Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Book Review: Terror Sans Frontiers


The state of Assam in North East India not only has a sizeable Muslim population, but also a long and porous border with Bangladesh, factors which help Islamist insurgency. Indeed, a majority of the population of four geo-strategically positioned districts of Assam is now Muslim, reportedly a consequence of the illegal migration from Bangladesh.. Equally, it conspires to further an agenda which has religious fanaticism and division as its important coordinates. The region is also witness to myriad subterfuges by the Inter Services Intelligence of Pakistan (ISI) and the Directorate General of Field Intelligence (DGFI) of Bangladesh, which are beginning to expand their aid to North East insurgent organizations by inducting Islamic groups into the region.
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From the Back Cover

This book is the first clear-eyed assessment of the explosive situation unfolding in India's North East. While ethnic insurgency in North East India, its "little wars", have been around ever since India's independence, there is now the menacing new phenomenon of Islamist terrorism developing in the region.

This could well introduce a different order of extremism altogether than has traditionally existed. Islamist militant activities have begun to proliferate in the region with an urgency that could usurp the separatist mantle from the traditional ethnically based insurgent movements.

Equally, it conspires to further an agenda which has religious fanaticism and division as its important coordinates. The region is also witness to myriad subterfuges by the Inter Services Intelligence of Pakistan (ISI) and the Directorate General of Field Intelligence (DGFI) of Bangladesh, which are beginning to expand their aid to North East insurgent organizations by inducting Islamic groups into the region.

Indeed, this has been compounded by the fact that the present government in Bangladesh is also purportedly turning a blind eye to the fundamentalist engineering currently underway in the Islamic Republic, which has led to large-scale migration of Hindus out of Bangladesh.

The state of Assam in North East India not only has a sizeable Muslim population, but also a long and porous border with Bangladesh, factors which help Islamist insurgency. Indeed, a majority of the population of four geo-strategically positioned districts of Assam is now Muslim, reportedly a consequence of the illegal migration from Bangladesh.

Recent reports have also indicated that the ISI and the DGFI are encouraging the illegal influx with an eye to carving out a Brihot Bangladesh (Greater Bangladesh) in the region.

The Islamist militant movements in the region find an organized parish in this illegal migrant population whose ideology and socio-religious commitment continue to be informed by experiences from across India's borders.

The problem has grown in magnitude as a result of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) jettisoning its original ideals. This most prominent ethnic separatist movement in Assam has now become a willing hostage of the ISI and the events and factors which are in play in Bangladesh and in the neighbourhood.

This meticulously researched book provides both a timely warning and original insights into the linkages between Islamic militancy and the broader issues of security in North East India. It is an unfolding crisis to which New Delhi has yet to awake.

About the Author

Jaideep Saikia is a security analyst with over two dozen published and presented academic papers on security and strategy and the author of the book, Contours: Essays on Security and Strategy which received excellent reviews in the media.

He has also published a collection of his poems, Lyrics from the Amygdala and is co-editor of the book, Development Challenges in India: Assam in the 21st Century.

The present book, grew out of his research as an ACDIS-Ford fellow in the Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.

Born in 1966, Jaideep Saikia had his education at the Rashtriya Indian Military College, Dehra Dun and at St Stephen's College, University of Delhi.

He has travelled widely in USA, Europe and in South and South East Asia on academic assignments.

NDTV 19/10/2004