Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Flashpoint in Nagaland

The concluding episode of the Dharma Dispatch series on understanding the situation in India's North East.

The current situation is complex and uncertain with each of the major groups tangentially pursuing their own agendas. The present day dynamics can be explained as follows.

NSCN(K)

NSCN (K) unilaterally abrogated the ceasefire in March 2015. This was followed by a series of violent incidents in Kohima, Tuengsang and Manipur. Security Forces retaliated with daring cross-border raids on two camps simultaneously in Myanmar in June 2015. Other actions by security forces led to the neutralisation of several NSCN(K) cadres in Nagaland with a consequent decrease in the combat potential of the groups. The group has shifted base to Myanmar and joined NDFB(S)/ ULFA(I) to form the UNLFW. After the cross-border raids in June 15, the Camps of NSCN(K) have been pushed further in depth, thus creating a geographical buffer and reducing their potential to execute violent actions against the security forces.

SS Khaplang, Chairman of the group died on June 20, 2017 and Khango Konyak, a western Naga and an Indian national, was appointed the Chairman of the outfit, after Khaplang’s death. However, Khango was removed as the Chairman of the NSCN (K) in August, 2018. He was replaced by Aung, a nephew of NSCN (K)’s founder S.S. Khaplang.

The NSCN (K) is now divided into two groups, one led by Aung and the other by Khango Konyak. Khango after several months of hesitation, finally agreed to indicate that he was not averse to signing a ceasefire with the GOI and now is fully integrated into the peace talks with his group formally joining the NNPGs in their ongoing peace talks with the GOI. The balance of the group under Aung signed a ceasefire with the Myanmar Government. However, owing to sustained pressure by GOI,  recently in February, 2019, their main camp located at Taga village, in the Sagaing province of Myanmar, was raided and occupied by the Tatmadaw, the Myanmar army.

NSCN(IM) 

The NSCN(IM) is under ceasefire with GOI and still remains the most dominant group in Nagaland. The group has signed a ‘Framework Agreement’ with GOI on 03 Aug 15 and has emerged as the harbinger of a renewed peace process in Nagaland. Since the signing of this historic agreement, the group has been actively involved in organizing meetings with various stakeholders and garnering their consensus for the peace process. Consequently, mass defections from other groups to NSCN(IM) have been witnessed. Although contents of the Agreement have not been declassified, the same holds a new hope for a permanent solution to the Naga issue which has been lingering on for almost 68 years.

Other Groups 

With the NSCN(IM) having taken the lead in the peace process, the other underground groups like the NSCN(KN), FGN and NNC have criticised GoI for engaging with only one group. After being fence-sitters for almost one month (since signing of the Framework Agreement), these groups had broken their silence on 09 Sep 15 through a joint statement through which they expressed opposition to the peace initiative by the GOI. Meanwhile, these groups although under ceasefire with the GOI, have continued with rampant extortion in the state. The newly created group called NSCN(R) is in the process of establishing itself and has signed a Ceasefire agreement with GOI.

Arunachal Pradesh

Districts of South Arunachal are used for transit of Assam-based insurgent groups to Myanmar and back. Abrogation of ceasefire by NSCN (K) on 26 Mar 2015 has increased the threat dynamics in these districts. The region has witnessed several violent incidents in the recent past. Most of these incidents are attributable to the UNLFW group comprising mainly the NSCN (K), ULFA (I) and NDFB (S). These districts share a boundary with Myanmar and are therefore often subjected to insurgent actions from camps close to the IB. The area is one of the most underdeveloped and is reeling under severe lack of basic amenities. A porous border and unmonitored movement across the IB have been the main hurdles in preventing movement of cadres in the area.

Other States of NE India 

Barring the states of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and to some extent Arunachal Pradesh, insurgency in other states of NE is either dormant or issues have been resolved to establish sustained peace and are explained in the following paragraphs.

Tripura

Tripura declared revocation of the AFSPA, thus heralding the restoration of permanent peace and normalcy. A stable government with effective governance, civil administration, law and order system, have contributed immensely towards peace in the region. Although, the three major groups of the state i.e. NLFT, ATTF and BNCT still exist, their combat potential has been substantially reduced due to protracted operations by Security Forces, apprehension of top leaders in Bangladesh and mass surrender of its cadres. The subdued limited spatial influence of these groups is confined to Dhalai, West Tripura and North Tripura districts which include minor extortion attempts. The situation is in absolute control and threat levels are under acceptable limits.

Infiltration of Rohingyas

Rohingyas are a Muslim group settled in Rakhine State, Myanmar. 1.3 million Rohingyas reside in Myanmar. International attention was drawn to the Rohingyas in the wake of the 2012 Rakhine State riots. Likelihood of the Rohingyas trying to illegally cross over the IMB remains a faint possibility due to the geographic and  demographic spread in Myanmar.

In 2015, Rohingyas migrated from Myanmar and  Bangladesh in rickety boats, thus named ‘Boat People,‘ to South East Asian countries including Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. The sorry plight of Rohingyas in Myanmar continues due to denial of citizenship, forced displacement, forced labour, religious persecution, marriage restrictions and  population control. The Rohingyas are a likely security threat as they are turning out to be easy targets for MFOs. ISIS is also known to be reaching out to Rohingyas for recruitment. With countries unwilling to house the Rohingyas, joining ISIS may be an attractive option.

Mizoram

The official document entitled Mizoram Accord, 1986, Memorandum of Settlement was the landmark that restored peace and harmony in the state. Proactive efforts by the State government and Security Forces prevented the resurgence of violence.

The Bru insurgent groups are in tripartite talks with the State governments of Mizoram and Tripura. However, little headway has been made towards the return and settlement of Bru families. The Mizo government has, however, managed to keep the insurgent factions engaged in negotiations and has prevented an escalation of the situation. Similarly, the Hmar insurgent groups though dormant, resort to sporadic acts of violence to voice their concerns about the government inaction towards their demands. Illegal transit of arms through the state is another issue that merits concern.

Concluded

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Lt Gen Shokin Chauhan
Lt Gen Shokin Chauhan (PVSM, AVSM, YSM, SM, VSM) is Chairman, Cease Fire Monitoring Group in August 2018, post retirement from the Indian army. He served as the Director General of Assam Rifles, India’s oldest and largest Para Military Force and had commanded 1 Corps, India’s premier Strike Corps, the 8 Mountain Division at Kargil on the Line of Control with Pakistan and 70 Mountain Brigade on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. The General is an Outstanding Scholar General and has vast experience at Apex level in the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Home in Defence, Counter Insurgency, Counter Terrorism and Border Guarding. He was also the Defence Attaché in the Indian Embassy in Nepal from 2004-07.

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