Sunday, October 30, 2011

Not so happy Diwali

Two bomb blasts in a market injured seven, marring Diwali celebrations in Manipur last week.  There was also a bomb blast on a railway track – no injuries were reported – and trains were disrupted in a number of states when two train drivers were abducted in Assam.  An Indian government report released last week found that Manipur and Assam have respectively the highest and fourth highest crime rates in the country.

Jarbom Gamlin finally caved in to pressure and resigned as Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh on Friday.  It is not clear from current reports whether or not the Congress Party has accepted the resignation.

An Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses (IDSA) article published last week reflects on the continuing blockades in Manipur and makes some constructive suggestions, such as opening the Moreh-Tamu border trade point with Burma.  Despite the huge disruption to daily life caused by the blockades, two autonomous district council by-elections were held in Manipur last Monday without incident. 

Last week's South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) includes an article on the newly formed Karbi Peoples Liberation Tiger (KPLT) group and Karbi National Protection Force (KNPF), splinter groups of a more established Karbi group, the United Peoples Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), currently in talks with the government.  The Karbi people are based in a sixth schedule autonomous district council in Assam.

This CNN-IBN report on corruption in a small Meghalayan village, Upper Kew, is well worth watching.  Despite its jarringly over-dramatic production, it highlights a very real and under-acknowledged problem in the northeast.  Residents in Upper Kew contend they have received no government assistance funds in years.  The central government does however have records of funds, such as employment benefits, being disbursed to individuals in the town.  The likely cause of this discrepancy is a misappropriation of Indian government funds by actors that mediate, often with devastating effects, the relationship between the northeast Indian public and the central government, namely instruments of the state government and insurgent groups.   

Tripura is to have four new districts (doubling current total), six new subdivisions (on top of existing 17) and five new blocks (new total of 45), effective January.  It isn't clear how these new divisions have been devised. 

Following President Thein Sein's recent visit to India, the Burmese government has announced it will let residents of Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh enter Burmese territory within a prescribed distance from the border without a visa.  This move mirrors an Indian concession made earlier in the year  

ULFA's non-talk faction has reportedly been busy recruiting and fundraising in remote northern areas of Assam, slipping over the border to Arunachal Pradesh to AP to evade authorities.  Meanwhile, nothing of any real note seems to have occurred during the latest round of ULFA-government peace talks.

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