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Will insurgency in Northeast ever end?

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New Delhi, Feb 7: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh claimed in Nagaland in 2017 that 75-80% insurgency in northeast has come to an end.

Was he right? Well, at least the Home Ministry data backs Singh's claim.

Assam Police Commandos giving a demonstration of River Crossing in Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare. Photo credit: PTI

The latest Home Ministry data shows that insurgency in Northeast region is continuously declining since 2014, when Narendra Modi government came into power.

According to the data, Northeast region witnessed highest number of insurgency activities in 2014 but they started to register a declining trend thereafter.

The insurgent groups carried out 824 attacks and killed 212 civilians in 2014. In response, the security forces gunned down 181 extremists.

Also Read Attempts being made through 'external linkages' to 'revive' insurgency in Punjab: Bipin Rawat

In 2015, the insurgents launched 574 attacks in which 149 extremists, 46 civilians and 46 security personnel were killed.

The insurgent activities continued to diminish in 2016 in which 87 extremists were killed during 484 insurgent attacks. The figure of civilian and security casualty stood at 48 and 17 respectively.

The insurgent attacks reduced to 308 in 2017 in which 57 insurgents, 37 civilians and 12 security personnel were killed.

In 2018, the extremism violent incidents came down to 252 in which 34 insurgents, 23 civilians and 34 security personnel were killed.

Northeast Geography

Northeast has a total of an area of 262,230 square kilometers and it comprises eight states: Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura. The region shares international border of 5,182 kilometres with Tibet Autonomous Region, China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan.

State wise Break-up of Insurgency/Terrorism

Arunachal Pradesh: The state had only a single insurgent group- The National Liberation Council of Taniland (NLCT). It is now reportedly defunct because local population didn't support its demand of Taniland.

Assam: There are six active terrorist and insurgent groups in the state - Communist Party of India- Maois (CPI-Maoist), Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), IK Songbijit faction of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-IKS), Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA), and United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I).

The separatist movement in Assam had started with the aim of a sovereign Assam led by ULFA in 1970s, but later Islamist organizations started demanding Islamist state. These Islamic insurgent groups derive support, mainly from illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.

Manipur: there are six active insurgent or terrorist groups in the state- Coordination Committee (CorCom), Manipur Naga Revolutionary Front (MNRF), National Socialist Council of Nagaland -Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), People's United Liberation Front (PULF), and Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF).

The insurgency in Manipur started way back in 1949 when the state was merged into India. Since then the insurgent groups' aim is to get independence.

Meghalaya: there are eight active terror or insurgent groups Achik National Liberation Army (ANLA), Achick Songa An'pachakgipa Kotok (ASAK), Achik National Liberation Co-operative Army (ANLCA), Achik Tiger Force (ATF), Achik National United Force (ANUF), Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), Liberation of Achik Elite Force (LAEF), and the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA).

The root of insurgency in the state lies in the demand of the Khasi, Synteng and Garo people for an independent state.

Nagaland: At present there are five active insurgent or terrorist groups in the state- Federal Government of Nagaland-Non-Accordist (FGN-NA), Federal Government of Nagaland -Accordist (FGN-A), Non-Accordist faction of Naga National Council (NNC-NA), Naga National Council-Accordist (NNC-Accordist), and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) - NSCN (K).

The insurgency started in Nagaland way back in 1947 with the demand of independence.

Mizoram: At present there is no active insurgent or terrorist group in the state. The Mizo Accord, signed in 1986, ended the main secessionist movement led by the Mizo National Front.

The root of insurgency in Mizoram was Independence.

Tripura: At present there is no active insurgent or terrorist group in the state, that had witnessed insurgent activities by the National Liberation Front of Tripura and All Tripura Tiger Force.

The insurgent groups in Tripura emerged at the end of the 1970s because of the ethnic tensions between the Bengali immigrants and the tribal native population

Sikkim: The state has no history of insurgency.

Notorious Neighbours and India's Response

The main reason behind the active status of insurgent and terrorist groups is that they enjoy financial, geographical, and logistical support and arms from India's neigbhouring countries like Myanmar, China, and Bangladesh. According to the sources, Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) also extends all possible emotional and financial support to these anti-India violent groups.

Amongst these countries, Myanmar has remained safe haven for the Northeast insurgent groups. These groups cross into India and spread violence.

Narendra Modi government also sent a clear signal to the international community in general and to Myanmar in particular when India conducted surgical strike on 10 June 10, 2015 against insurgent camps along the India-Myanmar border and reportedly destroyed two Militant camps one each of NSCN (K) and KYKL.

The surgical strike was a response to killing of 18 Indian soldiers of 6 Dogra Regiment by NSCN-K in an ambush in Chandel district of Manipur June 4, 2015.

As a strategy, India also owned this surgical strike.

According to the sources, "2015 strike was not the last surgical strike along India-Myanmar border and as a military norm, the strikes are being carried out as and when it's necessary."

Paresh Baruah, chief of the ULFA-I, is believed to based in a Chinese town called Ruili and operates anti-India activities with the help of Chinese authorities.

Due to India's continued political and military steps in Northeast, the backbone of region's insurgency has broken, but it has not died. For, Northeastern insurgents continue to get supply of 'Chinese oxygen'.

It's no secret for Indian intelligence agencies and security experts that all insurgent groups of Northeast get sophisticated arms and ammunitions from Chinese companies like NORINCO6.

China realises this fact that the initial 'ideological ingredient of independence' has rotten among the insurgent outfits of Northeast and they are now focused on activities like extortion, but it still supports them in order to keep India engaged and puzzled.

To let the pot boiling in Northeast, Bejing has covertly backed United National Liberation Front of Western South East Asia, the umbrella organization of ideologically different insurgent groups like NSCN-K, ULFA-I, Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).

China is also assisting Myanmar in building a naval base at Sittwe Port in the Rakhine State, which is the closest to India. The main motto of this assistance is use the port to supply arms to insurgents groups in Northeast to keep alive, at least in a feeble state.

But the latest political scenario in Northeast must have left China concerned.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has formed governments in many northeastern states and Beijing anticipates its implications.

For example, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the two-day global investment summit, titled 'Advantage Assam' in Guwahati in February last year then it also gave an indirect message to China and its alter egos that while the insurgents will be dealt with an iron fist, the normal people of the region will get development and better opportunities.

Moreover, India's Look East policy is an effort to cultivate extensive economic and strategic relations with the nations of Southeast Asia in order to bolster its standing as a regional power and a counterweight to the strategic influence of China.

New Delhi also realises that till China, Myanmar, and Pakistan etcetera are there then insurgency in Northeast will be a factor.

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