Homeland Security

Handling Insurgencies
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 26 Aug , 2020

Insurgencies are generally believed to be having lives of about 50 years but somehow they have tended to linger on in India. There are many reasons for this, one being that the use of force is believed by some as the remedy whereas the problem is socio-political-economic and even lack of access to law and justice. In case security forces (SF)use excessive force and make widespread indiscriminate arrests in response to casualties inflicted by insurgents on the SF, it has negative effect, as do long imprisonments without prosecution and sometimes even without an FIR. There have been instances where insurgent leaders apprehended by security forces have been set free on political behest, much to the chagrin of security forces who feel that the hierarchical aim is to let the insurgency linger on because of politics, votes and money. All these have emerged in media from time to time, particularly with reference to the Maoists belt.

Successive Union Home Ministers have been saying that the Maoist insurgency will be over in two-three years but that is hardly likely. Same goes for resolution of the Naga insurgency in the northeast that manifests astride the India-Myanmar border. But a major factor for continuing insurgencies in India is the support they receive from China and Pakistan in terms of weaponry, money, media and propaganda. For example, the server of the Indian Maoists propaganda machinery is hosted in China. Both China and Pakistan also have urban links in India that are used to further their national interests; these include political parties, scholars, media, educational institutions, NGOs and drug cartels, in addition to lawmakers and other persons under blackmail having used hawala. Given the fabric of insurgencies in India, why would China and Pakistan not exploit this readymade asymmetric battlefield?    

On August 10, 2020, the Chhattisgarh state government announced its decision to provide urban forest land under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, to the tribal and other traditional forest-dwellers for household purposes, which is a first in the country. In fact, 11 tribal families under the Jagdalpur Municipal Corporation (JMC) were provided land entitlement on August 10 by handing over pattas to the beneficiaries. A press release of by the state government read, “For providing rights of urban forestlands, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 and the guidelines of the Central government issued in 2015 were followed by the state government. On a pilot basis, 11 tribal families were given pattas for urban forestland for household purposes. There are about 4,500 tribals and other traditional forest-dwellers, who have applied for the rights over urban forest lands … The process of recognizing their forest rights have been initiated. Soon, other eligible families will be handed over similar land rights.”

Above is good beginning but the pilot project for 11 out of some 4,500 tribals has been undertaken 14 years after the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 and 5 years after Central Government guidelines of 2015 which indicates our lackadaisical approach to tackle even basic causes of insurgencies. Forest land is a major issue with Maoists. In June 2018 some 10,000 Maoists (some armed) protested in Bastar against allotment of an iron ore mine to National Mineral Development Corporation in Balladila Hills which has strong Maoist influence. In July 2019, hundreds of tribals and other forest dwelling communities protested in Dahanu, Palghar District of Maharashtra against proposed amendments to the Indian Forest Act, like: reducing powers of Gram Sabhas vis-à-vis Forest Settlement Officers; Centre/States given right to lease out reserved forest land and; practice of shifting cultivation to be restricted. Tribals view these amendments as aprecursor to creating privately owned forests, divesting them of legally guaranteed rights over forest land and resources under the Constitutionand also violating Forest Rights Act, 2006.

On March 7, 2020, Maoists issued a statement against the Union Government’s Hindutvaagenda, extending support to minorities. This was a major shift in Maoists strategy to widen their sympathizer-base to include minorities and all those who are opposed to the CAA, NRC, NPR and such like issues. The issue needs to be viewed even more seriously considering the brain of the Maoists ideology is in Beijing, they are receiving focused support from both China, Pakistan’s ISI-proxies and the anti-national cabal within India, with over-ground elements of Maoists cloaked as intellectuals, social-activists and even journalists. Clearly a more focused approach is required. Even operations by security forces in the Maoists belt need to be centralized under the DG CRPF rather than leaving it to DG Police of individual states. Ironically, Maoists close links with organizations like Popular Front of India is treated like routine.

In the northeast, having resumed the peace talks on August 11, 2020, the NSCN (IM) has accused Nagaland Governor RN Ravi (government interlocutor in the peace talks) of deleting a keyword from the original 2015 Framework Agreement to suit his interpretation. NSCN (IM) released the 2015 Framework Agreement in a press conference and demanded removal of Ravi as a government interlocutor for further talks over a final peace agreement. In a speech on August 14, 2020, NSCN-IM chief Thuingaleng Munivahsaid that the sovereignty of Nagas was recognized in the 2015 Framework Agreement and that Nagas will co-exist but not merge with India. He also said that they were not asking the Government of India for a Naga national flag and a separate constitution as “recognize them or not, we have our own flag and constitution.”  

Muivah cited the 2015 agreement saying “Inclusive peaceful co-existence of the two entities sharing sovereign power”, adding that inclusive means all Naga in different administrative units and political camps are to be included in the agreement and co-existence, and shared-sovereignty applies to two entities, not one entity. According to Ravi, all important agreements on the peace deal were settled in October 2019 and only some minor outstanding issues are left to be sorted out. But NSCN (IM) says the Framework Agreement shared with Naga tribal leaders is different from the one signed in 2015 – doctored by Ravi which changes the interpretation. The original copy was also not shared with the seven Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) but brought later to the negotiating table.

The Framework Agreement was signed on August 3, 2015 amidst much fanfare in New Delhi in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  During the signing ceremony Thuigaleng Muivah, then General Secretary NSCN (IM) stated, “Beginning from now the challenges will be great so also the responsibilities. The obligations to meet the needs of the people shall be paramount for both the parties to make this historic Endeavour more meaningful. Let me also assure you that Nagas can still come closer if their rights are respected. On behalf of the Naga people allow me to assure you once again that Nagascan be trustworthy and take into your confidence for any policy in the Northeast and beyond the frontiers”. The pact was not made public then perhaps to deny opposition protests and hoping that NSCN (IM) will eventually agree coming under the Indian constitution.

Would it have been prudent to make the Framework Agreement public in 2015 clarifying that this was just a framework agreement rather than portraying a sterling political achievementand then systematically work to iron out all loose ends. When Ravi claims that all important agreements on the peace deal were settled in October 2019, this certainly was an important issue to be sorted out with the NSCN (IM), which apparently was hoped covered by the ‘new’ text as NSCN (IM) claims. But even if the NSCN (IM) had signed the final peace deal and noticed it later, they could have still reneged on it. The NSCN (K) too had broken the peace accord with Government of India after 13 years, perhaps on behest of Chinese intelligence.  

Is the current stance of NSCN (IM) to retain supremacy over all Nagas to whom it has been promising the best deal is the question or is there something more to it? Was this issue discussed by Ravi last year which the organization is reneging now? Bringing the NSCN (IM) around is the challenge for the government, which may take time depending on the acumen used. Importantly, the China factor should not be ignored, coping with which would need full application of the Chanakya Niti, not just dialogue.  China has been supporting Naga and other insurgencies in India but has established and armed proxies in Myanmar to keep the Myanmar government in check and for attacking India. This has remained unchecked because India continues to remain in the defensive mode at the sub-conventional level against both China and Pakistan.

It has largely gone unnoticed that the atheist regime of China has added surreptitiously added religion to non-military weaponry to its strategy of ‘Unrestricted Warfare”.  Targeting the Christian population of Nagas, China has created a cult called ‘Church of Almighty God’ or ‘Eastern Lightening’ and the New Testament has been by a Chinese version of Bible called ‘The Word Appears in the Flesh’. The cult established in China by Zhao Weishan in 1991is reportedly involved in kidnappings, murders and infiltrating church organizations at home and abroad. The Chinese media denounces which is subterfuge because without the blessings of the Communist Party of China, it couldn’t have survived. They say Jesus has resurrected as a Chinese woman who the cult worships as Almighty God. The cult has already recruited 300-400 Naga youth from Nagaland and added them to whatsapp groups for indoctrination and brainwashing.

Finally, corruption and maladministration too contribute to insurgency. But, if officials in-charge of acting against corruption become self-serving, what is the message to insurgents? Take the case of Nagaland Government asking the Supreme Court for removal of Lokayukta Uma Nath Singh, a retired chief justice of Meghalaya, for chauvinistic behaviour, unjust, excessive and arbitrary demands, and seeking to take up arbitration work in the ‘Synery Ispat Pvt Ltd vsBarabara Elizabeth Simoes case in spite of rules that strictly prohibit a Lokayukta from taking up any other work under the Lokayukta Act. Notably he was appointed he was appointed the first Lokayukta of Nagaland in February 2019, fulfilling a longstanding demand of civil society groups like ACAUT (Against Corruption and Unabated Taxation) to address alleged rampant corruption within the state machinery.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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One thought on “Handling Insurgencies

  1. India has followed the policy of ‘military pacification followed by political purchase ‘ to settle insurgencies.
    Money and political power to the insurgent leadership has been the norm. Where insurgent ideology and local affiliations are strong it doesn’t work easily.
    These aspects have also to be addressed to make such a policy work.

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