Sunday, October 16, 2011

Women in conflict, tension between states and rebel groups and positive bilateral developments

The Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research has released a major report, Bearing Witness, the Impact of Conflict on Women in Nagaland and Assam.  It makes a number of recommendations, including among others the establishment of a conflict studies institute, dedicated female legal services, rehabilitation and compensation packages, specialised mental health services and improved earning opportunities for women.

A recent United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) press release called for northeast Indian insurgent groups to unite against their common enemy: the Indian government.  In the face of persistent rivalries, competing aims and violence, this seems an impossible goal.  On 7 October for instance six National Socialist Council of Nagaland - Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) cadres and one civilian were killed in a shootout between the NSCN-IM and the Zeliangrong Tiger Force (ZTF) , the armed wing of the Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF) in Manipur.

Leading expert on northeast Indian politics, Sanjib Baruah, published an article in Himal on the current peace process between the government of India and UFLA last week.  Bodos recently marked the 25th anniversary of the start of their struggle.  Tehelka ran a piece on their frustration at the lack of attention, relative to ULFA, being paid to them by the central government.

A pro-Assam activist said last week that the Assamese government is standing by as Naga interests encroach on its territory, by for example building government offices.  He suspects a conspiracy between Nagas and the central government to bring about a greater Nagaland, or Nagalim.  A couple of days later the Assam Government asked its counterparts in Nagaland to remove police from its territory.  Meanwhile, in the complicated musical chairs that is loyalty in the northeast, inhabitants of the West Khasi hills area of Meghalaya reportedly want to join Assam.

A bandh in Arunachal Pradesh’s capital Itanagar last Tuesday resulted in at least 50 people injured and calls for calm by embattled Chief Minister Jarbom Gamlin.  In other bandh-related news for the region, the Sadar Hills District blockade is now the longest ever in Manipur, passing the 70-day milestone last Sunday
There were some positive developments in northeast India since my last post.  The central government is working on a plan to spend Rs. 80 billion upgrading roads in the region. Following the failure to sign a comprehensive agreement on transit during PM Singh’s recent visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh has agreed to allow India to transport food grains through its territory.  And China and India are said to be working on a mechanism for managing their shared border
Delhi police have uncovered links between the People’s Liberation Army PLA (from Manipur), Maoists (the Communist Party of India (Maoist)) and militants in Kashmir following arrests in Delhi and Imphal, and a raid in Pune
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited Darjeeling and surrounds last week.  The visit did not go down particularly well among locals according to reports.  The fact that the recent Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) agreement in effect only deferred addressing the issue of Gorkhaland's eventual administrative status came to the forefront during the visit.  I published a background article on developments in Gorkhaland on the South Asia Masala blog a couple of weeks ago.

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