Friday, September 23, 2011

Firearms, messy politics and CRAPB

Northeast India made international headlines this week due to, of course, the 6.9 magnitude earthquake in Sikkim.  We felt it here in Pokhara.

India Armed Violence Assessment, a new Small Arms Survey project, released two reports this week.  The first documents the prevalence of firearm murders across India's states and territories.  The most violent states (firearm murders per 100,000 population) are listed in table 3.  Three northeastern states make this list, including the top two (Manipur and Nagaland, which are considerably higher than the next highest state; Arunachal Pradesh is 7th).  Sikkim is one of the states with the least firearm murders (table 4).  The report also discusses the limited available information on autopsy rates.  Interestingly Imphal is found to have the highest rate of any Indian city of autopsies for gun shot victims.

The second report compares the number of deaths due to terrorism (including, perhaps controversially, insurgent movements) and crime in India.  It concludes that the latter is politically neglected given the relatively higher number of victims of criminal violence in the country.  Northeast India is briefly considered on pages 5-6.  In related news, two workers from Bihar were shot dead in Manipur this week. 

The Assam Assembly will hold a one day special sitting on the recent land swap deal with Bangladesh in October in response to expressions of dissatisfaction from various quarters with the deal and the lack of prior consultation. 

A steady, if thin, stream of claims of links between northeast groups and Maoists prevails in the Indian media.  An article this week says Maoists are present in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam and that they have links with ULFA and the NSCN-IM.  They are also said to be working with anti hydro-electric dam activists.

Politics is messy in Arunachal Pradesh, especially since the death of the previous Chief Minister in a helicopter accident last year.  A group of rebel ruling Congress Party MLAs have been in New Delhi since July seeking the removal of present Chief Minister Jarbom Gamlin.  They are now calling for the direct intervention of Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

The first meeting of the Committee on Reorganization of Administrative and Police Boundaries (CRAPB) was finally held this week.  The CRAPB is the body tasked with producing a report to the state government on the Sadar Hills District issue that is currently crippling life in Manipur.  They have been given three months to submit the report.  Bibhu Prasad Routray this week considered the various next steps the state government can take on this issue.  In brief, these are to force open the highways, create the Sadar Hills District as desired by Kuki groups, create the district under a different name, try and have Kukis and Nagas talk to each other and do nothing.  None of these options seem particularly promising.

Naga groups oppose Sadar Hills being transformed into a fully-fledged district because the area has a Naga population and they want to see Naga people united under one administrative construct, rather than divided more than they already are.  Now they have problems from within as well: a group called the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation is calling for a new state, Frontier Nagaland, to be carved out of Nagaland.  They held a large rally this week.

This week's South Asia Intelligence Review has an article on the United Democratic Liberation Army (UDLA), a Bru and Bengali Muslim group based in southern Assam.  Indian security forces have taken notice of this and one of its splinter groups, the only two Bru groups that remain operational.  The author predicts that as a result “it is unlikely that these groups will retain their capacities for disruption and violence for long”.

Allegations were made about Paresh Baruah’s business investments in Bangladesh this week.  Indian intelligence says he’s invested over US$20million in that country.  ULFA promptly issued a press release denying the claims.

The Meghalaya government has handed over land to the North East Frontier Railway for the construction of a railway that would link the state to the rest of the country.

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