of the outfit, are
also believed to have moved closer to the Taga area.
22, 2011, the Central Government formally confirmed that
several militant outfits of India’s Northeast, including
ULFA-ATF, NDFB-ATF, and both the NSCN-IM and NSCN-K had
established camps in the Sagaing Region, and States of
Chin and Kachin, in Myanmar.
down of Bangladeshi safe havens for India’s Northeastern
insurgents has pushed the surviving groups together in
their last foreign refuge in Myanmar, ready for picking
by the Chinese. While the Chinese role in mobilizing these
elements in an anti-India strategy remains shadowy, it
is given substance by patterns of the flow of small arms
Manipur-based militant formations, including the PLA,
UNLF, PREPAK and KYKL, have arrived at a mutual understanding
to seek Chinese support.
the CPI-Maoist has made no secret of its objective of
extending the “people’s war throughout the country”, and
plans to fill up the emerging vacuum in the Northeast
have long been afoot. These efforts have gained greater
momentum because of the Maoists’ search for a reliable
source of weaponry. The Northeast rebel groupings offer
access to smuggling routes through Myanmar and Bangladesh,
and a new flood of Chinese small arms appears to have
been released into the region. News reports indicate that
intelligence sources, in September 2011, noted, “ULFA’s
Paresh Baruah faction recently received a huge cache of
arms from China and there were serious apprehensions in
the intelligence and security establishments that the
outfit may sell these weapons to the Maoist… as ULFA has
struck an alliance and has assured them of a steady supply
of arms and ammunition.”
sources also indicated that "ISI and PLA are in touch
and supplying Maoists with arms. They are supposedly using
China as the alternative route."
been a steady procurement of arms by Northeast militants
from China over the years, especially from its Yunan Province,
through the India-Myanmar border. This arms supply is
propelled by a major modernization drive in the Chinese
Army, resulting in the release of vast quantities of old
weapons, some of which are being offloaded to arms dealers
in the grey market. Weapons, including AK series and M-15
rifles, LMGs, and ammunition, discarded by the Chinese
Army, are good enough for militant groups. The managers
of Chinese State-owned weapons’ establishments are reportedly
involved in this clandestine arms supply. According to
February 21, 2010, news report, nearly 80 per cent of
weapons seized or recovered from militants in the Northeast
in recent years have the 'star' mark, indicating Chinese
manufacture, on them. In an analysis of the Asian weapons
black market, Jane’s Intelligence Review observes that
the United Wa State Army (UWSA) rebel group in Myanmar
acts as the “middleman” between Chinese arms manufacturers
and insurgent groups in India’s Northeast, with most weapons
routed through China’s Yunnan province.
of weapons’ supplies to militants in the Northeast are
also being sourced from various other countries. A number
of weapons recovered from the ultras in recent times were
of German, Italian and Israeli manufacture. These were
also brought into India mostly through Myanmar, and it
is believed that Dimapur has become a hub for transaction
of such weapons by the militant groups. Sources of weapons
recovered in the Northeast have also been identified as
including Pakistan, Belgium, Thailand, Russia, USA, UK,
Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia and
of Northeast militants with external agencies is visible
in wide and variable indices. Growing linkages abroad,
as well as between various insurgent groupings within
the region, and with the Maoists, as well as the easy
acquisition and inflow of arms into the region, give significant
cause for concern, despite the declining indices of current
Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR), Volume 10, No.
37, March 20, 2012, in Odisha: Fragile State,
stated: '…Narayan Sanyal, CPI-Maoist Politburo member,
currently in Giridih Jail in Jharkhand'. This is
incorrect. Narayan Sanyal is currently serving a
life sentence in Chhattisgarh.