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Flawed Delhi policy mum over moratorium on peace talks


wasbir hussain
Executive Director, CDPS & Visiting Fellow, IPCS

Yet again, the Union Home Ministry has released its Annual Report, this time for 2013–14. The Ministry seems pretty satisfied that the number of extremist–related incidents and deaths have gone down. Statistics provided in the report show that in 2012, there were 1025 extremist–related incidents in the Northeast, leading to the death of 222 extremists, 14 security force personnel and 97 civilians. The following year, in 2013, from 732 incidents in the region, 138 extremists, 18 security force personnel and 107 civilians were killed. Till March 31, 2014, there have been 200 incidents, leading to the death of 38 extremists, four security personnel and 36 civilians. Despite the declining trend, insurgency continues in the states of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Meghalaya, the report says, and gives details of the peace dialogue going on with several insurgent groups.

The point I would like to harp on is that unlike in the past, the Ministry’s Annual Report this time does not talk about a possible moratorium on peace talks with newer insurgent groups. There is a strong feeling in the region that the Government’s ongoing policy of talking peace with any insurgent group or faction whatsoever is indirectly encouraging even rag–tag armed groups to unleash violence and then take the heat off them by engaging in so–called dialogue with the authorities. On several occasions in the past two years, the Union Home Ministry had indicated that it was thinking of calling a moratorium on talks with newer insurgent groups and factions in the region and treat insurgencies by newer groups or factions as nothing but law and order issues. An indication to this effect was given in the MHA’s last Annual Report. That, however, has not been continued this time round.

In fact, there is a growing feeling that the Government’s policy on countering insurgency in the Northeast is flawed and is actually providing youth incentives of sorts to indulge in insurgency. Take a look at the MHA’s revised surrender–cum–rehabilitation scheme for surrendered militants, in force since 1 April 1998: an immediate grant of Rs 1.5 lakh to a surrenderee that is to be kept as fixed deposit in a bank and can be used as collateral against a bank loan; and a stipend of Rs 3,500 per month for a year to each surrenderee. In Manipur, the incentive is even better: an immediate grant of Rs 2.5 lakh and a monthly stipend of Rs 4,000 for three years! No wonder, youths, mostly unemployed, join insurgent groups and then surrender to enjoy the Government sops. The figures provided in the latest Annual Report tell the story: between 2007 and 31 March 2014, a total of 6605 militants had surrendered in the Northeast and have enjoyed the benefits.

The question that arises is simple: will the Government of India continue to hold peace talks with any insurgent group that emerges on the scene, carry on violence and terrorize people? Will the Government encourage such dialogue and surrender of insurgent cadres and keep paying them? Can we expect to see a change in policy now that the BJP–led Government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in place? We did hear Mr Modi talk of ‘zero tolerance’ to terrorism, but will this be applied to insurgency or insurgent groups in the region? Will Delhi continue to carry on with its kid glove approach to Northeast insurgents describing them as ‘our boys’? Answers are needed and needed fast.

(Courtesy: The Sentinel