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Time To Consolidate Peace In Northeast India

The ethno-nationalist insurgent movements in NE India have witnessed a continuous decline over the last several years.



The declining trend of insurgency-linked fatalities in the Northeast, established since 2015, continued through 2019 as well. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the Northeast recorded a total of 34 fatalities (18 civilians, five Security Force (SF) personnel and 11 insurgents) in 2019, as against 73 fatalities (20 civilians, 15 SF personnel, and 38 insurgents) recorded in 2018.

Overall fatalities, as well as fatalities in respective categories recorded in the region in 2019, were the lowest, on year on year basis, since March 6, 2000, when SATP started compiling data. At its peak in 2003, the region accounted for a total of 1,165 fatalities.

Civilian fatalities were peaked in 2000, at 519 fatalities; the maximum number of 145 SF personnel were killed in 2002. The insurgents lost a maximum of 607 cadres in 2008.

According to official data, the Northeast accounted for a total of 37 insurgency-linked fatalities (21 civilians, four SF, personnel, and 12 insurgents) in 2019, the lowest ever overall fatalities recorded since 1992. The previous low of 71 fatalities was recorded in 2018.

Fatalities in respective categories – civilian, SF, and insurgent – were also the lowest in 2019. According to official statistics, there were 223 insurgency-linked incidents in 2019, again the lowest recorded in a year since 1992, with the previous low of 252 recorded in 2018.

The Northeast comprises of eight Indian states, namely Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim, of which the last has always remained free of insurgent violence.

On March 4, 2020, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs (MoS) Kishan Reddy stated in the Rajya Sabha (the Upper House of Indian Parliament):

“The security situation in the North-Eastern States has improved substantially since 2014. Compared to 2013, there has been a 70% reduction in insurgency incidents, 80% in civilian deaths and 78% in security forces casualties in the year 2019.”

There were 732 incidents, 107 civilian fatalities, and 18 SF fatalities in 2013.

According to SATP, out of the seven insurgency-affected states in the region, the security situation improved in six: Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. The only exception was Arunachal Pradesh where fatalities had increased from 14 in 2018, to 17 in 2019. There were six fatalities in Arunachal Pradesh in 2018.  Sikkim remained free of insurgency.

There were several reasons for the continuous improvement in the security situation in the region, of which the most significant was the effectiveness of SFs on the ground.

The SFs launched several successful operations in the region over the past few years and have dealt crippling blows against most of the insurgent formations violently active in the region.

According to official statistics, apart from killing 339 terrorists between 2015 and 2019, SFs have arrested 5,837 terrorists, including 936 in 2019. SFs have also recovered 2,570 arms during this period, including 312 in 2019. The mounting pressure of the SFs resulted in the surrender of 859 (158 in 2019) insurgents along with 314 weapons (67 in 2019).

Another 2,259 terrorists surrendered in 2020. MoS Kishan Reddy informed the Rajya Sabha on March 4, 2020:

“644 cadres of different outfits surrendered on January 23, 2020, and 1,615 cadres of different factions of National Democratic Front of Bodoland [NDFB] surrendered on January 30, 2020, after signing of Memorandum of Settlement with different Bodo groups.”

Indian SFs have been assisted by SFs of Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Myanmar in their fight against the insurgents in the Northeast.

For instance, Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) targeted Indian Insurgent Groups (IIGs) based in Myanmar in 2019. The Operations, codenamed “Operation Sunshine 1” and “Operation Sunshine 2” were conducted between February to March 2019 (Sunshine 1) and May 16-June 8, 2019 (Sunshine 2).

Another important factor accounting for the improvement in the security situation across the region has been the success of negotiations with various militant groups.

According to the Government, it has been calling for talks with militant groups that agree to renounce violence and seek resolution of the conflict within the parameters of the Constitution of India.

Consequently, the Government of India (GoI) has been in talks with various insurgent groups, prominently including – the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM), United Liberation Front of Asom-Pro Talks Faction (ULFA-PTF), and factions of National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) with whom a peace deal was signed on January 30, 2020.

The NDFB-factions which signed the peace deal include the Gobinda Basumatary led Pro-Talks faction (NDFB-PTF), Ranjan Daimary faction (NDFB-RD), and Saoraigwra faction (NDFB-S).

Worryingly, however, GoI has been unable to sign a peace agreement with the NSCN-IM, despite the signing of the Framework Agreement with the outfit on August 3, 2015. On October 31, 2019, NSCN-IM signed another ‘agreement’ to sign a final peace deal, the realization of this objective remains a distant reality, with the most basic issues still in contention.

R.N. Ravi, the interlocutor for Naga peace talks and Governor of Nagaland, in an interview published on February 28, 2020, stated:

“The delay is entirely on the part of NSCN (I-M); it appears that they are not prepared for a settlement. They are playing delaying tactics by giving new mischievous interpretations of the already agreed positions on contentious issues and thereby misleading the people. Issues like Framework Agreement, Pan Naga entity etc…”

Explaining the ‘Pan Naga entity’ issue, he added:

“Pan Naga entity was mutually agreed to be a cultural body with no political role or executive authority. However, after October 31, 2019, when the contentious issues were settled, NSCN (I-M) is asking for the proposed Pan Naga entity to have political and executive influence over Nagaland government. This is not acceptable to the government of India. Reopening settled issues is the delaying tactics of NSCN (I-M)”

Meanwhile, reports also indicate that militants of the Suspension of Operation (SoO) groups in the region are living outside designated camps. For instance, talking about Manipur, an unnamed Indian Army official noted, “There are an estimated 200-250 active insurgents in the State outside the camps monitored as part of the SoO.”

Further, throughout 2019, the region witnessed violent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019 (CAB 2019). After the law was passed in Parliament on December 12, 2019, the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) got more violent. The region witnessed at least 18 incidents of violent protests against CAA between December 11-16, 2019. These protests were reported from three states – Assam (11), Meghalaya (four); and Tripura (three). The anti-CAA protests and violence subsided after curfew was clamped in violence-hit areas.

Non-violent protests in the region continued thereafter, though the outbreak of COVID-19 has brought these to a halt as well.

Periodic ethnic clashes, as in the past, persisted through 2019, with four such clashes recorded in the year. Between October 12 and 15, 2019, unidentified assailants torched 14 houses belonging to the Adi community in a new settlement in the Mabira area of the Namsai District of Arunachal Pradesh. It was alleged that assailants from the Thai-Khamti community, who allege that the Adi community had encroached on their land, were involved in the incidents of arson. In the latest incident, on February 28, 2020, an ethnic Khasi was killed and four Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) members were injured, following a clash between tribals and non-tribals at Ichamati village in the East Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya. The subsequent clashes killed three people and led to the clamping of curfew in various parts of the State and the suspension of internet services.

The ethno-nationalist insurgent movements in the Northeast have witnessed a continuous decline over the last several years, raising hopes for the establishment of lasting peace in the region.

However, there is a looming threat of an increasing frequency of political agitations accompanied by violence across the region in the foreseeable future. A conducive environment for the resurgence of a polarizing, ethnocentric narrative, which had plunged the region into decades of turmoil, is being re-created.

Unless these trends are quickly reversed, both the Northeast and the country at large will pay a terrible price for the disruptive political adventurism of the party in power in the State and at the Centre.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

M A Athul

M A Athul is a Research Assistant with the Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi. He is currently working on research and documentation of insurgency in North East India. He has also worked on the field on West Asia and Afghanistan


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‘Narco-Terrorism’ Rising In Punjab?

There is a visible unity of purpose between narcotics smugglers and Khalistani and Kashmiri terrorists.



India’s premier investigation agency, mainly tasked with the investigation of terrorism cases, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), is currently investigating two cases of narco-terrorism in Punjab, one registered in 2019 (RC-18/2019/NIA/DLI), and the second in 2020 (RC-03/2020/NIA/DLI). Following are the details of the two cases:

Three persons were arrested with 500 grams of heroin and INR 120,000 in drug money, and a case was registered in Tarsikka, Amritsar District, on May 31, 2019. Another three accused were arrested in December 2019. The NIA re-registered the case on January 22, 2020, and took over the investigation.

An NIA release on February 10, 2020, disclosed:

“During the investigation, the role of Harmeet Singh @ PHD, Pakistan based chief of Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF), a proscribed terrorist organisation, has emerged in running a cross-border narco-terror network through drug smugglers, militant elements and hawala operatives based in Punjab and other States in India. Harmeet Singh @ PHD is believed to have been killed in Pakistan recently.”

Harmeet Singh aka PhD was killed on January 27, 2020, outside the Dera Chahal Gurudwara on the outskirts of Lahore, in what has been variously reported as a financial dispute over drug money and, separately, as a conflict over an illicit affair.

On May 29, 2020, NIA filed a charge sheet against 10 accused, further exposing linkages:

“Role of Harmeet Singh @ PhD…. and Jasmeet Singh Hakimzada, a Dubai based international drugs smuggler and money launderer, has prominently emerged in running the Narco-terror network to further the terrorist activities of KLF. The network included persons involved in smuggling/ selling of Heroin, militant elements and Hawala Operatives based in Punjab, Delhi and Dubai responsible for the entire chain from the selling of Heroin to channelizing the proceeds to Dubai/Pakistan at the behest of Harmeet Singh and Jasmeet Singh Hakimzada. Both the afore-mentioned prime accused have been charge-sheeted as absconders and further proceedings are on against them as per the extant laws.”

The earlier case relates to the seizure of 532 kilograms of heroin and 52 kilograms of mixed narcotics on June 29, 2019, at the Integrated Check Post (ICP) at Attari, Amritsar. A case was registered at the Customs Commissionerate, Amritsar, on the same day.

The NIA re-registered the case on July 24, 2019, and took over the investigation. It filed a charge sheet on December 27, 2019, against 16 accused persons and business entities, including Farookh Lone and Tariq Ahmad Lone, both residents of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

Later, on May 28, 2020, NIA filed a supplementary charge sheet in the case against the 17th accused, narco-terrorist Amit Gambhir aka Bobby aka Bablu aka Shoe Mallet aka King India Amit Sir.

As per the NIA release:

“The investigation established the involvement of an international drug racket based in Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan. The investigation also revealed evidence of the generation of funds through the sale of narcotics smuggled from across the international border for funding terrorist activities in Jammu & Kashmir.”

In between, on May 9, 2020, along with teams of Punjab Police and Haryana Police, NIA carried out intelligence-based raids in Sirsa, Haryana, and arrested narco-terrorist Ranjit Singh aka Rana aka Cheeta who, along with co-accused Iqbal Singh aka Shera, is the prime accused in case RC18/2019/NIA/DLI.

According to an NIA release:

“Investigation revealed that Pakistan based entities are smuggling narcotics from Pakistan into the Indian territory by hiding it in sacks of rock salt which is imported from Pakistan… The investigation also established that the seized consignment was a part of a total of 5 consignments of drugs, 4 out of which had been successfully smuggled into India… NIA investigation has revealed that Pakistan based terrorist organisations are using narcotic trade to generate funds for terror activities in India. The proceeds of narcotic trade are transferred to Kashmir valley through Couriers and Hawala channel for terrorist purposes.”

Ranjit Singh is also the prime accused in the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) terror funding module which was neutralized with the arrest of Hilal Ahmad Wagay, a resident of Nowgam, Awantipora, J&K, with INR 2.9 million in cash in Amritsar by Punjab Police on April 25, 2020.

This money was being transported to the Kashmir Valley, to be handed over to HM’s then Kashmir ‘chief’ Riyaz Naikoo (killed on May 6, 2020).

The NIA is investigating this case as well.

Investigations in the Attari case have also revealed that the consignment was to be delivered to Tariq Ahmad Lone in Kashmir. The role of the Taliban also came to the fore during the investigation.

According to a July 20, 2019, report, after a 120-day long operation, the Delhi Police special cell busted a heroin racket, controlled by a Taliban leader and his Pakistani counterpart (names not mentioned), estimated to be worth INR 50 billion.

According to investigations, the drug syndicate based in Jalalabad in Afghanistan sends drugs through trade routes via J&K, from where it reaches to Delhi in cars and SUVs, and then to Western Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

Further, on January 12, 2010, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) identified and neutralized an international drug cartel allegedly led by a Taliban leader in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and arrested nine Afghan nationals at Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI), New Delhi.

Significantly, the United Nations Drugs and Crime Office (UNODC), in a report released on June 25, 2020, estimated Afghanistan’s 2019 total farm-gate value of opium poppy at USD 404 million, cultivated over 163,000 hectares of land.

Meanwhile, the Parliament was informed on December 10, 2019, that, according to Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) data, large quantities of drugs had been recovered from Punjab between 2015 and 2018. These included a total of 5,414.5 kilograms of Ganja (cannabis); 1,830.72 kilograms of Heroin; 1,669.41 kilograms of Opium; 168,420.32 kilograms of Poppy Husk and Poppy Straw; and 15,888,517 tablets of all type. SFs had arrested a total of 46,909 persons in drug-related cases over this period.

Indeed, according to a June 8, 2020, report, despite a strict lockdown in India and some restrictions in neighbouring Pakistan in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, cross-border smuggling continued unabated along the India-Pakistan border in Punjab. A total of 81.84 kilograms of heroin worth INR 4.09 billion was seized by law enforcement agencies between March 24, 2020, when the lockdown was imposed, and May 31.

An unnamed Border Security Force (BSF) official observed, “In the last over two months, our forces have thwarted several attempts by anti-national elements to push contraband inside the Indian territory.”

Sources also indicate that at least 72 incidents of seizures of ‘composite consignments’ [weapons/drugs/Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN)] were reported from border districts of Amritsar, Ferozepur and Gurdaspur between 2009 and 2019. The recoveries included drugs such as of heroin, opium, etc.; and weapons and ammunition including AK-47/56 rifles, pistols, and RDX. Pakistan’s external intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) uses the services of a common network of ‘drug smugglers/couriers’ to push in composite consignments into Indian Punjab from Pakistan, exploiting gaps along the land and riverine border.

The ‘drug smugglers/couriers’ working under the ISI’s aegis also throw the consignment over the Border fence in areas where infiltration is not suspected. Their Indian partners later collect the goods.

However, with Indian Security Forces (SFs) plugging the gaps along the land and riverine border used to smuggle goods, the possibility of using of drones for sending composite consignments is being increasingly explored. NIA is already investigating the Punjab Drone Case (RC-21/2019/NIA/DLI) re-registered by the agency on October 1, 2019. The case was first registered by the Punjab Police on September 22, 2019, following the arrest of four persons along with a consignment of arms, ammunition, explosives and FICN on the outskirts of Chohla Sahib town, Tarn Taran District, in Punjab. It was later confirmed that the consignment had been dropped by an Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) originating from Pakistan.

On March 18, 2020, the NIA filed a charge sheet in the case against nine Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) terrorists.

Investigations in the case have revealed,

“…the consignments were sent through a total of 8 sorties of drones on 5 days in the month of August and September 2019. The consignments were received by accused Akashdeep Singh, Subhdeep Singh, Sajanpreet Singh and Romandeep Singh.”

Several reports of Pakistani drones spotted flying in the Indian air space have emerged in recent past. In 2020 alone, and in Punjab, these prominently include:

January 13, 2020: A drone from Pakistan was spotted at the Indo-Pak border in Indian air space at Tendiwala village in Ferozepur District. An unnamed senior official stated, “The drone was seen for 4-5 minutes. BSF personnel tried to shoot it down but could not do so. Then, it disappeared.”

January 15, 2020: A Pakistani drone entered Indian Air space near the border at Channa Pattanam near the Ajnala Sector of Amritsar District. The BSF fired around 100 rounds, though they were unable to recover the drone due to the dense of fog in the area.

February 2, 2020: BSF personnel and some villagers reportedly spotted a drone-like object along the border in Jalalabad subdivision of the Fazilka District.

According to a February 12, 2020, report, Punjab Police is concerned about the growing use of technology in the narco-terrorism racket from across the border in Pakistan, with about 40 movements of sophisticated UAVs noticed in the Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Ferozpur and Fazilka Districts of Punjab.

Most recently, on June 20, 2020, the BSF shot down a Pakistan drone strapped with arms along the International Border at Rathua village in the Hiranagar sector of J&K’s Kathua District. A US-made M4 semi-automatic rifle, two magazines with 60 rounds and seven M67 Chinese grenades were found mounted on the drone.

Several drones and their remains have also been recovered. On September 26, 2019, a five-member NIA team reportedly visited the spot in Amritsar District where a China-made drone had been destroyed by KZF terror module members. The interrogation of arrested persons revealed that they had also thrown several parts of the drone into a canal near Dhode village near Jhabalin, Amritsar District.

On September 29, 2019, Police recovered missing parts of the drone from the Dode-Chhapa canal near Chabhal town in Tarn Taran District.

Again, on September 27, 2019, the SFs recovered a drone from Mahawa village near Attari on the Indo-Pak border in Amritsar District.

On January 11, 2010, a soldier, Rahul Chauhan, was arrested along with two Chinese-made drones and arms. Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Amarinder Singh, showing pictures of the Chinese drones, said in the State Assembly on February 26, 2020, “These are the drones which we were able to catch and we do not know how many such drones are still there with people of Punjab.”

With SF pressures along the border in Punjab mounting, the sea route through Gujarat has also been explored. SFs had seized five kilograms of heroin from Salaya in Devbhumi Dwarka District of Gujarat and arrested Aziz Abdul Bhagad on August 12, 2018.

The value of the seized drug consignment, with origins in Pakistan, and having suspected nexus with terror organisations, was estimated at INR 150 million in the international market. Aziz Abdul Bhagad revealed that a total of 300 kilograms of heroin was brought to 150 nautical miles off Mandavi coast (Kutch District) in two tranches from Pakistan and was later brought to land using fishing dhows.

According to reports, the consignment was brought to Mandavi for Rafiq Adam Sumara (arrested later). Rafiq Adam Sumara, meanwhile, had delivered the consignment of 295 kilograms of heroin to two Kashmiris – Nazir Ahmad Thakar and Manzoor Ahmad Mir – in Unjha, Mehsana District, Gujarat, at the instructions of Simranjeet Singh Sandhu. From there the consignment reached Amritsar in Punjab through Rajasthan.

There is a possibility of linkages between this case and the Attari case.

There is a visible unity of purpose between the smugglers, Khalistanis and Kashmiri terrorists, under the direction of ISI. The Director-General of Police (DGP), Punjab, Dinkar Gupta, thus observed:

“It is the jihadi outfits who have shared the drone capabilities with the Khalistani groups, and our understanding is that outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT] and Jaish-e-Mohammed [JeM] have a whole inventory of these drones.”

Significantly, a LeT militant, identified as Javed Ahmed Bhat (29), a resident of Shirmal village in Shopian District of J&K, was arrested from the Pathankot District of Punjab on June 13, 2020. According to a State Government press release, Bhat was intercepted and arrested along with his truck from Dhobra Bridge, Pathankot, on the Amritsar-Jammu Highway, by the Pathankot Police when he was trying to escape to the Valley on learning about the arrest of his accomplices. Bhat’s initial questioning revealed that he had come with his accomplices Aamir Hussain Wani (26) and Wasim Hassan Wani (27) from Kashmir Valley to Amritsar District to collect the weapons consignment in the guise of bringing fruits and vegetables. Aamir Hussain Wani (26) and Wasim Hassan Wani (27) were arrested from Pathankot District on June 11, 2020, and 10 hand grenades, one AK-47 rifle with two magazines and 60 live cartridges were recovered from them. Both the militants are residents of Shopian District, Kashmir. The duo, actively involved in transporting automatic weapons and hand grenades from Punjab to the Kashmir Valley, was arrested by the Pathankot Police, who intercepted a truck at a police barricade on the Amritsar-Jammu highway. Punjab DGP Gupta, after the arrest had disclosed that the search of the truck led to the recovery of the arms and ammunition and that the accused, during the preliminary investigation, revealed that they had been directed by one Ishfaq Ahmed Dar aka Bashir Ahmed Khan, a former J&K Constable, currently an active LeT militant in the Kashmir Valley, to collect the weapons’ consignment from Punjab.

Meanwhile, ongoing investigations in all these cases indicate that several narco-terrorism networks have been established by the ISI to further its disruptive strategy in Punjab. These networks include the KLF module, the International Sikh Youth Federation (IYSF) module, and the KZF Module. These networks have planned their operations with minute precision. For instance, the KLF module has five prominent players – Harmeet Singh @ PHD, operating out of Pakistan (now dead); Jasmeet Singh Hakimzada, based in Dubai; Kulwinder Khanpuria, based in South East Asia; Jagbir Singh, Nirrmal Singh Neeldhari and Bobby.

Four of these – Jagbir Singh, Harmeet Singh, Jasmeet Singh Hakimzada, Nirrmal Singh Neeldhari – have been charge-sheeted by NIA in RC-03/2020/NIA/DLI case (the Attari seizure case). Harmeet Singh, operating out of Pakistan, had been sending drugs to Jagbir Singh with the help of Kashmiri operatives.

Harmeet used to get grenades delivered at a prefixed location in Ferozepur, from where Jagbir Singh collected these. Jagbir Singh then used his resources in India to send drugs and grenades to other areas.

The use of narco-terrorism by Pakistan is not something new. In an interview with the Washington Post published way back, on September 12, 1994, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had disclosed that, in November 1990, Gen. Aslam Beg, the then Pakistan Army Chief of Staff, and Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani, then head of the ISI, had told him that the armed forces needed more money for covert foreign operations and wanted to raise funds through large-scale drug deals.

Sharif added, “General Durrani told me, we have a blueprint ready for your approval,” and further:

“Both Beg and Durrani insisted that Pakistan’s name would not be cited at any place because the whole operation would be carried out by trustworthy third parties. Durrani then went on to list a series of covert military operations in desperate need of money… I told them categorically not to initiate any such operation, and a few days later I called Beg again to tell that I have disapproved the ISI plan to back heroin smuggling.”

Sharif admitted that he had “no sources” to verify that ISI had obeyed his orders to abandon the plan, but said that he assumed the agency had complied.

Indeed, the Washington Times in the same report had noted:

“According to military sources, the intelligence agency has been pinched for funds since the war in Afghanistan ended in 1989 and foreign governments – chiefly the United States – stopped funnelling money and arms through the ISI to Afghan mujaheddin guerrillas fighting the Soviet-backed Kabul government. Without the foreign funds, the sources said, it has been difficult for the agency to continue the same level of operations in other areas, including aiding militants fighting Indian troops across the border in Kashmir.”

With the Indian SFs thwarting every ISI attempt to force J&K into the turbulent phases of the 1990s and early 2000s and to relaunch the ‘Khalistan Movement’ in Punjab, the ISI has sought to increase the use of narco-terrorism in Punjab over the past few years. In doing so, the agency has revived its ‘K2 (Khalistan and Kashmir) Strategy’ launched in 1988 under the General Zia-ul-Haq regime. Initiating Operation Topac, Zia had directed ISI to wrench J&K from India and export terror into Punjab.

Pakistan has been relentless in its pursuit of these goals, to the extent of supporting a significant cadre and leadership of Khalistani terrorists on its soil for well over two and a half decades since the comprehensive defeat of the movement on Indian soil.

As new avenues, routes and technologies are explored by Pakistan to facilitate its enduring strategy, Indian SFs and intelligence agencies will have to continuously intensify efforts and improve capacities and capabilities to effectively counter this dangerous design.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Ajit Kumar Singh

Dr Ajit Kumar Singh is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Conflict Management and is involved in research on conflicts in South Asia. After completing his M.Phil. on "Emergence of Afghanistan as Buffer between Tsarist Russia and British Indian Empire (19th Century)", from JNU, New Delhi, he was awarded Ph.D. on "The Ethnic Conflict and State Structure in Afghanistan: 1989-2001".

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BJP Sarpanch Sajjad Ahmad Shot Dead By Terrorists In Kashmir

This is the 2nd attack of its kind in less than 48 hours as a BJP Panch Arif Ahmad was critically wounded.



KULGAM (Jammu-Kashmir UT): A BJP Sarpanch was shot dead by Pakistani-sponsored terrorists in Vessu Qazigund area of south Kashmir’s Kulgam district this morning.

Senior Superintending of Police, Kulgam  Gurvinder Pal Singh said that the terrorists fired upon the Sarpanch Sajad Ahmad Khanday near his residence Vessu at 9:15 AM this morning.

Meanwhile, the security forces have soon after the incident, launched a massive manhunt to nab the assailants. A case has been registered in Police Station Qazigund and further investigation in the matter has been initiated.

This is the second attack of its kind in less than 48 hours as a BJP Panch Arif Ahmad was critically wounded after terrorists had fired upon him at Akhran Qazigund on the evening of August 4.

Last month, former BJP district president Waseem Bari, his father and brother were killed inside their shop after militants fired on them from close range. Bari had 10-member police security and all of them were suspended and arrested because they were not with him when he was attacked.

In June, Congress sarpanch Ajay Kumar Pandita was killed outside his house at Lokbhawan in Anantnag district.

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Is Meghalaya Witnessing Attempts At Insurgency Revival?

Meghalaya govt and civil society groups need to broaden the political discourse to limit violent identity-based politics,



On June 11, 2020, unidentified miscreants hurled a petrol bomb at the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation

On June 11, 2020, unidentified miscreants set ablaze a vehicle belonging to the District Social Welfare Officer, L. Lyngdoh, at Mawkyrwat in South West Khasi Hills District.

On June 7, 2020, unidentified persons assaulted a NHIDCL engineer, Sujit Kumar Singh, and his driver at Nonglang village in South West Khasi Hills District.

Though all these incidents are under investigation, there is a discernible pattern indicating the likely involvement of Khasi militant group Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC).

On June 3, 2020, HNLC militants shot at and injured a businessman, Dharambir Bansal, at Kyllong Mathei village in the West Khasi Hills District. A day later, Sainkupar Nongtraw, HNLC’s ‘general secretary’ and ‘publicity secretary’ admitted:

“Our organization (HNLC) hereby claims responsibility for yesterday morning shootout at Kyllong Mathei village [in] Shallang. Yesterday’s operation was a warning shot (against one Dharambir Bansal Dharmu)…”

Sainkupar Nongtraw further stated that at this time of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), thousands of youths have been rendered jobless and added:

“If the so-called businessmen do not provide jobs to our locals then they do not have the right to operate their businesses as they are earning profit and revenue from our Hynniewtrep land.”

HNLC on June 4, 2020, warned all businessmen to pay ‘income tax’ to the outfit or ‘face the consequences’.

Earlier, on February 20, 2020, HNLC had detonated an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) inside a coke factory owned by Dharambir Bansal at Kyllon Mathei village in West Khasi Hills District. Sainkupar Nongtraw had stated:

“We claim responsibility for the IED explosion at Kyllon Mathei Pyndeng Jalong because all these coke factories are benami businesses. These factories are flourishing with the help of local politicians and businessmen. It is an irony that even the employees are all non-locals and our own people are deprived of jobs.”

HNLC had on February 19, 2020, demanded INR 130 million from Dharambir Bansal.

On January 16, 2020, HNLC militants had planted an IED in an under-construction coke plant of M/S Meghalaya Coke at Bther village in East Jaintia Hills District.

Claiming responsibility, Sainkupar Nongtraw had stated:

“On January 16, 2020, HNLC militants had planted an IED in an under-construction coke plant of M/S Meghalaya Coke at Bther village in East Jaintia Hills District.”

Claiming responsibility, Sainkupar Nongtraw had stated:

“After we read in the media about the opposition from three villages and pressure groups to the setting up of the coke plant, we tried to verify the fact. We found out that local traditional heads like the Doloi (traditional chief) of Sutnga Elaka (traditional local administrative unit) and the headmen had used their power to issue a no-objection certificate [NOC] to set up the plant. The HNLC had no option but to plant the IED but its members restrained themselves from exploding the IED as there were people around.”

HNLC was formed in 1992 with the main aim to ‘liberate’ Hynniewtrep (Khasi and Jaintia) from the ‘authoritarian rule’ of the Government of India, protect Khasi and other tribes from exploitation, preserve indigenous culture and fight against any attempt to divide Khasi society.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal here have been a total of 56 HNLC-linked fatalities (16 civilians, nine Security Force, SF, personnel, 30 militants, one unspecified) since March 1, 2000 (data till June 19, 2020).

The peak in terms of fatalities was recorded in the year 2001 when HNLC was found involved in 16 fatalities (nine civilians, five SF personnel, one militant and one unspecified).

Over the past decade and a half, the militant formation lost it prowess almost to the point of oblivion after the group lost a substantial number of cadres, mostly to surrenders or arrests.

According to SATP, since March 1, 2000, SFs have arrested 209 militants (all data till June 19, 2020). Another 176 HNLC militants surrendered during this period, due to sustained SF pressure.

In the latest incident of surrender, on February 12, 2020, the ‘finance secretary’ of HNLC, Wankupar Marwein aka Bahhep Traisiej, surrendered before the State Police in Shillong.

The recent spurt in activities can be linked to the reconstitution of HNLC’s ‘Central Executive Council (CEC)’ on January 2, 2019. The CEC is headed by ‘chairman’ and ‘commander-in-chief’, Bobby Reagan Marwein; ‘general secretary’ and ‘publicity secretary’, Sainkupar Nongtraw; ‘vice-chairman’, Khrawbok Jyrwa; ‘foreign secretary’, Alex Diengdoh; ‘finance secretary’, Wanshan Marwein; ‘organising secretary’, Riewpyrkhat Sun; and ‘socio-cultural secretary’, M. Rynjah.

The HNLC is trying to regain its foothold in the state. For this purpose, it is using extortion to enrich its coffers and is exploring all opportunities to secure public support by exploiting popular sentiments.

Indeed, following the killing of a Khasi Students Union (KSU) activist, identified as Lurshai Hynniewta, on February 28, 2020, HNLC on March 1, 2020, had issued an ultimatum to all the Hindu-Bengalis to leave the Ichamati and Majai areas of Shella in East Khasi Hills within one-month. Sainkupar Nongtraw in a statement had warned,

If they fail to do so by not complying to our ultimatum then we shall not be made responsible in case of any eventuality. This time it shall be mass bloodshed.

Sharing the details of the incident, Meghalaya Police wrote on its Facebook page:

“There was a KSU meeting in Ichamati today [February 28] afternoon. At around 3 pm, after the meeting, clashes broke out between KSU members and local non-tribals of the area. Thereafter, the KSU members burnt a haystack at the edge of the market and attempted to burn a house. The non-tribals retaliated and stoned one bus carrying KSU members. One local taxi which had gone to collect the KSU members from the Ichamati market after the clashes were damaged; one vehicle of the EAC [Extra Assistant Commissioner] J. Umdor, MCS [Meghalaya Civil Service] also got damaged. Four members of KSU were injured, two were sent to Ichamati CHC [Community Health Centre] and released, and two were referred to Sohra CHC. The person driving the local taxi viz Shri Lurshai Hynniewta, 35 years, S/o Late Serkin Nongkyndrih R/o Khliehshnong Sohra, succumbed to his injuries.”

Meanwhile, there are reports of Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) cadres trying to regroup in the Garo Hills region of the State. South Garo Hills Superintendent of Police Abraham T Sangma told The Shillong Times that Police had received credible information from their sources that GNLA militants, with support from United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) cadres and criminal gangs from the neighbouring country, Myanmar, were planning to revive GNLA.

GNLA had been all but decimated on February 24, 2018, when its ‘commander in chief’ Sohan D. Shira was killed in an encounter with commandos of the Meghalaya Special Force-10 at Dobu A’chakpek in East Garo Hills District. Since the formation of GNLA in November 2009, Meghalaya recorded at least 173 militant fatalities, among which 160 were linked to specific militant groups. Of these 160, at least 83 were drawn from GNLA. GNLA linked fatalities were highest in 2012, at 39 (22 civilians, one trooper and 16 militants).

There was a consistent decline in total fatalities after that. Since February 24, 2018, no GNLA linked fatalities were recorded.

There is a need to remain extremely vigilant with regard to the degraded insurgent movements in Meghalaya. The potential for revival, based on a local emotive issue like jobs for locals and preservation of identity, persists.

Apart from dealing with these groups coercively, the State Government and civil society groups need to broaden the political discourse to limit the ascendency of violent identity-based politics, in order to secure an enduring solution to the recurrent cycles of violence.

Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the personal opinions of the author. League of India does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.

Published with permission from South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Giriraj Bhattacharjee

Giriraj Bhattacharjee is a Research Assistant at the Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi.

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