Militancy still remains a worry for the Northeast

Militancy still worries the Northeast even as more than 2,300 insurgents comes overground

Security personnel arrange the arms and ammunitions to be put on display during the arms laying down ceremony at GMCH auditorium, in Guwahati, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. A total of 644 militants of eight banned insurgent outfits surrendered in Assam today along with 177 arms. (PTI Photo)

Ceasefire and arms surrender by nearly 2,300 cadres and leaders belonging to at least 10 insurgent groups in Assam and Tripura since August last year came as a ray of hope for the people in Northeast, who are grappling with militancy since Independence.

But subversive activities by at least eight major active rebel groups in Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Meghalaya and the delay in the final settlement with those already engaged in talks have still kept the region troubled. 

A day after the Centre and Assam government signed a “final and comprehensive” agreement with Bodo groups including all four factions of insurgent group National Democratic Front of Bodoland, Assam minister and BJP’s strategist in the Northeast, Himanta Biswa Sarma appealed active militant groups like Ulfa (Independent) in Assam and those in Manipur to come forward for talks to find a “durable solution.”

“Paresh Baruah (Ulfa-I) should consider to engage in a productive dialogue with the government. If he comes forward, the government will reciprocate the gesture with equal zeal and willingness,” Sarma said.

The government has not responded to HNLC’s recent willingness for talks. 

The government has also not addressed the demand for Scheduled Tribe status to Adivasis in Assam by at least five Adivasi militant groups, which laid down arms in 2009. 

The government is engaged in talks with a faction of Ulfa led by Arabinda Rajkhowa since 2011 and the Naga insurgent group NSCN (IM) since 1997.

NSCN (IM) has been leading an armed battle since Independence.

But the delay in signing final agreements have also raised questions about the government’s commitment to addressing the issues.

Security experts and political observers believe that focus must be on solving the problems for which they had taken up arms instead of forcing them to surrender.

“The present surrender is definitely a welcome sign but a lot is happening in the geo-space as well as the psychological depth of the people of the targeted region. This scenario has the potential to give fodder to the militancy persistent here,” former director-general of Assam police Hare Krishna Deka told DH on Tuesday.

“The root causes lie in the people, in their level of discontent. The discontent is a mix of political and economic causes.  This needs to be handled sensitively. Handling of militancy and tackling of people’s economic and political discontent have to go hand in hand,” said Deka, also a prominent writer.