Friday, February 04, 2005

INDIA: North East Insurgency Report 03-04FEB [8 NEWS CLIPPINGS]

HEADLINES IN CLIPPINGS

01. Go for it, Mamoni tells Ulfa top guns
02. NEIGHBOURHOOD BULLY
03. India, Bhutan to jointly tackle rebel threats
04.. N-E rebels had Manmohan on hit-lis
05. Northeast on the boil over NSCN integration demand:
06. NSCN-IM sticks to demand for 'Greater Nagaland':
07. Naga integration on talks agenda: Muivah
08. UNLF refutes
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[ASSAM]

04/02/2005

01. Go for it, Mamoni tells Ulfa top guns

Guwahati, Feb. 3: Writer Mamoni Raisom Goswami today called upon the recalcitrant Ulfa leadership to grab the opportunity that has come its way with Delhi expressing its readiness to hold parleys even on foreign shores.

“It is a good opportunity and they (the Ulfa leadership) should seize it,” she told the media on the sidelines of a function here.

Goswami, who conveyed Delhi’s offer directly to Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua, said she was waiting for the outfit’s response. “Paresh Barua called me at my residence here yesterday, but unfortunately I was not at home at that time and could not speak to him,” she said.

The Prime Minister’s security adviser M.K. Narayanan had informed the writer about Delhi’s stand when she called on him to resume her initiative to bring the Ulfa to the negotiation table.

The Ulfa commander-in-chief assured to get back to her on Delhi’s offer after discussing it with his aides.

Exuding confidence that the outfit’s response would be positive this time, Goswami said it would surely not “dismiss” the opportunity though it might buy time to come to a decision.

“I told Narayanan that it may take some time to finally convince the Ulfa to sit for talks across the table. But I am quite optimistic about a positive outcome,” she said.

The Delhi University professor will be in Assam till February 8.

Goswami said she would like to meet some jailed Ulfa leaders once again for “clarifications” on certain issues.

“I have to take permission to meet them again, but am unable to fix a date because of my hectic schedule. But I have to meet them again to get clarifications on some issues.”

04/02/2005

02. NEIGHBOURHOOD BULLY


The low-intensity war waged by separatists in the North-east is considered to be less dangerous than the violence in Kashmir. In this book, the author, Jaideep Saikia, warns that the complacency regarding the troubled North-east would cost India dear in the near future. The influx of immigrants from Bangladesh, claims Saikia, makes up the core of this threat.

These immigrants have changed the demography of several northeastern districts. For instance, in Dhubri, the Muslims now constitute more than 70 per cent of the population. If the migration goes unchecked, then the indigenous inhabitants would be in the minority soon.

Sadly, the Bangladesh government is not doing enough to stop this activity. This, it knows, will not only alleviate economic pressure on Dhaka but also promote instability in India. Radical Islamist parties in Bangladesh are providing tacit support to the insurgency in India’s northeast. Initially, the insurgency headed by outfits like the United Liberation Front of Asom and the All Tripura Tiger Force started on ethnic lines. But, pressure from Indian security forces and the Bhutanese army have forced these terrorists to flee to Bangladesh where they are provided with arms, logistic support and money.

Significantly, although ULFA was opposed to illegal immigration from Bangladesh earlier, now the prachar patras of the outfit say that the economy of Assam is driven by this influx. So, the immigrants, these leaflets assert, are an integral part of Assamese society. The principal enemy in ULFA’s eyes now is the Indian state. Of late, it has started targeting non-Assamese Hindus in the Brahmaputra Valley. The Inter-Services Intelligence and the Bangladeshi government, alleges Saikia, have a hand in forcing the militants not to surrender. Resistance to their dictates is rewarded with death.

The fact that ULFA is fast losing ground in Assam is because Muslim youth in the state are leaving it to join militant organizations in Bangladesh. In the training camps of Sylhet and Cox’s Bazar, the recruits are not only supplied with weapons but measures are also taken to ensure that their ideological indoctrination is complete. This makes them believe in a merger between the Muslim-dominated regions of Assam with Bangladesh.

Secularists and liberals are likely to find fault with Saikia’s book. But instead of criticizing him, we need to analyze his arguments to understand how an insurgency based on ethnic lines has been replaced by the threat from radical Islamist forces in India’s northeast. Terror Sans Frontiers might just be the book to open the eyes of an insouciant administration to the threats posed by a hostile and unfriendly neighbour.

04/02/2005

03. India, Bhutan to jointly tackle rebel threats

Guwahati, Feb 4 : India and Bhutan Friday stressed the need for effective border management and heightened security in the wake of Bhutan's military offensive on anti-India separatists in the kingdom.

"Both countries will have to jointly address in a comprehensive manner the mutual security concerns (after) the military operations that were launched by the Royal Bhutan Army against Indian militants," said Daso Tsering Wangda, joint secretary in Bhutan's home ministry.

Wangda was addressing a two-day high-level meeting on border management and security between the two countries in Guwahati, the main city in the northeast Indian state of Assam.

He said normalcy was yet to be established in areas along the India-Bhutan border even after the kingdom's military launched its first operation in December 2003 against the anti-India rebels, smashing up to 30 camps operated in the Buddhist kingdom by three Indian separatist groups.

Bhutan has claimed to have ousted the militants from its territory.

The outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), both rebel groups from Assam, and the Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) from West Bengal had well-entrenched bases in Bhutan.

The groups are fighting for independent homelands in India and had carried out hit-and-run guerrilla strikes on Indian soldiers from their bases in Bhutan for over a decade.

"The 12 years of militant hideouts in Bhutan had seriously affected relations between the people of Assam and Bhutan," said Wangda, who is heading a 17-member Bhutanese delegation.

"Now that our military has totally flushed out the militants, the relationship between Assam and Bhutan is under severe test at present."

Bhutan shares a 380-km unfenced border with the two Indian states of Assam and West Bengal.

"We are yet to achieve complete normalcy in border areas and there are chances of misunderstanding between the two sides. We need to be vigilant so that there is no bad blood," Wangda said.

India was represented by H. Brahma, joint secretary (border) in the home ministry, besides senior police and civil officials from Assam.

"We want to maintain the age-old coordination and friendship between the two countries. We need to discuss threadbare matters pertaining to security, transport, trade and commerce to improve bilateral ties," Assam's Home Commissioner B.K. Gohain told the meeting.

The two countries have decided to hold regular meetings for better coordination and enhancing ties.

Landlocked Bhutan is dependent on India, with essentials and medicines being lifted from Assam. Many districts in Bhutan can be reached only after traversing through parts of Assam.

"Considering the geographical proximity, we need to eradicate any doubts or suspicions among ourselves," Wangda said.

03/02/2005

04. N-E rebels had Manmohan on hit-lis

NEW DELHI: There was credible intelligence that North-East insurgent groups might target the Indian delegation during the Saarc (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) summit in Dhaka. This, however, was only one of the reasons for India's withdrawal from the proposed summit.

India's problems with Bangladesh have been building up for some time. For one, New Delhi feels there has been no credible explanation from Dhaka on the arms transfers through Bangladesh which India believes are intended for Indian insurgent groups. This apprehension grew particularly after the Chittagong arms haul last year, which also revealed, according to sources, some very uncomfortable official links in Bangladesh.

For another, New Delhi is convinced and claims to have evidence of Indian insurgent leaders being given safe havens in Bangladesh. But this was not new; it just added to New Delhi's disquiet regarding Dhaka.

Recent events have only added to this feeling of disquiet. One of them is last week's killing of S A M S Kibria. Now, Kibria was no ordinary person. He was a former finance minister and one of the founding fathers of the Saarc movement. This assassination, coming after the murderous attack on Sheikh Hasina in August 2004, indicated a pattern – of trying to physically eliminate the opposition to the current regime in Dhaka.

The pattern of targeted killings has made India uncomfortable. The security situation in Dhaka, moreover, has been deteriorating, with political unrest and explosions — even in supposedly sanitised areas of the city — adding little to India’s comfort level.


[NAGALAND]

04/02/2005

05. Northeast on the boil over NSCN integration demand:

[India News]: Guwahati, Feb 4 : Home Minister Shivraj Patil's contradictory statements on the demand of the separatist National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) for integration of all tribal Naga inhabited areas in the northeast could push the region into turmoil.

On Tuesday, Patil said the NSCN's demand for merger needed a broad consensus.

"Our stand on maintaining the territorial integrity of all states has been made in black and white in our Common Minimum Programme," he had told journalists in Assam's main city of Guwahati. "If any alteration has to be made, it has to be done with the concurrence of the states and their people."

The following day, however, in New Delhi the minister contradicted his own statement.

"Clarifications on the statement attributed to me should be put to those who reported it," Patil was quoted as saying in New Delhi at a press conference.

It appeared that Patil was trying to play safe and not jeopardise the fresh peace talks with the NSCN that began Thursday. And by doing so, Patil has probably done more harm than good.

There is a reason for the minister to change track - his statement in Guwahati evoked angry reaction from the NSCN who said Patil's comments were "unfortunate" on the eve of the talks.

"We are not going to compromise on our demands for integrating all Naga inhabited areas in the northeast," thundered V.S. Atem, a senior NSCN leader.

The NSCN even threatened not to hold talks with Patil and instead demanded a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Sensing trouble, the home minister seemed to backtrack.

On Thursday in New Delhi, Patil reassured the NSCN delegation, led by Thuingaleng Muivah, that the issue of integration was very much on the agenda -- a statement reiterated by central minister Oscar Fernandes who is also part of the government negotiating team.

Analysts say New Delhi's attempts at appeasing the NSCN could have serious repercussions in the northeast.

"Probably there is a feeling in New Delhi that the three regional governments of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh could toe the central government line," one analyst said.

"All the three states in question have governments ruled by the Congress party and there is a feeling that New Delhi will be able to bulldoze the regional states to accepting the decision."

The NSCN 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.

"We are asking for land that belongs to the Nagas and not of any Assamese, Manipuris or Arunachalis," said Muivah.

But murmurs of discontent were heard in the region.

"There will be turmoil in the region if the central government accepts the NSCN's integration demand," Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh said.

Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, too, have similar views. In 2001, some 20 people were killed and the state legislature burnt down by angry protestors in Manipur when New Delhi decided to extend the jurisdiction of the ceasefire beyond Nagaland into the neighbouring state.

"If there can be violent anti-ceasefire protests, one should know what will happen if the territorial integrity is disturbed," said civil rights activist in Manipur T. Singh.

"The region will burn and people will be forced to pick up arms to protect their land."

While trying to walk the extra mile, New Delhi seems to be bungling on the issue of solving insurgency in the northeast.

"If demands for merger can be on the agenda, why can't New Delhi accept demands by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) for discussing the issue of sovereignty," said Indira Goswami, noted Assamese writer sought by the outfit to mediate for talks with the Indian government.

"Discussing the issue of sovereignty does not mean the government will have to grant independence."

03/02/2005

06. NSCN-IM sticks to demand for 'Greater Nagaland':

New Delhi, Feb 3 : The government and Nagaland's main separatist group Thursday resumed peace talks with the rebels indicating that their controversial demand for creating a new homeland for Naga tribals remained atop the agenda.

The first day of the dialogue between the government and the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) was confined to preliminary talks and ended without a discussion of substantive issues.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who led the government side, introduced the ministers -- Oscar Fernandes, Prithviraj Chauhan and S. Reghupathy -- who will conduct the negotiations -- to rebel leader Thuingaleng Muivah and his colleagues.

The meeting, that lasted less than an hour, was held at the North Block, which houses the home ministry.

The negotiations are likely to see some hard bargaining as the NSCN-IM is sticking to its demand for creating a "Greater Nagaland" by carving off the Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.

The NSCN-IM also submitted a memorandum with its demands, which would be discussed in the next few days.

"There will be no solution without integration of the Naga areas," Muivah told reporters after emerging from the meeting.

"How can you have a solution by keeping the Nagas divided," he questioned.

The government, however, has said it would not disturb the current territorial boundaries of states in the restive northeast.

Muivah claimed the government had arbitrarily drawn the boundaries in the northeast and the Nagas would not tolerate this.

"In Assam, Nagas are living in their own land and not in the land of Assamese. Similar is the case in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur," he said.

The NSCN-IM also sought clarifications from Home Minister Patil regarding his statement that the existing boundaries in the northeast would not be changed.

"We were reassured by the minister that his statement was misrepresented in some press reports and that there was no change in the position of government of India that this issue remains on the agenda of the negotiations," a NSCN-IM statement said.

"There is no question of Greater Nagaland, we have demanded the land that belong to Nagas. If the Nagas want to live in their territory, who can stop it?" asked Muivah.

Patil described the talks as "very good", and said the NSCN-IM was being "realistic".

The 10-member NSCN-IM team was led by the group's general secretary Muivah, as chairman Isak Chisi Swu did not turn up.

Home Secretary Dhirendra Singh, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and the government's interlocutor for Nagaland, former home secretary K. Padmanabhaiah, were present at the talks.

03/02/2005

07. Naga integration on talks agenda: Muivah
Source: The Sangai Express

New Delhi, February 03: The Centre today initiated a fresh round of talks with the top leadership of Naga insurgent group NSCN (I-M) which has sought integration of Naga-inhabited areas, a demand that had sparked unrest in Manipur four 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 ESL Narasimhan.

The Naga delegation was headed by Muivah and included the emissary of the outfit's collective leadership VS Atem and other leaders QC Swu, A Shimrah and Rh Raising.

The outfit's chairman Isak Chisi Swu was 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 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 demanding the land that does not belong to us...The Naga people have been living separately and we want to live together.

This is not peculiar to the Naga people".

Observing that the Nagas were not living in the land of Assamese, Arunachalese or Manipuris, he said "the land belongs to us" and that there would be "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.

On the negotiations today, which was also attended by National Security Adviser MK Narayanan, Fernandes said "formal" talks with NSCN (I-M) were expected to begin with the group of Ministers "very soon".

"I don't think we will be able to resolve the issue in a day but we will definitely try to find a solution," Fernandes said, adding the Naga leaders could meet the Prime Minister at a mutually agreed time.

Asked about the UPA Government's Common Minimum Programme which has categorically ruled out re-drawing of boundaries of States, he said "we are now having discussions.

We are not in a position to announce decisions".

Observing that NSCN (I-M) was not for re-organisation of States, Muivah, however, maintained that boundaries had been "drawn arbitrarily".

Patil told the Naga leaders that with both sides determined to find a solution acceptable to all, nothing could come in the way, according to a Home Ministry spokesman.

Responding to Patil's remarks, Muivah said the outfit would do its best to find a peaceful solution to the decades-old problem.

He said while the NSCN (I-M) understood the difficulties of the Government, the Government too should understand its difficulties.

"This kind of understanding would help arrive at an honourable agreement on all outstanding issues," he said.


03/02/2005

08. UNLF refutes
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, February 03: The underground UNLF has refuted the PIB (Defence Wing) that accused the MPA cadres for the January 27 IED blast at Selhao Kuki village in Chakpikarong area of Chandel district.

Terming the PIB claim as false and intended to malign the UNLF, a press statement issued by the outfit's assistant secretary (publicity) central committee secretariat said no explosion had been reported.

If at all the explosion did take place, then it must be near the Indian army camp located at Selhao because the surrounding area of the security camp is heavily mined, countered the statement.

Claiming that Indian security forces had suffered heavy casualties in the past many days at the hands of MPA, it said the Indian Army is resorting to covert methods to malign UNLF so as to drive a wedge between the underground organisation and the relentlessly supporting masses of Manipur.

The Indian security forces are planting anti-personnel mines wherever they are posted at hill areas so that maximum brunt of bomb blast falls on the innocent villages and to frame the UNLF, alleged the assistant secretary.

Observing that such ulterior motives will always boomerang, the UNLF referred to last year's Ningol Chakkouba intentional explosion at the heart of the capital city by security force as another attempt to link revolutionaries to trigger blast at crowded places.

Such mean method cannot fool the alert people of Manipur, it expressed.