Rebels on a Pause

As insurgency wanes in the Northeast, government must move forward with implementable peace processes

Rajeev Bhattacharyya

A few weeks ago, home minister Rajnath Singh said that ‘security initiatives’ in the Northeast had significantly resulted in the reduction of insurgency related incidents. A combination of many factors has pushed the rebels on the back foot in this troubled zone with a majority of them now pitching for a negotiated settlement within the Constitution.

Marian (Assam) Surrender of ULFA cadres

The seeds of this development were sown two decades ago when a slew of ceasefire agreements was inked by the Centre with militant outfits and an all-out offensive launched against the separatist groups. As an army general summed it up, it was a strategy of ‘an iron fist with velvet gloves’.

In 2013, the Centre informed Parliament that of a total of 66 militant outfits in the entire country, 54 were active in the Northeast. Of these, Manipur has the dubious distinction of having the maximum number at 35, followed by Assam at 11 and Nagaland with four groups. Meghalaya and Tripura have two each while even Mizoram which is considered an oasis of peace has one outfit that is active. The statement did not include the CPI (Maoist) and smaller groups that are also known to be active in the region. A decade earlier, there were even more groups with diverse goals and objectives ranging from secession to banditry. Resorting to violence came to be viewed as a justifiable means to redress grievances by some sections of the populace.

It was in 1997 that the turning point came when the Isak Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM), considered the mother of all rebel outfits in the Northeast, decided to smoke the peace pipe after a decade it was formed in Myanmar. The ceasefire agreement that was signed between this group and the government blazed a trail encouraging a majority of the armed groups in the Northeast to follow suit with the hope of a negotiated settlement within the Constitution.

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