Overview: Insurgency and Peace Efforts in Arunachal Pradesh

Insurgency

he only case of indigenous insurgency movement in Arunachal Pradesh was the rise of the Arunachal Dragon Force (ADF), which was rechristened as East India Liberation Front (EALF) in 2001. The outfit remained active in the Lohit district, before being neutralised by the state police forces.

Indigenous insurgency movements have only been a fraction of the problem that Arunachal Pradesh has come to encounter in the past years. A variety of factors including its geographical contiguity with Myanmar and ethnic similarities among the residents in some of Arunachal Pradesh’s districts with the locals in Nagaland has been the reasons why insurgent outfits from Assam and Nagaland have exploited the State for their activities.

Traditionally, the south-western districts of Tirap and Changlang, in the proximity of Nagaland, have been a happy hunting ground for both the factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN). While the Khaplang faction (NSCN-K) made its first inroads into the virgin territory in the early 1990s, the NSCN-IM faction soon made its move and carved out separate areas of influence in the district. In recent times, both the districts have witnessed occasional factional clashes between the outfits. Both outfits are known to run wide extortion network in these districts. According to intelligence reports, every government employee and businessman in Tirap is forced to pay nearly 25 per cent of his or her gross income as a tax for the outfits. Shutting down of banks in these districts due to extortion demands by outfits too has come to light. In 2001, the Oil India Limited stopped its activities in the Changlang district and pulled out 130 of its technical staff from the area after the NSCN-IM demanded an amount of INR 6 million.

Arunachal Pradesh has also been used as a transit route by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). While the movement of the ULFA cadres between the easternmost districts of Assam and the outfit’s facilities in the Sagaing division in Myanmar through Arunachal Pradesh can be traced back to the late 1980s, the State’s strategic importance for the ULFA has grown manifold after the outfit’s December 2003 ouster from Bhutan, following a military crackdown. The outfit’s dependence on its 28th battalion headquartered in Myanmar, for its hit and run activities in Assam, has become almost irreversible. There has, however, been a setback for the ULFA after two of the main strike units of the group’s 28th battalion entered into a ceasefire with the government in June 2008, diminishing the outfit’s fire power to a great extent. ULFA cadres traversing the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar route had set up transit camps and safe houses in the Manabhum Reserve Forest, spread over 1500 square kilometres in the Lohit district.

This has necessitated launching of several security force operations in these areas, especially by the Army's 2nd Mountain Division, based near the eastern Assam district town of Dibrugarh. The 'Operation Blazing Khukri' conducted by the Army on the fringes of the Manabhum forest between April 5 and 10, 2007 and killed eight ULFA cadres, including two women. This was followed up with 'Operation Blooming Orchid', inside the Manabhum forest, between April 27 and May 1, 2007. Two ULFA camps were destroyed and the area was 'successfully sanitized' during the operations by nearly 500 soldiers. These reverses were perhaps responsible to some extent in the two companies of the ULFA’s 28th battalion agreeing to a truce with the authorities, leaving the outfit with its ‘Bravo’ company.

There were a few insurgency related incident in Arunachal Pradesh in 2008. Most of the incidents involved the NSCN or the ULFA militants. There were also a few incidents which revealed a nexus between the militants and the politicians, like the arrest of a NSCN (IM) militant from the residence of a former Minister of Arunachal Pradesh in Itanagar. Instances of forceful recruitments of tribal youths by the militant organizations, especially NSCN-K were also found.

In a Conference of Chief Ministers on internal security, held at New Delhi on August 17, 2009 and attended by the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, the Arunachal Pradesh government asked the Centre to seal the entire stretch of the 440-km-long India-Myanmar border along the state in order to check the movement of insurgent outfits.

Peace Efforts

The State administration’s counter-insurgency efforts, especially against the Naga outfits have been laced with political overtones. For example, on February 24, 2002 a minister of the State issued an appeal to the NSCN militants not to harass civilians. A month later, on March 22, 2002 the Home Minister of the State attributed the insurgent menace to the ‘non-cooperation by the people’. In August 2002, the then Chief Minister Mukut Mithi, enacted the Arunachal Pradesh Control of Organized Crime Act (APCOCA) to control the worsening law and order situation in the State, primarily in the districts of Tirap and Changlang. With the change of political formations in the State, on August 19, 2003, Chief Minister Gegong Apang, whose cabinet was accused of having known NSCN-IM sympathisers as ministers, repealed the Act terming it as ‘draconian’.

The military manoeuvres against the ULFA in recent years have remained the responsibility of the security forces based in Assam.

In order to give impetus to development process in the insurgency-hit districts of Tirap and Changlang, the state overnment allocated Rs 25 crore under Department of Tirap and Changlang Affairs in 2008. The state government has also constituted a ‘Core Group’ on security in the line of Unified Command structure in December 2008 to deal with insurgency problems, with the Chief Minister heading the group.

(Updated till August 19, 2009)