Military


Assam

Assam belongs to the Seven Sisters Region of Southeast Asia, which consists of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. A part of the rich north eastern legacy of India, the bountiful land of Assam consists of magnificent hills and valleys and mighty rivers like the Brahmaputra and Barak. It is well known for it's picturesque beauty, it's rich blend of crops and variety of minerals.

Assam possibly has more folklore and tradition than any other place in India. There are archaeological ruins all over Assam but the ones around Sibsagar simply must be seen. The largest river island of the world, Manjuli, is a must too along with Kaziranga wildlife sanctuary. Crossing the magnificent Brahmaputra so deeply linked to life in Assam, one reaches Guwahati, the capital where the famous Kamakahya temple is located on a hilltop. Guwahati has evolved into a major business centre and most of the travel linkages pass through it.

Consequent to the Yandaboo Treaty signed between Man (Burma now Myanmar) and British on 24 February 1826, Assam ultimately became a British colony. After that the peoples engaged in struggle against the British to restore the lost independence. At that time the 'liberation struggle of Assam' was united with the Indian freedom struggle under the principle of 'line of united struggle'. Assam should have established an independent state, just after the British left the South Asian continent, like the establishment of independent countries such as India, Pakistan and Myanmar. However, the British- created leadership of independent India turned Assam into a colony of India.

The state of Assam has been badly affected by armed insurgency over the last one and a half decades with various insurgent groups like the ULFA, NDFB, DHD, UPDS, NSCN waging a low intensity war against the lawfully established Government. Ever since they were formed, the major insurgent groups ULFA and NDFB have committed scores of incidents of mindless violence like murders, bomb explosions, kidnapping for ransom etc. which have had a serious bearing on the law and order situation of the state.

The unrestricted trans-border movement of the cadres of such extremist groups facilitated by the extensive porous border with Bangladesh and Bhutan, safe hideouts in Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar and the hilly terrain of neighboring states have all contributed to the deterioration of the law and order situation in the State.

Despite efforts made by successive State Govts. to hammer out an amicable solution of this insurgency, it continues, causing law and order problems frequently. The S.S. C-in-C of ULFA, Paresh Baruah and S.S. C-in-C of NDFB, Ranjan Doimari and some of the top brass of these two outfits have been masterminding extremist operations from foreign countries like Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal all these years, rejecting the offers for a negotiated settlement of the problem made repeatedly by the Govts in the past. The present Govt., therefore, has taken a hardline approach to the problem of insurgency in order to bring about an improvement on the law and order front by coming down heavily on the extremist outfits. Counter insurgency operations launched under the 'Unified Command Structure' consisting of the Civil Administration, Army, Central Paramilitary Forces and the State Police with effect from 21-01-97, have produced spectacular results.

From May 15th, 1996 till November 30th, 2000, as many as 5860 militants of different groups have been captured and 842 hardcore terrorists have been killed. Apart from this, a huge quantity of arms and ammunitions as well as cash have been recovered from different militant groups. This is a remarkable achievement on the part of the State Govt. in its fight against terrorism against all odds. 367 security personnel laid down their lives in this fight against terrorism during this period.

In 2000, considerable success was achieved by the Police, PMF and Army against extremist outfits like ULFA, NDFB, NSCN, DHD, UPDS and other smaller outfits (during encounters and raids) in which a number of ultras were killed and arrested in addition to recovery of a huge cache of arms and ammunitions from their possession.

While there were numerous allegations of human rights violations directed against security forces, public attention has begun to focus on the actions of insurgents of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and the Bodo Security Force in Assam.

The kidnaping of NGO environmental activist Sanjay Ghosh in July 1997 and his death at the hands of his United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) captors led to wide public criticism. On August 6, the ULFA confirmed that Ghosh died in captivity; he had been "arrested and tried" by the ULFA on July 4. The Chief Minister of Assam and a High Court judge in Meghalaya survived attempts to kill them during the year.

According to the Union Home Ministry's 1996-97 report, a total of 201 persons were killed in Assam between April 1996 and March 1997. The ULFA was responsible for 107 deaths, and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) was responsible for 174 deaths during this period. However, Mass, a human rights organization in Assam with a credible record, claims that during the period January 1 through July 21, a total of 202 people were killed in the state (of which 68 died at the hands of security forces and 57 were killed by the ULFA). Compilation of reports of killings from the press suggests that the numbers may be even higher.

There have been 532 incidents of extremist related violence in the State from 1-1-2000 to 30-11-2000 which resulted in the killing of 362 persons, including 74 Police/PMF/Army personnel and kidnapping of 73 persons for ransom. There were 235 encounters between Police/PMF and the extremists of ULFA, NDFB and BLT resulting in the death of 308 militants. During operations, Police and PMF recovered 319 Nos. of weapons of different types from the extremists in addition to cash amounting to Rs. 14,59,620/-. The security forces also apprehended 1375 militants during this period.

During counter insurgency operations from 01-01-2000 to 30-11-2000, Police/PMF have apprehended 918 ULFA, 222 NDFB, 9 BLT, 48 UPDS, 20 DHD activists and killed 168 ULFA, 90 NDFB, 5 BLT, 5 UPDS and 4 DHD activists and recovered 269 nos. of arms of different kinds from the three insurgents groups respectively.

In the wake of reverses suffered by the outfits due to the counter insurgency operations, a very significant shift in the stance and the strategy of the extremists groups has been noticed. The constant reverses suffered by the outfits have brought about a sense of frustration and desperation amongst the cadres of the militants outfits, who have started attacking soft and defenseless targets indiscriminately resulting in the increase in casualties of civilians. In as many as 13 incidents of gruesome violence perpetrated by ULFA in Tinsukia, Nalbari, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar and Bongaigaon districts and in one incident of equally gruesome violence perpetrated in Barpeta district by NDFB, 96 persons have been gunned down by these two terrorist outfits. Majority of these were Hindi speaking people and they were killed in isolated places under the cover of darkness over a period of 51 days from 22nd October to 11th December'2000. Despite the emphatic denial made by its self styled C-in-C about the involvement of the outfit in the killings, Assam Police has plenty of evidence to show that all the four incidents of killings were perpetrated by ULFA only and none else. Despite some initial confusion created by the recovery of some leaflets at the site of killing in Nalbari town where the responsibility for the killing was claimed by Assam Tiger Force, the breakthrough made by Police in the cases after investigation confirmed that no extremist outfit called ASSAM TIGER FORCE exists in the State and hence was not involved in any of the killings in the above districts.

The reasons for such indiscriminate killings are not far to seek. In the first place, by indulging in such indiscriminate killings, the outfits are making a determined effort to disgrace the State Govt, which has taken a hard line approach to the problem of insurgency. Secondly, plagued by the ideological differences cropping up between the middle and lower level cadres of the outfits with the top brass compelling some of middle and lower level functionaries to return to the mainstream by laying down arms, the outfits have suffered a great setback and are indulging in more and more indiscriminate killings in a desperate bid to prove their existence and to boost up the sagging morale of their remaining cadres. Thirdly, the top brass, including a section of hardcore cadres of the outfits, do not want the peace process initiated by the State Govt to succeed and they have perpetrated the gruesome violence to derail the ongoing peace process. Lastly, with the public of the state rising in revolt against the outfits, the frustration and desperation of the outfits seem to have reached the limit.

The problem of insurgency in the state acquired another important dimension when Assam Police gathered sufficient evidence of Pakistani intelligence agency - ISI's involvement in fomenting violence and terrorism in the State. Assam Police is in possession of evidence to prove the nexus of the top ULFA leadership with certain officials of the Pakistani High Commission in Dacca. According to the confessional statement of scores of arrested ULFA leaders, including their self-styled Vice Chairman Pradip Gogoi, presently lodged in jail, the Pakistani officials in their High Commission in Dacca arranged for their passports in various Muslim names and sent them to Karachi. During the Kargil Conflict, the ULFA issued a statement condemning the Indian Government's role in Kashmir. The language of the above statement was exactly the same as that issued by the Harkat ul Mujahideen, a Pakistan based terrorist outfit controlled by the ISI.

The arrest of the four ISI operatives and agents by Guwahati Police in the middle of 1999 led to the startling revelation that a section of Muslim religious leaders and youths from Goalpara, Dhubri, Barpeta, Nalbari etc.districts have been making trans-border movement to Pakistan via Bangladesh for arms and explosive training organised by various Pakistani and Afganistani terrorist outfits like Harkat-Ul-Jehad, Harkat-Ul-Mujahideen and Laskar-E-Toiba, as per the plans of the ISI. The recent arrest of Nanu Mia alias Bilial, a Bangladeshi, an activist of HuM, led to a sensational revelation that Fakaruddin alias Akram Master of Barpeta, the Amir, HuM of Assam, based in Pakistan was to come to Assam along with 20 other HuM activists to attempt a jail break to free Quari Salim and other HuM activists presently lodged in jails of Assam. This indicates the extent of the involvement of Foreign powers in the State.

In November 2003 a week-long wave of ethnic violence in the state claimed at least 33 lives. The violence targeted settlers from a nearby state whom many Assam natives blame for taking away their jobs. This is the second time in recent years that Hindi-speaking settlers have been targeted in Assam. In 2000, more than one hundred migrants were killed by suspected militants in a series of attacks.

Suspected rebels killed at least eleven migrant workers and wounded two others in a single attack. Men riding motorbikes and armed with automatic rifles gunned down a group of Hindi-speaking laborers from Assam's neighboring state of Bihar. The attacks broke a brief lull in a wave of violence that swept Assam. Police say four women and two children - all members of a single family - were hacked to death in Dibrugarh town. Earlier, four people were shot to death and several others wounded when suspected militants opened fire on a group of men watching a cricket match in Dhubri town. All the victims came from neighboring Bihar state. The violence erupted when rampaging mobs began looting homes, and assaulting people from Bihar, prompting thousands of Hindi-speaking settlers to seek refuge in police stations.

The state government blamed the killings on an outlawed militant group known as the United Liberation Front of Assam. It is a powerful insurgent group fighting for an independent nation for the Assamese people, who are ethnically distinct from India's Hindu majority, and who speak a different language than the national language, Hindi. The militant group warned all Hindi-speaking settlers to leave the state or face retaliation. Since then, sporadic attacks targeted these settlers, claiming many lives and wounding dozens. Thousands of Bihari settlers have fled the state. Hundreds of others have taken shelter in relief camps established by the state government. Following the attacks, the government suspended senior officials responsible for law and order.

Assam's Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, has appealed for restraint and calm. He also urged the federal government to provide more security forces. The ethnic tensions in the state boiled over when Assamese youths attacked and prevented Bihari candidates from taking recruitment tests for jobs on the state-run railway. Groups in Bihar retaliated by attacking trains bound for Assam last week.

Some two-thousand soldiers have been deployed in the state, but have failed to quell the violence. Assam has a history of resentment against outside settlers, whom local Assamese blame for taking away scarce employment opportunities. Assam is rich in resources, but is one of India's most underdeveloped regions. The ethnic tensions in Assam have been echoed in the western state of Maharashtra, where a radical Hindu group, Shiv Sena, says it will not allow outsiders to take recruitment exams for jobs in the state.

A yearlong cease-fire pact between the Indian government and a tribal separatist group in the northeastern Assam state began 01 June 2005 amid hopes of ending nearly two decades of violent insurgency in the region. The cease-fire with the outlawed National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) came into effect with the military calling off its operations against the group. The NDFB cadres will disarm and live in designated camps as per the truce pact. The Indian government and top NDFB leaders signed a cease-fire accord in New Delhi that was expected to bring the curtains down to a violent campaign for a homeland for the Bodo tribe in Assam that left thousands dead since 1986.

New Delhi has invited the state's other frontline rebel group, the outlawed United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), for peace talks although the outfit wants four of their jailed leaders to be released as a preconditions for the negotiations. The ULFA is a rebel group fighting for an independent Assamese homeland since 1979. More than 10,000 people have lost their lives to insurgency in Assam during the past two decades.

In the 2004 State Department Country Reports on Terrorism added the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) to the Other Selected Terrorist Organizations (OSTO) List and recognized important changes in India's counterterrorism legislation, particularly the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and its replacement by a revamped Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (ULPA).

In September of 2005, the ULFA resolved to pursue negotiations with the Indian government. The negotiations fell short of an agreement and, in 2006, fighting between the government and rebels continued. In the midst of this, the India's state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation pledged to begin a massive exploration project in Assam.



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