Alienation not with Delhi but within the system

JB Lama

THAT the Maoists in Bengal have for some time been suspected of having links with some North-east insurgent groups has now been confirmed by Special Task Force chief Rajeev Kumar, following the recent arrest of some top Maoist leaders. But this appears to be one-sided and not of mutual advantage – merely to procure arms and ammunition. Reports say the Maoists had a rapport with Manipur’s People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (Prepak) and the United National Liberation Front, whose leader, Rajkumar Meghen, alias Sanayaima, was arrested by Motihari police last month. Meghen allegedly secured weapons and other equipment worth crores of rupees for the Maoists. Now the motive of his presence in Bangladesh, where he was first arrested on 29 September, becomes clear. For reasons best known to the Centre, it kept his whereabouts unknown for two months!
The NSCN(IM) is silent over the arrest of its important functionary, A Shimray, who is in charge of foreign affairs. He was picked up from Kathmandu airport in September this year on arriving from Bangkok and is now in custody for allegedly scouting for arms in South-east Asian countries. This clandestine activity was unexpected at a time when NSCN(IM) leaders are seriously engaged in talks with the Centre and when they asserted that the outfit was not in league with any outside organisations. For that matter, one wonders what NSCN(IM) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah was up to in Karachi in January 2000 just a fortnight before he was to resume talks with the Indian emissary in Thailand?
He was arrested at Bangkok airport on arrival from Karachi for allegedly travelling on a false passport. Peace talks had to wait until his release months later.
Dhaka’s friendly attitude towards India vis-à-vis not allowing North-east insurgents to use its soil has resulted in the arrest/surrender of many top militant leaders. Most senior Ulfa leaders, save for self-styled commander-in-chief Paresh Barua, are now in jail and some have recently been freed on bail. Jewel Garlosa, who heads the breakaway group of the Dima Halam Daoga (North Cachar Hills), was arrested in Bangalore in June last year while trying to leave the country.
Ranjan Daimary, leader of the anti-talk faction of
the National Democratic Front of Boroland, was handed over to India by Bangladesh. Over the past few months, many youth, suspected of belonging to different militant organisations, have been caught in Kolkata, North Bengal and North-east towns, suggesting a link between insurrectionary movements.
The Centre’s indifference and poor perception of law and order in the region and its problems are largely responsible for the continued unrest, though on a much subdued scale now — with ethnic violence adding to the problem. Bodo militants and Meitei insurgents continue to target Hindi-speaking people.
The North-east is still vulnerable to proxy attacks from outside. Several Muslim organisations have sprung up in the region in the name of safeguarding the community. In Manipur, there are the Islamic Revolutionary Force and the Islamic Liberation Army.
The Centre is fully aware of Pakistan’s ISI being active in the region since the 1990s. Its agents were suspected to have planted bombs at the New Jalpaiguri railway station during the Kargil war that killed several jawans. A few days after this, large consignments of arms and ammunition were seized from Kolkata’s Sealdah station and Assam. Police continue to unearth such deadly consignments from different places. There is a flourishing arms market in the region and even if militants surrender with their weapons, replenishment will not be a problem once they return to the jungles. Arms smuggling continues to be a big racket and its sources and outlets must be blocked.
After taking over in 2001, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi saw nothing sinister in the rapid growth of madrassas. As early as 1992, the general conference of the North East Congress Coordination Committee warned that “madrassas were reformulated with sophistication… recording a faster growth than that of the secular educational system”.
New Delhi claims to treat all insurgents groups as equal but some seem more equal than others. The Centre took a long time to proscribe the NSCN with more than 3,000 cadres, while the much smaller Prepak, with just a handful of cadres, was outlawed much earlier. And the ban on Ulfa was imposed only after it unleashed a propaganda war. Then there is the question: Why was the official announcement on Meghen’s arrest delayed by two months?
The alienation is not between the people of the region and New Delhi but within the system itself. The people are eager to see the Centre, NSCN(IM) and Ulfa signing peace agreements sooner rather than later to end the region’s prolonged nightmare.