Thursday, February 03, 2005

INDIA: North East Insurgency Report 02-03FEB [8 NEWS CLIPPINGS]


01. Definition of Assamese yet to be resolved: Patil
02. AASU vows to fly Bihu flag at Judges Field
03. Rebel group in Manipur offers conditional peace
04. Army Havildar killed
05. 25 houses destroyed in ethnic violence in Manipur
06. Centre initiates fresh round of talks with NSCN
07. Patil says no to NSCN's integration demand
08. Northeast Diary



01. Definition of Assamese yet to be resolved: Patil

NEW DELHI, Feb 2 – Claiming that majority of the clauses of the Assam Accord stood implemented, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil today conceded that definition of Assamese could not be given so far. Returning from his four-day tour of the North-east, a visibly satisfied Union Home Minister, addressing a press conference here this evening, said that all points of the Assam Accord have been implemented barring one or two. “One is regarding the definition of Assamese, which could not be defined,” he said. Sri Patil also gave a different spin to AASU non-participation in the talks by asserting that the students body could not turn up because of its organisational elections. But the Accord would be implemented in full.

Patil interestingly steered clear of all controversial issues including the ensuing talks with the NSCN (I-M) that gets underway tomorrow. He declined to comment on news report that quoted him saying that Government was committed to protect the territorial integrity of the North Eastern States. He also sidestepped questions on the fate of the peace deal with the NLFT in Tripura.

Describing his visit as fruitful, Patil said that he has come back with the impression that the atmosphere has become more and more peaceful and helping in the North-East. On the talks with ULFA, he said that the outfit has to first agree to come for talks before a venue could be selected for holding dialogue. “But for talks we need two parties. I have already said that those who are involved in the terrorist activities are our brothers, not enemies. They are the misguided members of our family.”

The Home Minister further gave a detailed account of his tour to Tripura, Mizoram and Assam. Patil gave full credit to the State Government and Chief Ministers for improving the law and situation in the region. “My impression is that situation is improving and insurgency and killing has come down by 24 percent. Patil said he was impressed by Mizoram Chief Minister, Zoramthanga’s gesture of offering bamboos for rehabilitation of people affected by tsunami disaster.


02. AASU vows to fly Bihu flag at Judges Field

Guwahati, Feb. 2: The Assam government’s decision to ban public activity at Judges Field today evoked a sharp rebuke from the influential All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), which vowed to host its annual Rongali Bihu programme at the historical venue “come what may”.

The student organisation’s snipe at the Tarun Gogoi-led government triggered a wave of protests against the move, which came after the banned Ulfa triggered two blasts at Judges Field while the central Republic Day function was in progress.

The AASU found support in former Union minister and BJP leader Bijoya Chakraborty and AGP stalwart Bhrigu Kumar Phukan, who was at the forefront of the anti-foreigner movement as a student leader.

Phukan said the government could not ignore the history of the field, which, he said, had been witness to some momentous occasions involving the public. “It is a public place and must remain so. During the days of the anti-foreigner agitation, it was the venue of historical meetings. Judges Field is a symbol of the people’s hopes and aspirations. The government is trying to cover up its failure to provide foolproof security by making the field out of bounds for the public.”

Phukan, former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and their then colleagues in the AASU had staged numerous demonstrations and organised rallies at Judges Field till the Asom Gana Parishad, born out of the student organisation, stormed to power in 1985.

Chakraborty, too, lambasted the government for practically sealing off Judges Field. “Even buses and trains have been targeted by militants. Will the government now stop these, too?” she asked.

“Dispur’s decision is an irrational one,” the former Union minister added.

Describing the government’s move as a knee-jerk reaction to a security failure, AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya said the government must respect the “sentiments and emotions” of the people.

Refusing to buy the government’s logic that the situation demanded such a step, Bhattacharyya pointed out that militants had triggered blasts even in Dispur. “In that case, the entire government machinery should vacate Dispur. Come what may, we are determined to hold the Bihu function at Judges Field,” he said.

The AASU adviser said the student organisation had long been advocating that Judges Field be reserved for cultural and academic events.

The AASU has been involved in various activities at Judges Field since the days of the anti-foreigner agitation. During those days, Bhattacharyya recalled, cultural processions originated from the field and people from all walks of life and communities joined in.

After the Assam Accord was signed in 1985, the AASU began celebrating Rongali Bihu at the same venue. Prominent artists, citizens and students have since been participating in these functions. Culture icon Bhupen Hazarika attends the Bihu function at Judges Field almost every year.

Popular actor Nipon Goswami, another regular participant at Judges Field functions, said it was absurd to bar the public from a ground because of security reasons.

“If the government wants foolproof security, a separate venue should be selected for all official functions, including Republic Day and Independence Day,” he said.

A student of Cotton College said the AASU-organised Bihu function was the “only truly community celebration in the urban jungle”.

The report of the inquiry into the blasts on Republic Day, submitted to the government by additional director-general of police (CID) Shankar Barua, recommended a brick-and-mortar fencing around the field and round-the-clock vigil. He also called for proper lighting arrangements there.



03. Rebel group in Manipur offers conditional peace

GUWAHATI (Reuters) - A powerful rebel group in India's troubled northeast offered on Thursday to hold peace talks with New Delhi to end a four-decade revolt but set conditions unlikely to be accepted by the central government.

The outlawed United National Liberation Front (UNLF), battling for freedom for nearly two million people in the mountainous state of Manipur, said it was willing to "end the conflict once and for all" if New Delhi allowed U.N. mediation.

A statement from UNLF chief Sana Yaima said authorities should organise a U.N.-monitored plebiscite in Manipur, replace federal forces with U.N. peacekeepers and transfer political power as mandated by the referendum.

"Now it is up to the government of India to decide and reciprocate our gesture. We will wait for Delhi's response," Yaima said.

Formed in 1964, the UNLF says it is waging an armed struggle against New Delhi's "colonial occupation" of the former princely state of Manipur.

The group has about 1,200 combatants, including 100 highly trained women guerrillas. The UNLF, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and PREPAK, are three major rebel groups active in Manipur.

The call by the UNLF comes after that rebel group and the PLA suffered heavy losses in the past three months during campaigns by the Indian military. Arms sourced from gun-runners in Southeast Asian countries had also been seized, an intelligence source said.

The UNLF talks offer could be a ploy to buy time and recoup, the source said, adding that the conditions set by the outfit would not be acceptable to New Delhi.

Rebel groups in India's northeast, ringed by China, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, have made similar peace offers in the past when they have come under pressure from government forces.


04. Army Havildar killed

Bit Irom

Imphal, Feb 03: 2005: Security has been alerted after being killed a havildar of the Indian army troops was killed in an encounter with the insurgents along the Manipur Myanmar border, the police said.

The havildar was later identified as Narinder Singh. He was from Uttarachand state of India. He died on the spot when the insurgents opened fire to the Indian army troops near the border pillar number 83 in Manipur's Chandel district bordering Myanmar at around 11 am on Thursday. The body of the killed army man is now at the Leimakhong army headquarters, about 20 km from here for transportation to his home state. Integrity News International.


05. 25 houses destroyed in ethnic violence in Manipur

IMPHAL, Feb 2 – A red alert has been sounded after destruction of 25 dwelling-houses belonging to the ethnic Khoibu tribes by well-armed persons at Khangsim village under the Kakching police station in Thoubal district of Manipur in the early hours on Wednesday, the police said.

About 200 well-armed persons suspected to be the Maring Naga tribes who came in four Saktiman trucks dismantled and destroyed the dwelling houses and household properties including cooking gas, scooters and TV sets in the rampage which lasted around 30 minutes. Properties worth over Rs. five lakh were destroyed in the rampage, the police added.

Security and police forces have started been deployed in the sensitive places of this village in the backdrop of possible ethnic violence. Last year, the villages in around the Khoibu tribal inhabited areas of the same district were brought under SEction 144, CrPC because of attacks by the same tribals. These two tribes are at constant clashes over the job opportunities and other benefits from the governments at the Centre and State.

The Maring has been recognized by the Government of India as one of the tribes but the Khoibu is still fighting for inclusion in the list. In this case, the Khoibus are taking other opportunities and benefits from the Marings. Both these tribes are inhabited in the southern part of the state. The police further stated that the violence is one of the resurgence of ethnic clash that the state had witnessed in the early 90s between the Nagas and the Kukis.


06. Centre initiates fresh round of talks with NSCN

The Centre today initiated a fresh round of talks with the top leadership of major Naga insurgent group NSCN (I-M) which sought integration of Naga- inhabited areas, a demand that had sparked unrest in Manipur three years back and resented by Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

Emerging from the hour-long parleys with Home Minister Shivraj Patil, NSCN (I-M) General Secretary Th. Muivah said "we are demanding the land which belongs to us Nagas. We want to live in the territory that belongs to us. Who can stop us".

Voicing satisfaction that peace has been prevailing in Nagaland, Patil told the 11-member Naga delegation that the Government wanted the "atmosphere of understanding to continue" as it would help in arriving at an "honourable understanding".

Both sides said they looked forward to an honourable understanding on the vexed Naga issue with the leaders of the insurgent outfit stating that the level of talks will continue, as before, at the level of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Patil led the Central team at the "preliminary" parleys and was assisted by Union Ministers Oscar Fernandes, Prithviraj Chavan and S Regupathy, Government's emissary for the Naga peace process K Padmanabhaiah, Home Secretary Dhirendra Singh and Intelligence Bureau Chief E S L Narasimhan.

The Naga delegation was headed by Muivah and included the emissary of the outfit's collective leadership V S Atem and other leaders Q C Svu, A Shimrah and Rh. Raising. The outfit's chairman Isaac Chisi Swu was not not present at the talks.

Muivah said "we sought clarification from the Home Minister regarding the Government of India's stand on the issue of Naga integration.

"We were reassured by the Minister that his statement was mis-interpreted in some press reports and that there is no no change in the position of the Government that this issue remains on the agenda of the negotiations".

The Centre had to amend an understanding reached by it with the NCSN (I-M) three years back extending the ceasefire which had come into force in 1997, beyond the borders of Nagaland as it had triggered large-scale protests and violence in Manipur, and was strongly opposed by Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

Replying to a volley of questions on the issue of "Greater Nagaland" and integration of Naga-inhabited areas in the North East, which had been strongly resented by the three states, Muivah said "we are not not demanding the land that does not not belong to us...The Naga people have been living separately and we want to live together. This is not not peculiar to the Naga people".

Observing that the Nagas were not not living in the land of Assamese, Arunachalese or Manipuris, he said "the land belongs to us" and that there would be "no no solution" without addressing the issue of integration of Naga areas.

When pressed for a response on the NSCN (I-M) demand, Fernandes, Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation, said the outfit had given a memorandum to the Government earlier and that all issues would be discussed.


07. Patil says no to NSCN's integration demand

Guwahati,Home Minister Shivraj Patil has said New Delhi cannot accept demands by an influential separatist group from Nagaland for merging tribal Naga-inhabited areas in the region unless there is a consensus.

"Our stand on maintaining the territorial integrity of all states has been made in black and white in our Common Minimum Programme," Patil told journalists in Assam's main city of Guwahati late Tuesday.

"If any alteration has to be made, it has to be done with the concurrence of the states and their people."

Central government negotiators are expected to meet with separatist leaders from the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) in New Delhi later this week for new talks to end India's longest-running insurgency.

"Talks are likely to begin either Thursday or on Friday," senior NSCN leader V.S. Atem told IANS over the phone from New Delhi Wednesday.

The NSCN, the oldest and the most powerful of around 30 rebel armies in the region, wants the creation of a Greater Nagaland by slicing off parts of the neighbouring states of Assam, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh that has sizeable Naga tribal populations.

The NSCN has reacted angrily to Patil's statement.

"There can be no compromise at all on the issue of integrating all Naga-inhabited areas in the region. Such comments made on the eve of the scheduled talks is very unfortunate and does not augur well for taking forward the peace process," Atem said.

"Nobody can keep the Nagas divided arbitrarily and any attempts at not conceding to our demand will not be acceptable to us."

The states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Manipur, all of which have sizeable Naga populations, have decided not to compromise on its territorial integrity.

NSCN leaders Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chishi Swu are in India at the invitation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for furthering the peace talks. The two self-exiled rebel leaders had arrived in New Delhi December and held an informal meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before visiting their native state in Nagaland for celebrating Christmas.

The duo of Swu and Muivah have been operating out of Southeast Asian cities for the past 37-years. The NSCN is currently holding peace talks with New Delhi after the two sides entered into a ceasefire in 1997.

The last round of formal talks were held at the Thai city of Chiang Mai in July aimed at reaching a solution in Nagaland, a state of two million people in the northeast bordering Myanmar where more than 25,000 people have been killed since India's independence in 1947.


08. Northeast Diary

AGP for change in law

The AGP on Wednesday demanded amendment in the National Calamity Management Act 2000 to incorporate “river erosion” in the list of calamities in Schedule I of the Act. At present, only sea erosion is listed as one of the calamities along with flood, cyclone and drought. Secretary of the AGP Legislature Party, Dilip Kumar Saikia, in a representation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, pointed out that in Assam, erosion has already swallowed 7 per cent of the total plain area of the state.

Act violation
The Assam unit of the BJP on Wednesday charged the state government of misusing the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act. BJP MP Rajen Gohain claimed that several Bengalis were served quit notices by Nagaon police in violation of the act.

A week-long motivational contact programme for talented school students of Classes IX to XII, organised by the department of physics, Tezpur University, has begun recently. Altogether 28 students from different schools of Sonitpur district are participating in the programme, which will conclude on February 5.

CM meet
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Wednesday met a group of NCC cadets who returned after attending Republic Day function in New Delhi.

Chutia welfare
For the welfare of the Chutia community, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Wednesday announced the creation of Sati Sadini Trust in the memory of the sage who sacrificed her life for the uplift of social values.

The managing director of the Meghalya Apex Handloom Weavers and Handicrafts Cooperative Federation Limited is organising a five-day district-level handloom exhibition at All Saints’ cathedral Hall, Shillong, from February 21 to 25.

Yoga session
The NEC is organising a two-day session on various aspects of yoga as part of its Yog Vidya Jagriti Abhiyan in collaboration with Yoga ConFederation of India at All Saints’ Hall, Shillong, on February 11.

Thumbs Up

to arindam bhattacharyya of assam, (IFS) for being awarded the army gold medal at an essay competition at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration