(Organised by the Centre for Development
and Peace Studies with support from the British
Deputy High Commission, Kolkata, at Guwahati, December 20 & 21, 2005)
Analysing and learning about the major conflicts
prevailing in South Asia and examining the various
approaches to peace-making in these nations was
the main thrust of the two-day dialogue.
H I G H L I G H T S
- CDPS Director Mr Wasbir Hussain noted that
the region is marred by complex non-traditional
security problems that calls for unconventional
approaches at solutions.
- British Deputy High Commissioner Dr. Andrew
Hall expressed the view that in an increasingly
interdependent world, everyone has a stake in
addressing the causes and consequences of conflict.
- Special guest Dr. Indira Goswami laid stress
on inclusion of peace studies in the academic
- Assam Chief Minister Mr. Tarun Gogoi, during
his key-note address,
promised safe passage to the ULFA leaders
to facilitate direct peace talks.
- CDPS President Mr Tapan Lal Baruah called
upon both India and the UK to engage in more
joint ventures and take bilateral relations
to a new high.
- Prof. Sridhar Khatri suggested evolving early
warning mechanisms in the South Asian region
to check impending trouble.
- Ameen Izzadeen contended that more than anything
else, placing ethnic identities above national
identity is the fundamental reason behind the
conflict situation in Sri Lanka.
- Shahedul Anam Khan exuded confidence that
moderate Bengali Muslims in Bangladesh conforming
to liberal values of Islam would subdue jehadi
elements rearing their ugly head at present.
- Dr. Indira Goswami stressed on Gandhian teachings
to mould the younger generation positively in
a conflict environment.
- Ram S Mahat said that democracy has been a
boon, not bane for Nepal despite many inner
- Partho S Ghosh made a case for Assam to shed
its Northeast tag as it has not been of any
benefit to the State economically.
- Binalakshmi Nepram said that insurgencies
in Northeast India are driven purely by ethno-nationalism
among the different ethnic groups who are increasingly
engaged in asserting their distinct identities.
- Nani G. Mahanta called for enhancing trans-national
cooperation in South and South-east Asia to
address the major problems of the region.
- L.T Pudaite saluted the strong will of the
masses for being the chief driving force behind
establishment and sustenance of peace after
a long drawn conflict in Mizoram, where he hails
Welcoming the participants and guests CDPS Director
Mr Wasbir Hussain said that the challenges faced
by the South Asian region have both internal as
well as external dimensions. The region is marred
by complex security problems and may need unconventional
solutions. Deft handling shall be required both
at the political and social levels, he observed,
and hoped that the Dialogue would enable analysts
and observers in India’s Northeast to learn
from the peace-making approaches in countries
like Sri Lanka, Nepal etc.
ADDRESS OF BRITISH DEPUTY HIGH COMMISSIONER
TO EASTERN INDIA, Dr ANDREW HALL
Dr. Andrew Hall, British Deputy High Commissioner
to Eastern India, stressed on finding a clear
road to peace and progress in the region. He lamented
that conflict disfigures and destabilizes significant
parts of South Asia. Conflict can provide havens
for criminal and terrorist activity and can have
a devastating impact on some of the world’s
poorest and most vulnerable people. All have a
stake in addressing the causes and consequences
of conflict in an increasing interdependent world
and keeping this in mind, the British Government
strongly supports conflict prevention and post-conflict
reconstruction. Great Britain is also seeking
to improve the UN’s response to humanitarian
crises. The Deputy High Commissioner also expressed
pleasure at the presence of speakers from countries
like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. In his concluding
remarks, he cautioned that there are no easy solutions
to the problems South Asia is facing, but was
very optimistic that through a collective effort,
a lasting solution could be worked out.
INAUGURAL ADDRESS OF SPECIAL GUEST,
Dr Indira Goswami
Special guest Dr. Indira Goswami said in her
address that the world is craving for peace and
is tired of bloodshed. Dismissing the notion of
cynics that dawn breaks in the Northeast of India
with the sound of guns, she clarified that it
is the chirping of birds that ushers in every
new day in the region. She further added that
yearning for peace is a basic human tendency,
and violence only an aberration. The eminent litterateur
pinned great hopes on Gandhian ideology and a
spiritual path as fruitful means of conflict resolution.
She also shared with the participants her experiences
of meeting cadres of insurgent groups like ULFA
and their family members. She emphahised on the
need for introducing a peace studies in educational
institutions in the country, particularly in conflict-ridden
KEYNOTE ADDRESS OF CHIEF MINISTER OF
ASSAM, Mr Tarun Gogoi
Greatly appreciating the initiative of CDPS in
organizing a dialogue on an issue of vital importance
to South Asian region, Chief Minister of Assam
Mr. Tarun Gogoi emphatically stated that there
would be no stopping the Asian tigers from emerging
as a major economic player in the world if they
join hands to fight terror and support each other
in resolving all the prevailing conflicts. The
Chief Minister also reminded that sister nations
of South Asia share a common heritage. Speaking
in the context of the North Eastern region’s
development, he said that devolution of power
at the grass roots is the best means to usher
in all-round development and rejected the view
point that autonomy to different ethnic groups
in the State would result in fragmentation of
the society. The Chief Minister appealed to Assam’s
main insurgent outfit, the ULFA, to come forward
for talks and promised to offer the outfit’s
leadership safe passage if they responded favourably.
VOTE OF THANKS BY PRESIDENT CDPS, Mt
CDPS President Mr. Tapan Lal Baruah thanked Assam
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi for an encouraging
speech and all the participants for their presence.
He presented a brief sketch of insurgency related
events starting from 1980. Mr Baruah pointed
out that India has inherited many positives from
the British Raj in the fields of administration
and policing and hoped that new ventures between
governments of India and Great Britain would immensely
benefit both the countries.
Prof. Sridhar Khatri
Executive Director, South Asia Centre
For Policy Studies, Kathmandu
In his paper, Prof. Sridhar Khatri says that
conflicts afflicting South Asia are basically
of two types- inter state and intra state. An
asymmetrical power structure leads to conflict
and poor governance further compounds the problems.
Conflict is a permanent recurring phenomena and
has a life cycle. Conflict is not always bad and
may bring about positive results also. Prof Khatri
ridiculed some exaggerated ideas that have emerged
after 9/11 (World Trade Centre incident) in understanding
Insurgency in South Asia is not just about certain
violent events; rather it is a process that has
emerged due to failure on the part of the state
to redress the grievances of various sections
of society. To understand this process in its
entirety, it is not sufficient to look at insurgent
groups and their activities alone. The entire
process of governance needs to be looked at. He
refused to put the entire blame on state and also
pulled up non-state actors for dereliction in
The paper expressed dissatisfaction at the fact
that the state always resorted to military means
to quell conflicts, most of which erupt due to
poor governance. Laws formulated against terrorism
in most South Asian countries are harsh in nature
and curb the liberty of citizens. More disturbing
is the fact that the scope of such laws is increasing
by the day. The paper informed of many such laws
in different countries of South Asia that also
includes the draconian TADA, POTA and AFSPA in
India. Branding the use of military means as a
knee-jerk reaction, the paper strongly opined
that use of such means only aggravated the problem
and lead to further confusion.
The paper also took a special interest in India’s
Northeast and said that conflicts are present
at various levels- between centre and state, amongst
states of the region, within the states, amongst
ethnic groups of the region, between the indigenous
population and outsiders in the region etc.
He regretted that there are no mechanisms for
institutional learning in South Asia. Role of
civil society is not defined and also dissatisfactory.
Sometimes civil society takes up a political role
and primarily for this reason, government sees
it as an external force and views it with distrust.
The paper gave many valuable suggestions as well.
It called for a coordinated networking of civil
societies in South Asia. To check impending trouble,
the paper called for evolving early warning mechanisms.
Sri Lanka: Negotiating
the Road to Peace
Deputy Editor, The Sunday Times,
The paper examined the reasons behind conflict
in the island nation and found that Sri Lanka
is a country sharply divided on ethnic, linguistic,
religious, and other socio-politico-economic lines.
Giving a clearer picture of the ethnic position,
the paper said that the Sinhalese constituted
70% of the population, North East Tamils 12%,
Tamils of Indian origin 5% and Muslims 8%. The
paper rued the fact that the ethnic groups place
their ethnic identity before national identity.
Making all the ethnic groups assert their Sri
Lankan identity over respective ethnic identities
has been a major challenge on the path to peace.
The paper further probed this divide by studying
the mindset of the main ethnic groups. It said
that for the Sinhalese, the Sinhala Buddhist identity
is synonymous with the Sri Lankan identity. The
Tamils complained of discrimination by the majority
Sinhalese while Muslims saw themselves as ‘a
people apart’ from the majority. All the
ethnic groups suffered from a sense of insecurity
and do not even mix with each other.
The paper said that to assert their identity
strongly after Independence, the Sinhala ruling
elite made Sinhala the official language, gave
state protection to Buddhism and formulated land
and education policies favouring them. But the
hardline Sinhala nationalists shed much of their
rigidity after LTTE, the insurgent group fighting
for a separate homeland for Tamils, achieved many
military successes and kept Sri Lanka burning.
A negotiated settlement was favoured and ceasefire
agreement signed with LTTE in 2002. But with the
election of hardliner Mahindra Rajapakshe as Sri
Lankan President in the November 17, 2005 Presidential
elections, there is a fear that the brief thaw
in acrimonious Sinhala-Tamil relations is likely
to be broken. The new President’s promise
of maximum devolution of power within a unitary
state looks largely unrealistic.
The paper also looked at other roadblocks to
peace and role of Norway as a peace facilitator.
It says a lasting solution to the conflict situation
could be possible only through devolution of powers
to the Tamils in the country’s North East.
The major impediment, however, is that Sri Lanka
is a unitary state and the majority community
views political reforms and establishment of federalism
with fear and contempt. The paper also took a
dig at the Norwegians and said they are pursuing
an elusive peace agenda which does not have any
sanction of the Sinhala majority.
In the concluding part, the paper made it clear
that patience and prudence shall be required to
solve the problem. It called for granting reasonable
concessions to minorities and draw lessons from
the Indian Constitution which upholds both secularism
and federalism and bestows significant rights
QUESTIONS PUT UP AND OBSERVATIONS MADE
DURING DISCUSSIONs ON PAPER I AND II
- Do we need to hang on to foreign models of
nation building or should we follow and cherish
our own approaches. Whether we in India have
been able to overcome the prejudices of narrow
- Will it be possible to develop institutional
response mechanism in the whole of South Asia
when no such mechanism exists even within the
- Democracy is looked upon as a solution to
problems that nation-states face. But poor governance
has resulted in problems of insurgency. How
this paradox can be explained.
- What actually constitutes civil society.
A direct explanation of the definition of civil
society should be avoided to create further confusion
over the mater. Given the current political structure
in the South Asian region, a response mechanism
is not working but it is possible due to certain
common strings. Irrespective of failures on certain
fronts, democracy is still the best means to redress
grievances and there is no compulsion on South
Asian countries to imitate foreign models of nation
Bangladesh: The Middle Path To Peace
Shahedul Anam Khan
Defence & Strategic Affairs
Editor, The Daily Star, Dhaka
The paper by Shahedul Anam Khan was a well segmented
one consisting of four parts.
In the first part, the paper looked at the current
regional security situation in South Asia and
drew attention towards Indo centricity of the
region. The paper expressed some concern at nuclearisation
of South Asia with both India and Pakistan becoming
nuclear powers and said that future environment
in South Asia would be dictated largely by Indo-Pak
relations. The paper pointed to the fact that
after 1996, many countries of South Asia had seen
change in governments and with that, there has
been a welcome attitudinal change of the regional
leadership as regards South Asian unity.
In the second part, the paper discussed Bangladesh’s
security concerns which have both internal and
external dimensions. It said that though democracy
gained strength in Bangladesh after its revival
in 1990, the abysmal role played by the two major
parties weakened parliamentary democratic ethos
and allowed fissiparous elements like religious
extremists to exploit the situation and strengthen
their base. The external security dimension largely
revolves round India as the largest neighbour
that locks Bangladesh on three sides. Mainly due
to the negative fallout of the rise of religious
extremism in Bangladesh, India has started looking
at Bangladesh as a major security threat.
In the third part, the paper studied the rise
of religious extremism in Bangladesh and its potential
of destabilizing the country. The paper talked
of a symbiosis between religious extremists in
Bangladesh and other international Islamist organizations.
The use of some madrassas to impart radical messages
is disturbing, conceded the paper but appreciated
government moves of making madrassa syllabus more
eclectic. The paper asked the question whether
Bangladesh is going the Afghanistan way but allayed
all such fears by saying that the moderate Bengali
Muslim conforms to liberal values of Islam and
would never allow extremists to distort Islam
for achieving narrow goals.
The paper admitted that the South Asian situation
is fluid but pinned great hope on SAARC to devise
ways to coalesce member nations and project a
common position against common threats.
Nepal: Governance vs. Insurgent Politics
Ram S. Mahat
Author and Former Finance Minister,
In the wake of the Palace blaming poor governance
under democracy for the rise in Maoist insurgency,
Ram S. Mahat embarked on a fact finding mission
and with the help of statistics contended that
it is not democracy but the political players
who have failed Nepal. The paper informed that
post-Panchayat democracy from 1991 onwards actually
changed the face of Nepal. Market oriented economic
reforms were initiated, power was decentralized,
and substantial investments made in social sector
which included education, health, drinking water,
and rural development. The average longevity of
the Nepali went up, infant and maternal mortality
ratio decreased, adult literacy, school enrolment
and access to safe drinking water went up. On
the whole, Nepal’s position in human development
index (HDI) improved to 140 from 152.
The paper asked a pertinent question- if progress
under democracy was satisfactory, what inspired
Maoist insurgency? The paper then searched the
answer and informed that Nepal’s backwardness
and poverty is so deep rooted and extensive, the
modest gain from democracy was too little to make
a dent on a vast ocean of backwardness. Coupled
with that is the fact that Nepal’s diversity
on ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious
lines has never been respected and groups like
Dalits and women remained a perennially oppressed
lot. All this provided a perfect breeding ground
for the growth of Maoist insurgency.
The paper rejected the view that Maoists enjoy
popular support and said that the Maoist reign
of terror is based on coercive and brutal methods,
thereby forcing people to accept their writ across
Nepal. There has been two peace attempts in the
past, but Maoists have shrewdly used both occasions
to consolidate their position.
The paper made it clear that the success of present
peace initiatives to resolve the conflict situation
would depend to a large extent on the stand of
both Maoists and the monarchy. The paper wanted
monarchy to restore democracy and adhere to constitutionalism
while Maoists have been advised to shed ideological
rigidity, accommodate other political views and
decommission their armed forces under reasonable
QUESTIONS PUT UP AND OBSERVATIONS MADE
DURING DISCUSSION ON PAPER III AND IV
- Who are the actual representatives of civil
society and what could be a clearer definition
of peace and progress?
- What attitude has the King shown in involving
women in the peace process of the country? Can
the process be enriched if women are given a
- Is the jehadi problem in Bangladesh a sudden
development or is it the underpinning of something
brewing for quite some time?
- The Indian sub-continent has entered into
an era of coalitions. Some of these coalition
partners like the Jaamat-I-Islami subscribe
to extremism and violence. Is it true that coalition
compulsions have bred violence?
The Answers: The jehadis
are responsible for the current violence in Bangladesh.
They have even targeted members of the civil society.
But civil society has joined hands and is unitedly
resisting the jehadis. It is also a misperception
that Pakistan’s ISI has taken over Bangladesh.
Many women groups are
playing a commendable role in Nepal’s peace
Dr. Indira Goswami
Novelist and Peace Facilitator
Dr. Indira Goswami’s paper radiated an
earnest desire of the litterateur to see her home
state Assam, beleaguered by conflicts of a myriad
nature, excel in all fields.
Dr. Goswami is crestfallen at the magnitude of
influx of students from India’s Northeast
to Delhi and wanted to know whether it is a fallout
of the insurgency situation in the region. In
her quest to find out reasons behind this influx
as also the key problems afflicting Assam, she
interviewed a few students and professionals from
the region. There is unanimity in their view that
insurgency, a decay in the educational system
and poor infrastructure are the main problems
plaguing the State.
Coalescing her own views with that of suggestions
she received from interviewees, Dr. Goswami put
forward a strong action plan to catapult the State
to greater heights in all spheres. In the educational
front, Dr. Goswami called for a complete overhaul
of the academic curriculum. Computer literacy
should be attached importance and campus recruitment
programmes arranged to give proper placement to
educated youths. Efforts should also be made to
upgrade some universities in the Northeast as
centres of excellence and give priority to teacher
training programmes. Above all, the paper called
for inclusion of peace studies in academic curriculum
to orient the psyche of youths in a proper direction.
In the economic sphere, an improvement should
be brought about in infrastructure with particular
emphasis on construction of roads, generation
of more power, and providing clean water to all.
A boost to tourism and intensification of flood
control measures is also suggested.
The paper refused to endorse military action
as means to subdue conflicts and demands scrapping
of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act
(AFSPA) from the region. She admitted honestly
that her admiration for the Indian Army known
for its great valour has been eroded to a great
extent after she stumbled upon evidence of killing
of ULFA cadres, mostly women in fake encounters
by the soldiers. Dr. Goswami said she too has
lost many near and dear ones due to insurgency.
In the last part of her paper, Dr. Goswami made
a fervent plea to introduce Gandhian studies in
academic curriculum. Elucidating her strong belief
in the teachings of Gandhism, she said his teachings
may have been forgotten with the passage of time
but have tremendous power to mould the younger
Meeting the Challenges of Peace Building
in India’s North East: A Holistic Perspective
Partha S. Ghosh
Visiting Professor, OKD Institute,
Partha S. Ghosh addressed issues of critical
importance to Assam and the rest of India’s
north eastern region in his paper. The paper was
of the view that India’s Northeast is a
unique laboratory of ethnicities, religions, languages,
races and looks, and where a highly complex process
of national integration is constantly underway.
For purposes of clarity and greater understanding,
the paper was divided into five sections. The
first section viewed India’s Northeast from
the prism of tribal and non- tribal groupings.
It said that tribal population not only formed
a sizeable chunk of the population, some of these
tribal communities were also a restive lot. While
linguistic factors form the core of India’s
federal model in other parts, in Northeast ethnicity
is the main factor.
The second part delved into the historical debate
on the best way to incorporate tribal communities
into a unified India with pointed references to
the Constituent Assembly debates. It said that
two schools of thought on the matter resulted
in incorporation of two schedules in the Indian
Constitution- fifth & sixth- to deal with
the issue. In accordance with the Sixth Schedule,
Autonomous District Councils (ADC’s) were
formed in tribal areas but have largely been failures.
On account of the above, the paper seeked opinion
on whether the provisions of fifth schedule aimed
at assimilation of tribals into the Indian ‘mainstream’
should only prevail.
The third section took up Assam’s case
and discussed Assam’s identity crisis and
economic dilemma. The paper said Assam is a microcosm
of India’s Northeast with no ‘majoritarian’
population in terms of ethnic and linguistic groups.
The paper strongly contended that Assam should
shed its Northeast tag as it has not been beneficial
to the State economically.
The fourth section took up the security dynamics
and said that India’s Northest is seething
with unrest for various reasons. But, of late,
insurgency has degenerated more into a money-making
industry in the region, said the paper.
In the concluding part, the paper said that tightening
the screws of governance alone can address the
QUESTIONS PUT UP AND OBSERVATIONS MADE DURING
DISCUSSION ON PAPER V and VI
- Any attempt to divide the Northeast into tribal
and non-tribal areas, even for academic purposes
cannot be appreciated. There is always ground
for reconsideration of such a scheme having
a divisive character.
- There is a need to condemn both state terrorism
and terror acts of insurgent groups in the same
breath. Heinous acts like kidnapping and murder
of social activist Sanjay Ghosh by the ULFA
brings a bad name to the Northeast region.
- Where should the line to differentiate individual
rights from group rights be drawn?
- Should we have a rethink over the notion of
state security? How long will the Northeast
remain hostage to state security?
The Answers: The business
of governing a state is a different ball game
altogether and one should adopt a realistic approach
while analyzing the factors of governance. There
is no contradiction between individual rights
and group rights. The Uniform Civil Code can be
cited as an example. There is also no dichotomy
between state and civil society. It must be reminded
that civil society could operate only in a democracy
and not a dictatorial regime. All members of civil
society should strive to create an atmosphere
conducive for redressal of grievances
Ethno-Nationalism in India’s
Northeast: Can Homelands Fulfill the People’s
Centre For International Studies,
Binalakshmi Nepram’s paper was an exhaustive
discourse that sought to find out whether homelands
carved out on ethnic lines could fulfill people’s
aspirations and in course of this, touched on
a variety of subjects ranging from ethnicity to
small arms. The paper said that an immensely diverse
Northeast India, home to around 272 ethnic groups
and communities and speaking approximately 400
languages and dialects, has been facing the onslaught
of ethnicities-based armed conflicts since the
late 1940’s. Citing the examples of Naga-Manipuri
and Assam-neighbouring states conflict in 2001
and 2005 respectively, the paper explained that
this ethnicity-driven conflict is not just directed
against the state (demands for secession and autonomy),
but the ethnic groups also target each other.
The paper traced the genesis of this ethnic conflict
to the British period as the British ruled this
region more as a territorial appendage than integral
administrative unit and left the ethnic groups
to live in their own ways.
It said that first sparks of ethno-nationalism
in India’s Northeast came in the form of
armed insurgent movements but honestly recorded
the fact that at the initial phase, all movements
were peaceful and non-violent.
The rise of ethno-nationalism in the states of
Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Assam, Arunachal
Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram is discussed in
some detail in the paper. The grievance of Manipuris
has been that India has annexed Manipur illegitimately.
In Tripura, the influx of Bengali Hindus from
neighbouring Bangladesh had driven the indigenous
tribal population of the state to resort to an
armed rebellion. A near similar reason, influx
of Bengali Muslims from Bangladesh is ascribed
as the fundamental reason for beginning
of insurgency in Assam in the shape of ULFA’s
uprising. In Meghalaya, the phenomenon is relatively
new, said the paper.
The paper defined the crisis in the Northeast
as one of identity, insecurity, and underdevelopment.
It called for shunning the dangerous practice
of policy makers in Delhi to look at the region
as ‘one’ and honour its diversity.
Reminding that violence begets violence, the paper
wanted proliferation of small arms to stop. The
paper also argued that policy makers should have
a clearer insight of problems of the region and
build adequate infrastructure for the region’s
economic development and mitigation of grievances.
Connections with South and South-east Asian
Countries: Scenario from Northeast India
Nani G. Mahanta
Nani G. Mahanta’s paper took up the dilemma
of how to manage borders in post-Cold War time
and space, where there is a need both to uphold
the border as a traditional defence line, and
simultaneously to open it up for purposes of trade,
commerce and socio-cultural interaction. Addressing
this dilemma, the paper said that in a globalised
world environment, enhancing trans-national cooperation
in socio-economic fields is both a possibility
and a necessity and can be done without withdrawing
the security role of border. This is of critical
importance for South and South-east Asia, the
paper contended. It also added that increasing
trans-national cooperation will also help in resolving
some intractable conflicts in the region.
Mere identification of psychological alienation
and economic underdevelopment as reasons fuelling
insurgency in the Northeastern region is a myopic
vision. They indeed are reasons, but to understand
the conflict situation in the region in its entirety,
one must strive to understand the psyche of communities
who have been vehemently resisting integration
with the Indian nation-state. Banking on history,
they eulogize the region’s historical autonomy
from mainland India and bask in memories of independent
old kingdoms. Ethnically, the large majority of
indigenous population of Northeast India belong
to different subgroups of the Mongoloid stock
whose other cognate branches are found in South-western
China and South-east Asia. As such, strong cultural
linkages between the ethnic groups of the South-east
Asian region could easily be identified.
The paper next took up issues of immigration
and illegal trade in the Northeast and discussed
prospects for future. It wanted a halt to immigration
in future but suggested that migrants from impoverished
Bangladesh, who cross over to states like Assam
purely as a survival strategy, could be made a
part of the greater Assamese culture. The
paper disseminated vital information on illegal
trade in the region. Quoting from Indian Institute
of Entrepreneurship (IIE) statistics, it says
the total volume of illegal trade for the NE region
has been estimated to be a whopping Rs. 331 crores
annually. The paper wanted this trade to be legalized
so that economic benefits could percolate deep
down the society. Emphatically stating that non-cooperation
has only helped drug and arms dealers, the paper
said that benefits of trans-national cooperation
in South and South-east Asia would far outweigh
Negotiating with Insurgency
and Holding On To Peace: The Mizoram Experience
Former Indian Ambassador
L.T Pudaite’s paper brought to light aspects
of Mizoram insurgency hitherto unknown or of which
very little is known.
The paper began with the absorbing tale of MNF
founder Laldenga’s shrewdness; of how Laldenga
foxed Assam’s then Chief Minister B.P Chaliha
into believing that his aim is only to capture
the district council while clandestinely arranging
training for MNF cadres for the initial onslaught.
The paper informed that while the MNF top leadership
was actually in two minds at the time immediately
preceding start of the violent insurgency movement
in 1966, the church in Mizoram was entirely opposed
to violence and had even started spadework to
bring about a negotiated settlement with Govt.
But events around late 60’s and early 70’s
were ominous for Laldenga and his MNF; in
safe sanctuary in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)
at the time and receiving active support from
Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
Pakistan had lost the 1971 battle with India and
forfeited claim over East Pakistan, which had
now become the independent nation of Bangladesh.
Dejected, many top ranking MNF leaders surrendered
before Indian authorities and considerably weakened
Laldenga’s position. A desperate Laldenga
was now in search of an amicable political settlement
but the coming of a rigid Janata Party government
to power at the Centre in 1977 made the negotiating
road somewhat thorny for Laldenga.
Laldenga got a breather when the Congress (I)
led by Indira Gandhi returned to power at the
Centre in 1980. Peace negotiations after that
had virtually become a see-saw
ride for Laldenga, MNF gaining ground sometimes
and at other times losing it. Laldenga scored
a few points in 1984 by helping the Congress (I)
to win assembly elections in Mizoram. Laldenga
scrawled further towards grabbing political power
in Mizoram after the 1984 assembly elections.
Finally, the peace accord technically titled ‘Memorandum
of Settlement’ was signed on 30 June, 1986
between MNF and Govt. of India. Incumbent Chief
Minister Lal Thanhawla stepped down in favour
of the MNF, and Laldenga became the Chief Minister
The paper in its concluding pages enlisted the
main factors behind the Accord as also factors
responsible for prevalence of peace from June
30, 1986 till now. The general public, fed up
with continued acts of violence mounted further
pressure on Laldenga once his political ambitions
became quite clear. The sacrifice of former Chief
Ministers Lal Thanhawla and Ch. Chhunga were also
contributing factors for peace, said the paper.
The paper hinted at dissatisfaction over implementation
of crucial clauses of the Peace Accord by leaders
at the helm but gave overwhelming credit to the
will of people in ending insurgency and sustaining
it thus far.
PUT UP AND OBSERVATIONS MADE DURING DISCUSSION
ON PAPER VII, VIII AND IX
- Can homelands actually fulfill aspirations
of the people in Northeast of India
- Insurgents or arms dealers cannot thrive without
receiving support from members of civil society.
There is a need to understand this fact and
isolate all such overground elements who are
hand in glove with insurgent armies
- Many ethnic groups of the Northeastern region
resist being called tribals. In the wake of
this development, has the need arisen to look
at a different meaning for such terms
- Should we also not look at economic factors
for mitigation of problems confronting the region
It is really difficult to tell whether homelands
can actually fulfill people’s aspirations.
What is, however well known is that China provided
arms and training to many Northeast insurgent
groups till late 70’s as part of their state
policy. Presently, Thailand is a thriving market
for purchase of all kinds of modern arms and ammunition.
The importance of economic development for redressal
of grievances could never be underestimated. It
is a fact that many young people in the Northeast
are directionless today as there is a dearth of
viable economic avenues in the region to absorb
All the suggestions made by guest speakers and
participants for resolution of conflicts in South
Asian region came up for discussion at the Valedictory
session. The Dialogue was hailed by all participants
as a great learning experience. It was also unanimously
agreed that in the Dialogue, conflict was discussed
in an open and non-partisan manner. The session
endorsed Prof. Sridhar Khatri’s suggestion
for setting up early warning mechanisms to check
proliferation of conflicts in future. Dr. Indira
Goswami’s call for incorporating peace studies
and Gandhian teachings in academic curriculum
was greatly appreciated during the session. Binalakshmi
Nepram’s appeal to policy makers to respect
ethnic sensitivities in the region was also supported.
The session also welcomed Nani G. Mahanta’s
suggestion for greater trans-national cooperation
in the region. Coordination of efforts for socio-politico-economic
advancement in the region and a holistic and flexible
approach to end conflicts was the underlying message
of the seminar.