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How a holistic approach throttled insurgency in the Northeast

The year 2020 recorded the lowest insurgency incidents and casualties among the civilians and security forces during the last two decades.

The stats are stark. From a high of 8515 incidents between 2000-05, insurgency related incidents in the northeast have sharply dropped to just  847 between 2018-21.

“The year 2020 recorded the lowest insurgency incidents and casualties among the civilians and security forces during the last two decades,” the Home Ministry’s annual report released earlier this year said.

With 2014 as the benchmark, MHA observed that there has been an “80% reduction in insurgency incidents in 2020.”  It further added that among the security forces, fatalities have dropped by 75 percent. Civilian deaths have plummeted by a startling 99 per cent during this period!

How did this turnaround come about?

Several factors appear to have contributed to the decline in anti-state violence in the northeast to three-digit numbers.

But most importantly, the adoption of  a holistic approach that targeted the ecosystem that fed insurgency has paid rich dividends. Since many insurgent groups had sanctuaries in neghbouring countries, diplomacy had to be forcefully deployed to convince bordering countries to cooperate with  India in its national security drive. The opening of the diplomatic channel allowed effective use of collaborative military force to break the back of insurgent groups.

Bhutan set the template of the cross-border counterinsurgency drive.

In 2003 it targeted and dismantled training camps of three militant groups, which were active in Assam and West Bengal.

Five years later, Bangladesh also launched an operation that turned out to be a big success. Top rebel leaders were captured and returned to India.

In 2019, training camps in Myanmar’s Sagaing Division were also famously destroyed.

The stick and the carrot have gone together. Dialogue has combined the use of force. Significantly, rehabilitation of the disarmed militants has also been a top priority in the government’s 360 degree approach.

Consequently, dialogue, ceasefire, submission  of demands have been the blueprint  for ending internal conflict in the northeast successfully.

A new rehabilitation package announced in 2008 also helped greatly. Under this scheme, a surrendered militant was granted Rs. 4 lakhs. Besides, a monthly stipend of the Rs. 6,000 has also been granted for three years, apart from vocational training for self-employment.

The results of this comprehensive approach have been impressive. Last year, five militant groups from Assam signed accords with the government and slipped into the mainstream. 

While nearly 40 insurgent groups are operational in the northeast, with the largest number operating in Manipur, most are involved in a peace dialogue in the hope of arriving at a settlement. These groups include the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM), faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and over 20 outfits in Manipur belonging to the Kuki and Zomi communities that are engaged in talks.

But seven secessionist outfits that train in Myanmar have rejected the dialogue offer, and continue to target the security forces from time to time.

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