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Stop fresh peace talks to erase militancy


wasbir Hussain
Executive director,
centre for development and peace studies

In the first week of April 2013, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has done some correct thinking aloud. He said, in his usual straightforward manner, that insurgency is far from over in Assam with Maoists emerging as a real threat, Myanmar continuing to be a safe haven for rebels from the region and Bhutan still being eyed by Northeast insurgents for shelter. Another significant point that Gogoi made was that the situation could turn grave if a new regime in Bangladesh after the general elections in that country were to reverse the policy against allowing Indian militants to operate from its soil. He was speaking in New Delhi at the Chief Ministers’ Conference on the Fifth Report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) titled ‘Public Order’.

That the Chief Minister was serious in his concern about the continuing threat of insurgents in Assam, or the region as a whole, was indicated by his call for coordinated joint anti–insurgency measures by Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Meghalaya. This, he said, was necessary to choke the arms supply and training routes of the militants besides halting their movement to take shelter and cool off in the wake of the heat from Indian security forces. He specifically referred to the anti–talk ULFA faction headed by the elusive Paresh Baruah and said its cadres were engaged in criminal activity like extortion and abduction as they have sophisticated military hardware at their disposal. Gogoi urged the Centre to implement the Integrated Action Plan (IAP) that is a key part of the Union Government’s counter Naxal strategy in the districts of Dhemaji, Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Golaghat to begin with.

This call for tough action against insurgents has come at a time when a section of the security and political establishment in Assam seeks to give an impression that the backbone of militancy in the State has been crushed with security offensives and the Government’s policy of talking peace. They cite the fact that peace talks are under way with the ULFA faction headed by Arabinda Rajkhowa, the NDFB (both factions actually) and a few smaller outfits. Peace talks, this section point out, have led to the curtains coming down on several insurrections like that of the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), and the two factions of the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD).

Now, the question is if peace talks are yielding such results, why are newer rebel groups emerging or why has there been splits within the same insurgent groups? The NDFB already has two factions and just as the Centre was talking peace informally with the hardline Ranjan Daimary faction, a group headed by the outfit’s military commander Songbijit broke away and announced its arrival with the daylight assassination of a leading Assamese businessman and sports enthusiast.

It is clear that unless the Government changes its peace policy and declare a moratorium on further peace dialogues, insurgency will continue to be alive and kicking in Assam or the rest of the North–east. That’s because a rebel group or its leaders have come to know that they can amass wealth by extorting and kidnapping people for ransom and then when the heat from security forces becomes unbearable with the government taking a stand, they just have to declare their desire to talk peace and the rest follows.

In recent weeks, we have heard Joint Secretary (North–east) in the Ministry of Home Affairs saying the Centre was against holding peace talks with any new insurgent group. This is obviously the result of the fallout of the Government’s own soft peace policy that is actually encouraging insurgency in the region. Unless, the Government more forcefully come out and say they would not hold any more talks with newer rebel groups, insurgency will continue to raise its ugly head because of the general amnesty or other soft options available to them from the Government’s side once they start talking peace. (courtesy: The Sentinel)