December 4, 2022

Besides Kashmir, India prioritises securing Northeast under AFSPA

Questions about Beijing’s involvement have been raised previously too including in October 2020 when China’s propaganda machinery warned India against a trade pact with Taiwan saying Beijing could retaliate by supporting Northeast separatists and stop recognising Sikkim as a part of India

By Arpan A Chakravarty

Why is AFSPA essential and what is its impact on the ongoing peace process in the Northeast ?

It is to be noted that the North East Region of India has been marked with armed intra-ethnic conflicts, insurgencies, border disputes between states, smuggling and terrorism spilling across borders and state-sponsored terrorism from across borders. Recently, the state of Assam and Meghalaya signed pacts with each other to resolve the long-standing border dispute of 884-km-long. While this pact is considered historic, there has been a consistent decrease in the region covered under AFSPA, therefore, it is important to understand why it was essential and its implication on the peace process in the North East.

Recent incidents in Oting (Nagaland) and Churachandpur (Manipur) brought the contention of AFSPA. It becomes important to analyse the security situations in states. Since 2014, there has been a declining trend of insurgency, despite this, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, and parts of Arunachal Pradesh still have been notified as ‘disturbed areas’ under AFSPA. Therefore, a state-wise analysis is essential despite the overall trend to understand the peace process in a comprehensive way.

Through the sources of the Ministry of Home Affairs, the status of the peace process has been updated, which has been a significant reason for reduction in areas under AFSPA. Since each state has been working to resolve the long recognized political and security issue. Much progress has been made on that front, but the authors identified that timely and adequate justice delivery is central to popular grievances against AFSPA.

In 2018, Meghalaya, Tripura and certain stations in Arunachal Pradesh had recorded almost 85 per cent dip in militancy and uprising levels after which the AFSPA which was almost in force for 27 years in Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh was removed by the Centre. AFSPA was removed from 8 out of 16 police stations in Arunachal Pradesh.

In 2018, Meghalaya, Tripura and certain stations in Arunachal Pradesh had recorded almost 85 per cent dip in militancy and uprising levels after which the AFSPA which was almost in force for 27 years in Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh was removed by the Centre. AFSPA was removed from 8 out of 16 police stations in Arunachal Pradesh.

  1. Assam:

-Talks are continuing with ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam), considered as one of the most notorious outfits.

  • -A Memorandum of Settlement was signed with NDFB(Progressive), NDFB(RD), NDFB(S) and ABSU on 27th January, 2020 at New Delhi to end the 50-year-old Bodo crisis. One of the most significant peace agreements signed.
  • -Following the signing of the Bodo Agreement, more than 2250 cadres of insurgent groups, including all factions of NDFB, along with 423 weapons and huge quantities of ammunition surrendered in January, 2020 and joined the mainstream. Moreover, NDFB groups have disbanded themselves on 9th – 10th March, 2020.
  • -A Memorandum of Settlement was signed with underground Karbi groups (KLNLF, PDCK, UPLA, KPLT factions) of Assam on 4th September, 2021 at New Delhi to end the decades-old crisis. 1040 Leaders/Cadres of Karbi groups surrendered along with 338 weapons on 23.2.2021 and joined the mainstream of society.
  • -Spillover effects to neighbouring states and rising Islamic radicalization in districts such as Barpeta, Nalbari, and Chirang is a major cause of concern.

2. Arunachal Pradesh:

  • -Only three districts namely Tirap, Changlang, and Longding and two other police stations of Namsai and Mahadevpur are under AFSPA.
  • -Spillover terrorism high from other neighbouring states.

3. Mizoram:

  • -After the surrender and peace agreement of Manipur-based terrorist outfit (HPCD), there has been peace in Mizoram.

4. Manipur:

  • -It recorded a reduction of 60% decrease in all major incidents but the menace of poppy cultivation and drug trafficking still stays. Majority of arms smuggling and contrabands have been a key concern for Manipur and the region.
  • -A total of 23 UG outfits under two conglomerates (United Peoples’ Front [UPF] -8 and Kuki National Organization [KNO] -15) are currently under Suspension of Operation (SoO) with the Government of India since August, 2008. These agreements with KNO and UPF are valid up to 28.2.2022.

5. Nagaland:

  • -It is another state with the highest number of active insurgents’ groups. The Peace process is still in doubt.
  • -The ceasefire agreements with National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) (NK) and NSCN(R) of Nagaland have been extended for a further period of one-year w.e.f. 28.04.2021 to 27.04.2022.
  • -Ceasefire agreement with NSCN(K-Khango) of Nagaland has been extended for one-year w.e.f. 18.04.2021 to 17.04.2022. NSCN(Isak-Muivah) has signed a Ceasefire Agreement for an indefinite period. A framework agreement was signed with NSCN(I/M) on 3.8.2015.
  • -A Ceasefire agreement with NSCN (K)Niki group was signed w.e.f. 08.09.2021 for a period of one year i.e., up to 07.09.2021.

6. Tripura:

  • -A tripartite Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) was signed on 10.08.2019 at New Delhi by the Government of India, Government of Tripura and National Liberation Front of Twipra led by Sh. Sabir Kumar Debbarma. After the settlement, 88 cadres surrendered with 44 arms.

Assam after CAA: HUM (Harkat-ul-Mujahideen), JMB (Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh) and HM (Hizb-ul-Mujahideen)

While if one compares the number of districts covered under AFSPA since the 1970’s, it has reduced to a considerable number of districts because negotiating on peace agreement is difficult. On one hand, peace processes are between state government and insurgent groups, as both of them have some conflicting ideas which never converge. While the second type of peace process has been mostly at the local level. As demarcation of borders is one step towards solving situations between states and bringing cooperation between them to work together on insurgents. Also, peace has to be negotiated within neighbourhoods, tribes and communities on an almost everyday basis. Therefore, the proactive role of the government is very much essential in these regions.

Due to the geographical proximity of Northeast India to the ‘Golden Triangle’, a symbiotic relationship between narcotics traffickers and arms smugglers has been established in the region. Moreover, the transnational linkages to the region, makes it even more difficult for manage. Questions about Beijing’s involvement have been raised previously too including in October 2020 when China’s propaganda machinery warned India against a trade pact with Taiwan saying Beijing could retaliate by supporting Northeast separatists and stop recognising Sikkim as a part of India.

China has also provided safe havens to insurgent leaders including United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) commander Paresh Baruah and National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM)’s Phunting Shimrang who live in Ruili in Yunnan Province across the Myanmar border with China, said another official. With months to come, this would be the key measures.

Therefore, with time to come, it would be interesting as to how the government of India would deal with the allied problems which come by as the governments are working together to solve issues one after another.

[This written piece was originally published in THE PULSE with the link: https://the-pulse.in/besides-kashmir-india-prioritises-securing-northeast-under-afspa and is being republished with the permission of the writer.]

Arpan serves as an Assistant Director – Strategy at Alexis Group. He is passionate about law, defence and foreign affairs. He is multi-lingual and has worked with the Ministry of External Affairs, India; Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), Indian Army Think Tank; Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) among others. Views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of https://strategicaffairsindia.in

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