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NE fault lines dash peace hopes

Ethnic tensions nullify truce bid

New Delhi, Nov. 21: The Centre’s satisfaction with peace accords in the Northeast is apparently being neutralised by deepening ethnic fault lines and anti-talks outfits in the region.

Speaking at the annual conference of directors-general and inspectors-general of police here today, Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde laid greater emphasis on Paresh Barua-led Ulfa (Independent) having “spurned the overtures of the government” for talks than the Arabinda Rajkhowa-led Ulfa or the Ranjan Daimary faction of the NDFB having come forward for parleys.

“There are mixed indicators from the Northeast,” conceded Intelligence Bureau director Asif Ibrahim.

The country’s top cop (IB chief is considered the nation’s police chief), however, seemed more worried about the ethnic tensions, particularly in Assam and Manipur.

He said there were ethnic and communal issues in the Karbi, Koch Rajbongshi and Bodo areas. While these communities are asking for states, other communities in these regions are against separate state.

Referring to the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD), he said the situation there was “fragile due to mistrust” between communities.

Shinde, too, said agitation for separate states by various groups had made lower Assam and Karbi Anglong “vulnerable to ethnic and communal” tensions. The interests of Rabhas, Garos, Bodos and non-Bodo fail to reconcile, he added.

“Special efforts are required to check the growing mistrust, particularly between Bodos and the non-Bodos in the BTAD and its adjoining areas,” he said. The impact of the Bodo-Muslim clashes in the BTAD last year has clearly not been completely resolved.

So rattled is the government by the effect of the Telangana declaration in Assam that it has deferred talks scheduled earlier this month with Koch Rajbongshi, Bodo, Karbi and Dimasa groups.

Ibrahim also pointed to the “growing divide between the Meiteis and the Nagas”, in a way conceding that the Centre and the state governments have not been able to prevent an increasing divide between the hills and the valley.

A conflict of interest between rebel groups’ demands and state politics has steadily worsened the relations between Meiteis, Kukis and Nagas in the last few years, officials admit. Shinde also acknowledged the seriousness of the situation. “In Manipur, the increased targeting of non-Manipuris is an alarming trend,” he said.

Besides, a “spillover” of violence among Naga rebel outfits like the Isak-Muivah and Khaplang factions of the NSCN has affected peace in Nagaland and in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts, the home minister said.

There is concern over “recalcitrant outfits” as well. While Ibrahim referred to extortion drive by Barua’s men, the security establishment is also worried about the violence wrought by the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) in Meghalaya.

The only places where Shinde could point to an improvement in the “general security scenario” were Mizoram and Sikkim, which remain peaceful, and Tripura, which has shown “significant improvement”.

Garo hills situation

“In Meghalaya, the Garo insurgency remains a concern,” Shinde said. Although he did not elaborate, the western part of Meghalaya continues to face the brunt of insurgent activity.

From the GNLA, the most potent militant group currently operating in the Garo hills, to the United A’chik Liberation Army (UALA), the shadow of the gun looms large over the people of the Garo hills.

Recently, it was reported that at least seven cadres of the A’chik National Volunteers’ Council (ANVC) had fled from their camp in Tura, taking along weapons, to form a new outfit called as the A’chik Tigers Force (ATF).

The cadres claimed that they were unhappy with the way the government had been treating them. Balsrang is reportedly the group’s leader.

A tripartite ceasefire agreement was inked between the ANVC, Centre and the state government on July 23, 2004. However, last year, the ANVC (B) — which is a breakaway faction of the ANVC, led by Rimpu N. Marak — was formed.

On January 5 this year, the ANVC, along with the ANVC (B), was part of a tripartite dialogue, which had agreed upon a draft text for settlement on the issues raised by the ANVC.

While the state government has cleared the draft text, the Centre is yet to give its nod to the same.