Friday, August 26, 2011

Sadar Hills District, bandhs, talks and Naga memories

The possible creation of a new Sadar Hills District in Manipur's Senapati District has dominated news from the northeast this week.  Manipur's Chief Minister, Okram Ibobi, announced on Tuesday that a committee would be formed to consider the creation of the new district in response to a bandh, or blockade, enforced by the 'Sadar Hills District Demand Committee'.  The bandh has been in place on a number of national highways since 31 July.  The United Naga Council (UNC) has instituted a counter-bandh since 21 August.  Both bodies yesterday said they would exempt life-saving drugs from the blockades.  The Chief Minister yesterday assured constituents a solution would be expedited and that any decision would be based on 'administrative convenience'.

Bandhs are also the subject of debate among the Bodo community.  The National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) this week backed the United Democratic People's Front's (UDPF) call for a 48-hour bandh on 26-27 August.  Meanwhile students in the "Bodo belt" this week reportedly decried the bandh culture prevalent in the northeast and requested that educational institutions be exempted.

In United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA)-related news this week, the non-talks faction reportedly received an arms consignment from China, free of charge, and is storing the new cache in Burma.  A group of ex-ULFA militants said that the current peace talks are an insult to those who gave their life for Assam's sovereignty and that the pro-talks faction should immediately clarify its stance on sovereignty.

Meanwhile in Mizoram, a procession in favour of the resumption of peace talks between the Mizoram Government and the Hmar People's Convention - Democrats (HPC-D) was held yesterday.  The HPC-D is based in Manipur and seeks Hmar self-government in parts of Manipur, Mizoram and Assam. 

The August issue of the Himal Southasian magazine has two excellent Naga-related features.  In the first, Naga elders remember the time of the 'groupings' in the late 1950s.  The second is a photo feature on the capital of Nagaland, Kohima.

Finally, the Indian Government Home Ministry this week released a list of militant outfits, counting 79 in the northeast.

***This is the first in a new weekly digest format of Seven Sisters.  Feedback welcome!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

GNLA active in Meghalaya

The July 25 issue of the South Asia Intelligence Review has an article about the Garo National Liberation Army's (GNLA) recent violent activities, arguing the group is the biggest security threat in Meghalaya.

Meanwhile, the GNLA denied its involvement in a recent gun battle with police in East Garo  Hills district according to an article in The Telegraph.

HD Centre report on GoI-insurgent dialogues: Manipur

The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and Delhi Policy Group last month released a report on lessons learnt from India's experience engaging in dialogue with insurgent groups.  The major conclusion drawn in the report is that dialogue can be of benefit - by for example, reducing violence - even if it fails to achieve its primary aim of attaining sustainable peace.

Conflict and dialogue in Manipur is one of the report's three case studies.  The view presented is guardedly optimistic.  Acknowledging the complexity of the situation in Manipur, the report argues that it is not entirely intractable.  It cites the Indian Government's talks with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland - Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM) as an example of a peace process that, despite not effecting a lasting political solution, has helped decrease violence. 

Other lessons learnt in Manipur include the counter-productivity of inflexible preconditions to talks and the importance of central and state government coordination.  A number of recommendations are made, including increasing the role of civil society, focusing talks on humanitarian - rather than political - concerns and appointing an interlocutor.

The report also represents an excellent background paper on Manipur and its insurgencies.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

NSCN-IM targets Autonomous District Council

Last week's edition of the South Asia Intelligence Review has an article on the resurgent violence in Manipur.  It details recent violence carried out by the National Socialist Council of Nagaland - Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) and aimed at members of the local Autonomous District Council (ADC).

The article surmises that the ADC-directed violence is a result of the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils (3rd Amendment) Act 2008 - and subsequent ADC elections in 2010 - which the NSCN-IM (and related body the United Naga Council) considers bestows an inferior degree of self-governance to Nagas in Manipur than that provided to other ADCs through the Constitution's Sixth Schedule.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Human Rights Watch condemns killings on Indo-Bangladeshi border

Human Rights Watch last month called for the Indian Government to investigate alleged "killings, torture, and other abuses" by the Border Security Forces (BSF) on the Indo-Bangladeshi border.  They reference Bangladeshi NGO Odhikar's figure of 17 Bangladeshi deaths at the hands of the BSF to date in 2011.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Autonomy for Gorkhaland

Kurseong (photo: Alec Leonello)
The West Bengal government recently announced it would cede autonomy to Gorkhaland, encompassing Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong.  The Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) does however maintain its call for full statehood, according to a report in the Hindu.

IndiaKnowledge@Wharton has an interesting discussion on this development, considering its implications for other regions of the country with separatist tendencies, and the question of the relationship between size of state and quality of governance in general.

Latest round of ULFA talks commence

The latest round of talks between the Indian Government and ULFA started yesterday.  ULFA confirmed it no longer seeks full independence but rather enhanced autonomy, as laid out in a 12 point list of demands which also includes request for information on detained cadres.  ULFA representatives also spoke of their hope that Paresh Baruah, believed to currently be in Burma, will participate in the talks.

The Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses (ISDA) has posted an informative analysis of ULFA's list of demands.  It questions ULFA's legitimacy in the face of its attacks on civilians and its self-enrichment via Bangladeshi real estate.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bomb blast kills five

A bomb blast in a market on the outskirts of Imphal earlier this week killed at least five people, according to the AFP.