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GALLERY: 5 Lakh People In Kokrajhar, Assam, Celebrate Historic Bodo Accord

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was addressing his first rally in Assam after the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act last month.

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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

Paresh Baruah’s ULFA-I Trying To Get On Feet From China?

At present, the approximate cadre strength of ULFA (I) is said to be around 250.

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On October 4, 2020, an Assam Rifles (AR) trooper, Havildar Birendra Singh Yadav, was killed while another trooper was injured when terrorists ambushed their vehicle (a water tanker) near Hetlong village in the Changlang District of Arunachal Pradesh.

Later, the Independent faction of United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA-I), in an email sent to the media, claimed that it, along with the Yung Aung faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K-Yung Aung) and Revolutionary People’s Front/People’s Liberation Army (RPF/PLA), had jointly carried out the attack. NSCN-K-Yung Aung also sent an email reiterating the same claim.

On July 29, 2020, three AR personnel were killed and another five injured when terrorists ambushed their vehicle at Khongtal village in the Chandel district of Manipur. ULFA-I subsequently sent an email claiming that it, along with the Manipur Naga People’s Front (MNPF) and the RPF had jointly carried out the attack.


Significantly, after the demise of Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang, the ‘chairman’ of the Khaplang faction of the NSCN (NSCN-K) on June 9, 2017, and the subsequent internal feud within the NSCN-K, the ULFA-I ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Baruah seems to have emerged as the leader of the Indian Insurgent Groups (IIGs) in Myanmar. This is evident with both Naga and Manipuri groups carrying out joint strikes, especially with the ULFA-I, after June 9, 2017.  Altogether 31 fatalities (one civilian, 20 SF personnel and 10 militants) have been registered in nine such joint strikes since that date.

Meanwhile, in the operations by the Myanmar Army (Tatmadaw) in January 2019 targeting IIGs, ULFA-I suffered the most. According to an affidavit filed by the Assam State Government in September 2020, before the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) tribunal, Tatmadaw operations targeting IIG camps in the Taka area of Sagiang Region had damaged the “Lungmark, Taka and Nilgiri camps of ULFA -I. Several cadres also deserted the outfit.”

Since the operations in Myanmar, 85 ULFA-I militants have surrendered (data till October 9, 2020). 51 of them surrendered in 2020, all in Assam.

In 2019, 34 ULFA-I cadres had surrendered (33 in Assam and one in Arunachal Pradesh). 35 ULFA-I militants had surrendered before the operations, since August 8, 2012, when ULFA-I was formed. Six ULFA-I militants surrendered in 2018, two each in 2017 and 2016, one in 2015, five in 2014, 18 in 2013 and one in 2012.


The group’s activities on the ground almost came to a halt after the Tatmadaw operations.

The July 29, 2020, attack (above) was the first reported attack resulting in fatalities in which ULFA-I was involved.

However, during the intervening period, ULFA-I took advantage of several opportunities to regain its hold in the region. One such opportunity was the passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 by the Parliament in December 2019 (in the Lok Sabha on December 9 and Rajya Sabha on December 11). ULFA-I declared itself in favour of the agitation that followed the passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, which spread across the Northeast region and was particularly intense in Assam.

ULFA-I ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Baruah warned on December 11, 2019:

“The ULFA-I will not sit idle if a protesting student or any Assamese for that matter is assaulted. We appeal to Bhaskarjyoti Mahanta, Director General of Police (DGP) of Assam Police, not to lathi-charge people taking to the streets and vehemently opposing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. The DGP should control his police force and not harass innocent protesters.”

The enactment of CAA 2019 on December 12, 2019, when it received the President’s assent, is seen by groups representing ‘indigenous’ interest as a measure that not only legitimises present ‘illegal’ migrants, but also invites future migrations from neighbouring Bangladesh. The resultant demographic shift, they fear, will deprive indigenous populations of their political, cultural and ethnic rights. ULFA-I is trying to exploit such fears for its own ends.


Not surprisingly, ULFA’s support to the CAA agitation helped the outfit regain some support among the locals and to recruit new cadres.

Significantly, the State Government called-off the Rongali Bihu (April 14-20, 2020) celebrations citing COVID-19, but has now allowed the Durga Puja celebrations, albeit under restrictions, despite the situation on the ground being relatively worse.

Obviously, one of the reasons behind the Assam Government’s recent decision was intended to keep all dominant linguistic/ethnic groups happy before the upcoming State Assembly Elections in 2021, which are likely to be fought on identity issues.

Not to miss the opportunity, ULFA-I on September 4, 2020, urged the Assam Government to cancel the Durga Puja celebration this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, stating:

“The Assam Government had called-off the Rongali Bihu [Assamese harvest festival] amid the coronavirus pandemic and now to they have allowed celebrating the Durga Puja which is not acceptable.”

ULFA-I also stated that Assamese nationalism is not religion centric. The militant group further alleged that the State government is allowing Durga Puja celebration to please Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s extremist Hindu agenda.

Obsessed with a polarizing electoral strategy, the dominant political establishment is failing to understand the degree to which providing such opportunities is helping ULFA-I gain more support and revive its strength.

Meanwhile, according to a Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) notification dated, September 18, 2020:

“The ULFA(I) led by Paresh Baruah is currently based in Ruili, Yunnan Province, China is continuing with violent activities including extortion, recruitment and procurement of arms. The members of ULFA(I) are active in Upper Assam districts of Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Charaideo, Sivasagar, Lower Assam districts of Goalpara, Dhubri and Guwahati city, bordering areas of Udalguri, Darrang, Sonitpur, Lakhimpur districts of Assam besides in the bordering areas in districts of Tirap, Changlang, Longing, Namsai in Arunachal Pradesh, Mon district of Nagaland and Assam-Meghalaya-Bangladesh border.”

It added, “At present approximate cadre strength in ULFA (I) is around 250”.


It is imperative for the political establishment government to ensure that disruptive and polarizing strategies do not create opportunities for relatively marginalized insurgent formations to restore their legitimacy among the population.

Unfortunately, with Assembly Elections scheduled for 2021, such hopes are unlikely to be met, putting increasing pressure on SFs to deal with the consequences.

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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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

Naga Peace Talks And The Last Mile Pain

Naga groups have put more focus on recruitment of new cadres.

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On September 20, 2020, Khango Konyak ‘president’ of his own faction of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K2) revoked the expulsion of Isak Sumi. A ‘deed of reconciliation’ was signed between the two leaders – Khango Konyak and Isak Sumi.

On September 12, 2020, NSCN-K2 ‘president’ Khango Konyak had expelled ‘ato kilonser’ (Prime Minister) Isak Sumi for “act against the ‘government’ – nepotism, tribalism”.

Khango Konyak and Isak Sumi have now reportedly put aside their differences for the sake of the ‘impending’ solution to the Naga problem. The ‘deed of reconciliation’ was the result of interventions by other members of the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).  Apart from NSCN-K2, six other Naga militant groups constitute the NNPGs. These include: the NSCN–Neokpao-Kitovi (NSCN-NK), NSCN-Reformation faction (NSCN-R), Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN), Naga National Council (NNC)-Parent Body, Non-Accordist faction of NNC/National People’s Government of Nagaland (NPGN/NNC-NA), and Government Democratic Republic of Nagaland /NNC-NA (GDRN). The NNPGs were included in talks with GoI on September 27, 2017, in an effort to widen the Naga peace talks.


On September 19, 2020, Chairman Khango Konyak had held meetings along with the NNPGs and the Government of India (GoI) interlocutor for Naga talks R.N. Ravi. In this meeting the interlocutor had asked the NSCN-K2 leadership to sort out its differences.

Meanwhile, the major Naga group NSCN-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) continued to maintain its tough stand.

On September 18, 2020, in a joint council meeting of the NSCN-IM held in Camp Hebron, it was unanimously decided that the group’s standing demand for a separate flag and constitution needed to be a part of the final settlement in the ongoing Naga peace talks with the Centre.


The NSCN-IM in its resolution stated:

“The house unanimously adopted the resolution to reiterate the stand of NSCN that the Naga national flag and Yehzabo (constitution) must form a part of the Indo-Naga political solution in order to qualify the Naga deal as honourable and acceptable. Besides, the house also resolved that the Government of India and NSCN must seek a final agreement based on the historic Framework Agreement of August 3, 2015.”

On September 11, 2020, the ‘convenor’ of the ‘steering committee’ of NSCN-IM, Hutovi Chishi, while claiming that the “Indo-Naga political talks” had reached a critical state, also insisted that the “Naga solution cannot be brought at the cost of compromising our historical and political rights”. He dismissed earlier agreements like the 1960’s 16-Point Agreement and the Shillong Accord of 1975 signed between the GoI and Naga groups, alleging they were “nothing but political flattery to suppress the legitimate Naga political movement.” The 1960 agreement led to the formation of Nagaland and in the Shillong Accord of 1975 the NNC accepted the Indian Constitution.

However, on September 15, 2020, a 15-member NSCN-IM delegation led by its ‘president’ Q. Tuccu and ‘vice president’ Tongmeth Wangnao, arrived at the national capital Delhi, purportedly to participate in peace talks. Reports indicate that NSCN-IM, led by ‘ato kilonser’ Thuingaleng Muivah, had been holding ‘informal’ parleys with Intelligence Bureau officials since August 2020 and these had gained momentum in recent weeks.

The series of talks between top Intelligence Bureau officials and NSCN-IM is taking place after differences with R.N.Ravi had e come out in the open and the Centre reportedly asked Ravi to maintain a low profile. An unnamed senior government official told the media, “Over the last six years R.N. Ravi, in his capacity as interlocutor, had been talking to various Naga groups. But in the past 10 or 11 months, things have not been going well.”


The differences between Ravi and the NSCN-IM came out in the open in June 2020.  Significantly, on June 16, 2020, without naming the NSCN-IM, Ravi asserted that “armed gangs” were engaged in “rampant extortions and violence”, adding that “the law and order in the state has collapsed”.

The NSC-IM, meanwhile, cited two instances – the October 31, 2019, deadline set by R.N. Ravi and the acrimonious exchange between the two sides during the peace talks on January 30, 2020 – as the reason behind rising differences

On August 11, 2020, NSCN-IM made two copies of the August 3, 2015 framework agreement public. One, which the group claimed as ‘original’, and the other in which R.N. Ravi had allegedly “craftily deleted the word new from the original” when he shared it with Naga Civil society and NNPGs. The one page ‘original’ agreement shared by NSCN-IM talks about “sharing the sovereign power” and provides for an “enduring inclusive new relationship of peaceful co-existence of the two entities”.

The NSCN-IM claimed:

“It has been quite some time since Ravi was under NSCN’s scanner when he twisted the Framework Agreement and misled the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the steps taken to solve the Naga issue…The fact is that the Framework Agreement is outside the purview of Indian Federation/Constitution. But in his report furnished to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, he manipulated it in his own narrative that is far from the actual meaning as very unambiguously worded in layman’s language in the original copy of Framework agreement.”

The group reiterated its demand for Ravi’s removal as interlocutor.

Curiously, Ravi continues to negotiate with other groups. Ravi met NNPGs on September 10. When asked about what transpired during the meet, an NNPG source said, “The interlocutor told us the government wants all stakeholders, including the IM [NSCN-IM], to be a part of this (peace process); that it is best for everyone to come on board and sign the agreement. What the Centre can agree on, it has already agreed to, and what the Centre cannot give at this point, it cannot give (even in future).” The NNPG source quoting interlocutor Ravi, added, “There is nothing left to negotiate beyond what had already been decided in October [31] last year [2019]. All that remains is for NSCN-IM leaders to fall in line.” After the meeting, the NNPGs stated that “the Naga issue must be settled and the waiting period is over.”

Meanwhile, a new deadline of September 2020 was set by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for the conclusion of the peace talks. Unnamed Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) sources told Deccan Chronicle on August 27, 2020, that the Centre would not extend the deadline further, as almost all substantive issues had been finalised. The Centre, they said, had already told the Naga leadership what were the issues on which the Centre can agree or not, adding “no one can blackmail the government at gunpoint.” The UMHA source added, further, “The ball is now in the court of stakeholders, they can avail the opportunity to be a part of the historic Naga peace accord”.

The earlier deadline of [October 31, 2019] set by the PMO lead to unrest in the cadres and mid-level leaders in the militant ranks. In an interview to The Week on January 4, 2020, Lieutenant General Shokin Chauhan, the then chairman of the Ceasefire Monitoring Group (CFMG), stated:


“There are three issues that are affecting the armed cadre. There is restiveness, as they do not know what the future holds for them. Whether they will get jobs or not, or what kind of life they are going to live? Will their own leaders be able to help them? Will the security agencies and the people of Nagaland, from whom they have extorted money, go after them?

These issues started creating problems before October 31 [2019], the deadline set by the government for a final solution. Their own leaders had stopped talking to them. The Assam Rifles was getting aggressive in its patrolling. I had to call several meetings with the insurgent groups to calm their nerves and make sure they maintained the ceasefire. Still, many leaders, especially the mid-level ones, were extremely worried and came close to breaking the ceasefire especially when the security forces came close to their camps.”

However, NSCN-IM officials reject the idea of a deadline for the peace talks. Senior NSCN-IM deputy Kilo kilonser (home minister) Kehoi asserted:

“The important thing is whether we have understood each other and agree together. I don’t think there is any time limit set by the Government of India, and there should be no deadline again.”

A source in the NSCN-IM who wished to remain anonymous also stated:

“After the process of informal talks is over, decisions will be taken at the political level during formal talks with the government. There is no set time-frame for the resolution this time, but both parties are keen on settling the issue, and are looking at an agreement/solution at the earliest.”

Meanwhile, the Naga groups have put more focus on recruitment of new cadres. In his interview of January 4, 2020, Lieutenant General Chauhan, the then chairman, CFMG disclosed:

“The ceasefire ground rules clearly state that there cannot be any forced recruitment. All the groups sign these rules every year and, based on these ground rules, they state that they have been recruiting volunteers. Recently, in anticipation of the final accord, they resorted to massive recruitment. More than 800 youth are learnt to have joined National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Kitovi-Neopak); 80 to 100 youth joined the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) and the NSCN (Reformation), and around 50 to 100 youngsters have joined the group led by Khango Konyak. These figures take into account the large number of defections that have taken place…”

The fate of the ‘historic’ framework agreement signed with NSCN-IM is under question. At this moment, it remains to be seen whether announcing a new deadline will push the militant groups into an inclusive agreement with the Government or alienate them further.

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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CHANGE ON THE GROUND

Massive Boost To Regional Aviation; 78 New Routes Approved Under UDAN 4.0

The 4th round of UDAN was launched in December 2019 with a special focus on North-Eastern Regions, Hilly States, and Islands.

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NEW DELHI: 78 new routes under the 4th round of Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS)- UdeDesh Ka AamNagrik (UDAN) have been approved following the three successful rounds of bidding by the Ministry of Civil Aviation. This will further enhance the connectivity to remote and regional areas of the country.

The North Eastern Region, Hilly States and Islands have been given priority in the approval process for the new routes.

Special boost is being given to connectivity in North East with routes from Guwahati to Tezu, Rupsi, Tezpur, Passighat, Misa and Shillong. People will be able to fly from Hissar to Chandigarh, Dehradun and Dharmshala under these UDAN 4 routes. Routes from Varanasi to Chitrakoot and Shravasti have also been approved.


Agatti, Kavaratti and Minicoy islands of Lakshadweep have also been connected by the new routes of UDAN 4.0.

So far, 766 routes have been sanctioned under the UDAN scheme. 29 served, 08 unserved (including 02 heliports and 01 water aerodrome), and 02 underserved airports have been included in the list for approved routes.

The 4th round of UDAN was launched in December 2019 with a special focus on North-Eastern Regions, Hilly States, and Islands.


The airports that had already been developed by AAI are given higher priority for the award of VGF(Viability Gap Funding) under the Scheme.

Under UDAN 4, the operation of helicopter and seaplanes is also been incorporated. Since its inception, MoCA has operationalized 274 UDAN routes that have connected 45 airports and 3 heliports.

The new approved RCS routes are as below:

S.No RCS Routes
1 Guwahati To Tezu
2 Tezu To Imphal
3 Imphal To Tezu
4 Tezu To Guwahati
5 Guwahati To Rupsi
6 Rupsi To Kolkata
7 Kolkata To Rupsi
8 Rupsi To Guwahati
9 Bilaspur To Bhopal
10 Bhopal To Bilaspur
11 Hissar To Dharamshala
12 Dharamshala To Hissar
13 Hissar To Chandigarh
14 Chandigarh To Hissar
15 Hissar To Dehradun
16 Dehradun To Hissar
17 Kanpur(Chakeri) To Moradabad
18 Moradabad To Kanpur(Chakeri)
19 Kanpur(Chakeri) To Aligarh
20 Aligarh To Kanpur(Chakeri)
21 Kanpur(Chakeri) To Chitrakoot
22 Chitrakoot To Prayagraj/Allahabad
23 Prayagraj/Allahabad To Chitrakoot
24 Chitrakoot To Varanasi
25 Varanasi To Chitrakoot
26 Chitrakoot To Kanpur(Chakeri)
27 Kanpur(Chakeri) To Shravasti
28 Shravasti To Varanasi
29 Varanasi To Shravasti
30 Shravasti To Prayagraj/Allahabad
31 Prayagraj/Allahabad To Shravasti
32 Shravasti To Kanpur(Chakeri)
33 Bareilly To Delhi
34 Delhi To Bareilly
35 Cochin International Airport(CIAL) To Agatti
36 Agatti To Cochin International Airport(CIAL)
37 Aizawl To Tezpur
38 Tezpur To Aizawl
39 Agartala To Dibrugarh
40 Dibrugarh To Agartala
41 Shillong To Passighat
42 Passighat To Guwahati
43 Guwahati To Passighat
44 Passighat To Shillong
45 Guwahati To Tezpur
46 Tezpur To Guwahati
47 Guwahati To Misa(Heliport)
48 Misa(Heliport) To Geleki
49 Geleki To Jorhat
50 Jorhat To Geleki
51 Geleki To Misa(Heliport)
52 Misa(Heliport) To Guwahati
53 Agatti To Minicoy
54 Minicoy To Agatti
55 Agatti To Kavaratti
56 Kavaratti To Agatti
57 Guwahati To Shillong
58 Shillong To Dimapur
59 Dimapur To Shillong
60 Imphal To Silchar
61 Silchar To Imphal
62 Shillong To Guwahati
63 Agartala To Shillong
64 Shillong To Imphal
65 Imphal To Shillong
66 Shillong To Agartala
67 Imphal To Shillong
68 Shillong To Silchar
69 Silchar To Shillong
70 Shillong To Imphal
71 Shillong To Dibrugarh
72 Dibrugarh To Shillong
73 Delhi To Shimla
74 Shimla To Delhi
75 Diu To Surat
76 Surat To Diu
77 Diu To Vadodara
78 Vadodara To Diu

 

List of Unserved airports:

  1. Tezu, Arunachal Pradesh
  2. Rupsi, Assam
  3. Bilaspur, Chattisgarh
  4. Hisar, Haryana
  5. Misa (Heliport), Assam
  6. Geleki (Heliport), Assam
  7. Minicoy, Lakshadweep
  8. Kavaratti (Water aerodrome), Lakshadweep

List of Underserved airports:


  1. Agatti, Lakshadweep
  2. Passighat, Arunachal Pradesh
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