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With 17,897 HIV Positive Persons, Mizoram Has India’s Highest Number Of AIDS Patients

Beyond drug addicts, currently cases of AIDS are also being reported from higher strata of the society

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Screengrab: Side Effects of HIV/ AIDS – Awareness Campaign, Mizoram State Aids Control Society

AIZAWL (Mizoram): The northeastern state of Mizoram reported on Monday that at least 17,897 people are infected with HIV/AIDS, the highest in the country, with nine persons testing positive every day.

Over 42 per cent of those in the age group of 25-34 have tested positive for HIV in the state, one of the least populated in the country, said officials of the Mizoram State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) that released the data on the occasion of the World AIDS Day.

Several awareness programmes were organised here and across the state to mark the Day, which was on December 1, a Sunday. Officials said 2,557 fresh HIV cases were detected in 2018-19, which was “extremely high” as the state has a mere ten lakh population.


Among the total number of HIV patients, 6,069 are female, they said.

While HIV infections were earlier higher among drug addicts and sex workers, currently cases of AIDS are also being reported from higher strata of the society, an official said.

Officials sought the cooperation of political leaders, civil society members and the churches to fight the menace in the Christian-dominated state.


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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

Assam: Proxy Insurgency In The Hills

The peace talks with Naga groups, including NSCN-IM, need to be expedited.

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On May 20, 2020, the Dimasa Students Union (DSU), All Dimasa Students Union (ADSU), and Dimasa Mothers Association (DMA) began a three-day sit-in demonstration in front of the Dima Hasao Deputy Commissioner’s Office, demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the abduction and murder of former Dima Halim Daogah-Nunisa (DHD-N) leader Santosh Hojai by unidentified assailants on April 24, 2020. The sit-in-demonstration concluded on May 22, 2020, with the submission of a memorandum of demands to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal through Deputy Commissioner Paul Baruah. Apart from the CBI enquiry, other demands included the immediate arrest of the culprits, compensation to the family of the deceased and justice.

Earlier, on May 14, 2020, a 36-hour-long Dima Hasao bandh (shutdown strike)called by the Halali Progressive Welfare Society (HPWS)against the abduction and murder of Santosh Hojai led to deserted streets in the District. HPWS’ formationwas initially announced in the form of Halali Progressive Group and formally launched at the official disbanding ceremony of DHD-N. Dilip Nunisa, former ‘chairman’of DHD-N has been the ‘president of the HPWS since its inception. DHD-N was dissolved on March 9, 2013.

Significantly, unidentified persons abducted Santosh Hojai from his house in Damadi Hawar village under Harangajao Police Station in Dima Hasao District on April 24, 2020. His body was later recovered from the Langting area of the District on April 30.


The ongoing protest in the District can disrupt the peace established in the District established since 2010. DSU ‘general secretary’ Pramith Sengyung, warned, on May 1, 2020:

Kidnapping and killing of an innocent person like Hojai, who was a businessman, a father of three and a former DHD leader, can destabilise peace in the district.

Meanwhile, former DHD-N militants as well as the family members of the deceased blame a local Police official for the killing. The HPWS’president’, Dilip Nunisa, asserted:


It (the bandh) is in protest against the kidnapping and killing of Santosh Hojai former DHD cadre, businessman, and social worker. What happened to him is condemnable. His wife registered a case at the Harangajao Police Station but the accused Surya Kanta Morang [Deputy Superintendent of Police posted in the District] has not been arrested.

Two officials of the Dima Hasao District – Superintendent of Police (SP) Bir Bikram Gogoi, and Deputy SP (DySP) Surya Kanta Morang -have since been transferred by the Government to other units outside the District. On May 4, 2020, the Gauhati High Court, while hearing the petition of Santosh Hojai’s wife Jayanta Hojai, constituted a Special Investigating Team (SIT) headed by the Deputy Inspector General-Southern Range (DIG-SR) Dilip Kumar Dey to probe the incident.

In the meantime, Police have questioned Kanchan Naiding, a militant of Dimasa National Liberation Army (DNLA), a nascent militant outfit active in Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong Districts, in connection with the case. No further update on DNLA’s involvement in the killing is available.

Previously, on April 24, 2020, a joint team of the Assam Police and Indian Army units (Military Intelligence and Para Special Forces) killed two DNLA militants, identified as ‘2nd Lieutenant’ Gadayeng Dimasa aka Rupson Thousan (32) and ‘Area commander’ Elwin Jidung (31), at Dugoidisa village in Misibailam under the Dhansiri Police Outpost in the Karbi Anglong District. An M-16 and an AK-47 assault rifle were recovered from the slain cadres. Another DNLA cadre, Devlin Hojai, managed to escape from the encounter site, according to sources.

On April 23, 2020, DNLA threatened to stop coal mining in Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao Districts. In a release to the media, DNLA warned, “if anyone defies, there will be no mercy and action will be taken.”


On February 27, 2020, suspected DNLA militants opened fire at a vehicle belonging to a road construction company in the Mailoo area under Langting Police Station in Dima Hasao District. However, there was no report of any casualty in the incident. A worker of the road construction company said that the armed militants took them to a jungle area and told them to ask the owner of the company to give ransom money.

On January 25, 2020, DNLA called a 24-hour bandh in the Dima Hasao and Karbi Anglong District of Assam to commemorate ‘Dimasa Martyrs Day’. On January 25, 2018, two protestors belonging to the Dimasa community, Probanta Hakmaosa and Mithun Dibragede, were killed at Maibang Railway Station in Dima Hasao Districtwhile protesting against the Naga Framework Agreement .

DNLA announced its formation on April 15, 2019. According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), since its formation, DNLA has been found involved in six incidents of terrorism (data till May 24, 2020). These include one incident of killing which resulted in the death of two DNLA militants.

DNLA is led by its ‘chairman’ Naisodao Dimasa. Other prominent leaders include ‘army chief’, Gajaw Dimasa; ‘information Secretary’, Ringsmai Dimasa; and ‘home secretary’, Kharmindao Dimasa. A militant, Babu Hojai, who surrendered on September 17, 2019, claimed that DNLA had a cadre strength of 90 militants.

Though the DNLA calls itself an armed organisation of the Dimasa tribe fighting to establish a ‘sovereign Dimasa Homeland’ in areas supposedly comprising the Dimasa inhabited areas of Karbi Anglong, and Dima Hasao Districts, it is widely believed that it is a creation of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) with the objective of establishing a ‘proxy insurgency’ in the Hill Districts of Assam. DNLA’s creation helps fill the vacuum in local insurgent activities in the Hill Districts created by the disbanding of various factions of DHD.

Reports also point out that a section of the NSCN-IM leadership led by Phungting Shimrang (the former ‘commander-in-chief’ of the Naga army) and ‘Brigadier’ Chiphemi Shimrang had helped in the formation of DNLA. Both these Naga insurgent leaders are now believed to be in China.

DNLA has also admitted the role of NSCN-IM. DNLA’s ‘training instructor’ Betsing Jidung aka Master Dimasa aka John Dimasa disclosed, after his arrest on August 13, 2019, that NSCN-IM had raised, trained, armed and sheltered their cadres, but that it did not do this for free. DNLA had to buy their weapons: INR 150,000 per AK-47 type rifle and between INR 250,000 to INR 300,000 each for a US-made M16, M4 rifle. Also, DNLA ‘army chief’ Minom Phonglosa aka Gajaw Dimasa, revealed that he had a meeting with NSCN-IM ‘Brigadier’ Chiphemi Shimrang near the outfit’s Hebron Camp in Dimapur District, Nagaland. Shimrang asked Phonglosa to target Security Forces (SFs) using high grade explosives like Research and Development Explosives (RDX) and Tri-Nitro-Toluene (TNT).

In fact, reports indicate that NSCN-IM and DNLA have operated together at least once. The then Dima Hasao, SP, Bir Bikram Gogoi, had disclosed that, according to inputs, a joint team of DNLA and NSCN-IM was behind the February 26, 2020attack (above).

An immediate reason for NSCN-IM’s help for setting up of a Dimasa militant formation is likely to put pressure on the Government to restart the stalled Naga peace talks .Although, the NSCN-IM and the Government of India (GoI) on October 30, 2019 had agreed to sign a peace agreement within the parameters of the 2015 Framework Agreement , issues of a separate constitution and flag have not been resolved.


NSCN-IM’s cold calculations from a military strategic point of view will be to fan a possible rise in violence and ethnic tensions in the sparsely populated Hill Districts of Assam with new armed groups, giving the Naga insurgent group more room to manoeuvre. It is pertinent to recall here that all the major militant formations that were once active in Assam’s tribal dominated Hill Districts have signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) or Suspension of Operation (SoO) Agreements with the Government.

NSCN-IM had earlier  also facilitated the emergence of new militant groups in this region. These included the Rengma Naga Hills Protection Force (RNHPF). RNHPF was formed with the help of NSCN-IM to protect the ‘interests’ of the Rengma Naga people living in Karbi Anglong. The formation of several other groups that operated in the region was also supported by NSCN-IM. Prominent among these were Black Widow (BW), Hill Tiger Force (HTF),and Dimasa National Revolutionary Front (DNRF).

SFs have proactively tracked the DNLA since its formation. In a significant achievement, on January 30, 2020, SFs arrestedDNLA ‘army chief’ Minom Phonglosa from Hatuka Forest in the Karbi Anglong District. However, other major figures of the group -‘chairman’ Naisodao Dimasa and ‘home secretary’Kharmindao Dimasa,remain elusive.

The containment of DNLA activities in the Hill Districts is crucial to ensure that the peace established as a result of the disbanding of DHD factions is not derailed. Further, the peace talks with Naga groups, including NSCN-IM, need to be expedited, even as strict action against errant elements is taken, so that the new armed formations are not incubated, and incipient groups do not get logistical and material support once formed.

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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EDUCATION

Manipur Govt Directs Schools To Not Collect Fees For April-July Period

Fee if already collected for these months by the schools shall be adjusted with subsequent months in future.

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IMPHAL (Manipur): The Manipur State Education Department has ordered all private and aided schools in the State not to collect fees from students for the months of April to July of the present academic session considering the closure of schools due to COVID-19.

State Education Minister Th. Radheshyam convened a press conference this evening and appealed to all schools and guardians to follow the government order regarding the fee structure.

An order issued by the Department also directed these schools not to hike admission fees for the academic session 2020-21 while collecting the same.


Monthly school fees, including fees under any nomenclature up to March, maybe collected without hiking the amount.

Fee if already collected for these months by the schools shall be adjusted with subsequent months in future.

Regarding the salary of teaching and non-teaching staff of these schools, the order instructed payment of 50 per cent of salaries for staff with a student enrollment of 700 and below while full payment for the schools with a student enrolment of more than 700 students.

The Minister said that practices of luring students by giving freebies including laptops, tablets and other monetary benefits by schools is to be condemned.


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INTERNAL CHALLENGES

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.

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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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