Security Scenario in NE India : Response thereof Securing Asia 2013
Bhaskar Jyoti Mahanta, IPS
Addl. D.G. of Police,
• The NE, comprising the states of Assam, Meghalaya,
Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura , Arunachal Pradesh and
Meghalaya is perhaps the most heterogeneous region
of India with 250 social groups and more than 175
• Only 2% of the landmass is connected with India and
the rest of the boundaries which is more than 4500 km
international border is shared with South and South
East Asian countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan,
China and Myanmar.
• The whole region is connected with the rest of the
country by a tenuous 22 kilometer land corridor
through Siliguri in the eastern state of West Bengal—a
link that came to be referred to as the ‘chicken neck’.
• North-east India is one such conflict zone where
some armed rebellions go back to the days of
• In the post-independence period the first major
challenge to the Indian State as one unified
nation had come from the North-East (NE) India-
a region, which is a conglomerate of seven (now
eight with the inclusion of Sikkim)
predominantly tribal states.
• The sheer number of armed rebel groups in the region is
extraordinary. According to one recent count, there are as many as
90 armed rebel groups.
• Manipur State tops the list with forty such organizations, six of
which are banned, and in addition there are nine “active” and
twenty-five “inactive” rebel groups.
• Assam is next on the list with thirty-four rebel groups: two of
which are banned, with six active and twenty-six inactive armed
• Meghalaya has four armed rebel groups, of which three are active
and one inactive.
• Mizoram has two rebel organizations and both are listed as active.
• Nagaland has two active and two inactive groups of rebels.
• Tripura has two rebel groups that are banned, in addition to one
active and twenty-two inactive groups. Only Arunachal, according
to this count, has no armed rebel organization.
• Insurgent groups begin their anti-state movements with
avowed ideological and political pinning, only to stray
into a mould of extortionists and gun-running bandits.
• The battle between the state and the non-state actor
gets converted into a war of attrition where civilians
living in the conflict zone are frequently used as pawns
and asylum-givers at gunpoint by the non-state actors
and as informants and collaborators by the security
• Many contemporary struggles are also characterized by
inter-ethnic group conflicts.
• While socio-economic reasons cannot be
undermined, the easy availability and proliferation of
small arms has become a determining factor.
• First is the secessionist or exclusivist type. United Liberation Front of
Assam (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), NSCN (I-
M) etc. want to establish independent homelands.
• The second type is autonomist in character. Assam movement from
1979-1984 was a non violent way of redefining the relationship
between the centre and the periphery. In addition, there are many
insurgent groups who want to redefine their relationship within Indian
union as an autonomous state or as a separate state or demanding
district council within the existing system. The Bodoland, the tribal
movements in Tripura and in Karbi Anglong etc. are some of the
examples of this type.
• Struggles for domination by one group over the other is another type.
The Bodos versus the mainland Assamese, the Nagas versus Kukis and
Nagas versus the Meiteis in Manipur and Nagaland , the Karbis vesus
the Dimasas, Karbis versus Kukis are some of the examples of this type.
In many of such inter tribal clashes it leads to massive killing and
• There are intra-tribal clashes which also lead to violence in the region.
The Nagas for example are fighting not only against the Indian State but
also against themselves for dominance and power. The Bodos have
significant differences that led to the killing of many Bodos from 1996-
• There could be another category – those who are fighting for a an
autonomous state within constitution of India under article 244 A. The
Karbis and the Bodos are demanding this status from time to time.
• There are some movements which seek to gain some benefits within the Indian
constitution such as recognition as the SC and ST. In recent times groups like Chutia,
Koch-Rajbangshi, The Adivasis, the Ahoms and the Motok and Moran are demanding
• There are some movements which are irredentist in character. The demand for
“Nagalim” encompassing the territories of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh is
the best example of this type. The Bodos in Assam are also encroaching reserved forest
land and forcing people to leave in the Bodoland area so that they can form one
homogenous homeland in the area.
• However these movements are not mutually exclusive in their character. Many of
violent movements are successfully co-opted and settled within Indian union like that
of the Mizo movement. Even groups like NSCN are now negotiating for a “special
Federal relations” with India. Many of the groups referred above are having
“suspension of operations” with the Ministry of Home Affairs, GOI.
• Needless to say that the common referent point for all the movements is the Indian
State from whom they want to derive maximum allocation of resources and benefit
• Violent conflicts emanating from terrorism and
insurgency are declining or they have been
reduced to near irrelevance. A vigilant role by
the SFs would always keep them at bay.
• Northeast security scenario is being increasingly
influenced by a different set of emerging
conflicts with potential of violence.
• Struggle over identity have of late taken the forms of ethnic
cleansing. Quest for peace in the Bodo heartland in Assam seems
to be an un-ending chimera. The area has witnessed a saga of
ethnic-hostility, wanton killing, destruction and displacement. In
2008, clash in the two northern districts of Darrnag and Udalguri
claimed nearly 70 lives and displaced over 2 lakh people.
• In 2012, more than 100 people were killed and 4,85,921 people
displaced in the Bodoland Territorial Council area. The Bodoland
Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD) area, popularly known as
the ‘Bodoland’, is one of the most violence-ridden areas in post
independence period of India.
• Insurgency fatigue on the one hand and a perception of deprivation on
the other have made the conflict pockets to explore new modes of
• The self-proclaimed Maoists in Manipur like the PLA and their co-
brothers in the form of UNLF are not really mass-based while the
Maoists in Assam tend to be adopting a mid-way between the PLA
model and the mainland model of mass-based violent protest.
• While the discernable abhorrence of the civil society of the Northeast
towards violence has helped the state governments to contain the
guns of the insurgents, new modes of democratic violence seem to be
• The dichotomy between the local and the immigrant Muslims has become
• Second, there is a tactical alliance between the Bodos and the Non-Bodo
indigenous groups such as the Assamese speaking, the Rabhas, the Koch-
Rajbangshis and the Adivasis who were otherwise fighting with each other for
space and identity till 1998.
• Religious Minority leaders such as Baddruddin Ajmal of All India Democratic
United Front (AIUDF) and All Assam Minority Students Union (AAMSU) have
succeeded in bridging the gap between the local Assamese Muslims and
• The issue of updating of National Register of Citizen and more pronounced
political assertions by the immigrant Muslims lately, the polarization will
• The evolution of the response of the states had undergone varying processes
over the last several decades, which has finally resulted in rendering most of
the insurgent groups nearly irrelevant.
Year 2010Year 2011
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
46 47 48
3 2 0
The picture has become even more brighter in Assam in the years 2012 and
2013; the civilian casualty figure has become almost nil.
ULFA–NDFB AND THE FOREIGN HAND
• Operation Bajrang - 27/28 Nov.1990
• Operation All Clear - Dec 2003 (Bhutan)
• Major arms haul - 2004 in Bangladesh
• Shifting of nerve centre of arms smuggling
from Cox’s Bazar of Bangladesh to Myanmar
• Nexus of Myanmar Army with UNLF by ULFA
for arms smuggling from Myanmar
• Renewed nexus of ULFA with KIA
Current ULFA Focus
Major arms conduit facilitating the pursuits of
Blackhouse, WUNA, TLC and NORINCO --- the
REHABILITATION OF MILITANTS
• Surrender Process started in 1992
• Total surrenders till date – 13999
• Surrender Scheme of GoI for Northeast militants became
effective from 1st April 1998
• Surrenders from 1st April 1998 to 31st March 2005 –
• Scheme was revised w.e.f. 1st April 2005
• Surrenders from 1st April 2005 till 30th April, 2012 –
• Facilitating a peaceful atmosphere by preventing ‘direct violence’ by taking
people as stakeholders, involving civil society in the Conflict Resolution
process, promoting a culture of dialogue, by respecting Human Rights, creating
a ‘peace climate’ where issues and grievances of the people and social groups
can be democratically and peacefully resolved.
Project Aashwas, an Assam Police Project
• The unified command structure with equal partnership of
Army and Police/CPMF in operational activities with special
focus on human rights and rule of law has helped while
neutralizing the threats.
• The efforts of the state of Assam with the proactive
collaboration of GOI in enlisting the support of the
neighboring countries at various levels has yielded results.
- Operation All Clear by Royal Bhutan Army
- Bangladesh government’s proactive drive against NE rebels
- Denial of sanctuaries despite internal constraints by Myanmar to NE rebels
Two-fold role of the Police
There are two dimensions in which police needs its preparation : -
1) Physical and Coercive apparatus
2) Ideological and Sociological apparatus
Physical and Coercive Apparatus
• Sophisticated Weapons
• Police infrastructure
• Adequate manpower
• Proper Training --- Securing critical infrastructure, cyber savvy orientation and soft skill are
priority. We are just adequate in lawful interception ,CDR analysis and IMS etc.
• Communication and net working
• Re-vamping police stations into-normal police investigations and other specialized forms of
crime and violence—This is a major challenge as we discover the importance of civil orientation.
--- Incorporation of better explosive detection capabilities required.
• Get Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar as national and
international partners for development and anti-terror network
• Dismantle insurgency networks in all these countries by focusing on arms
proliferation, narcotics, FICN and camps of NE groups
• Address NSCN and mother of all small insurgencies in NE India will
automatically get addressed.
• Co-option of insurgent leaders into the democratic process in a very
• Administration of ceasefire ground rules is crucial
STRATEGY TO COMBAT NEW
• Diplomatic pressure on Myanmar
• Augmentation of Indo-Myanmar and Indo- China Border Security
• Special attention in Bangladesh & Nepal
• Effective mechanism in Dimapur & Aizwal to prevent arms
smuggling to other parts of the country
• Firm and focused CI OPS under unified command
• Plugging the entry and exit routes to Bangladesh & Myanmar
• Choking the supply line of ration and other essential commodities
• Curbing the fund flow to the militants
• Effective mechanism for prompt and real time intelligence sharing
• Increasing surveillance on sleeper cells of Maoists and Jihadists
• Effective media management
• Strengthening community liaison programmes
Ideological and Sociological apparatus (ISA)
• What we are witnessing today is fiercely assertive Civil society, Media and NGOs who
want to fight over the issues of entitlements.
• Issues of governance, land allotment, rehabilitation, displacement, and transparency in
administration, people’s participation, and community resources have become more
crucial than before. People want development—but have started asking critical
questions –“development by whom, for whom, who will be the beneficiaries and at
• Movements that have addressed these people’s issues have become more popular and
sustainable in comparison to the armed groups who have perennially neglected these
issues for a dream of independent Sovereign homeland. Except perhaps in
Manipur, insurgency is waning in almost all the states in the region.