Lt Col Anil Bhat (retd)
WordSword Features & Media
The series of bomb blasts and shootouts beginning on 2nd October 2004, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, an apostle of non-violence, in Nagaland and continuing over the next 36 hours in Assam, killing over 60 and injuring at least 200 people - all innocent civilians- are part of a pattern to keep the North Eastern (NE) region on the boil by elements not confined to the rebel groups claiming or condemning the acts. BothUnited Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) claimed as many as 17 of these dastardly attacks. In distant Bangkok, the leaders-in-exile of National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) involved in peace negotiations with representatives of Government of India, issued a statement condemning these killings, stressing that they particularly regretted the choice of 2nd October for beginning the attacks. The nextday, 3rd October 2004, marked the 18th 'anniversary' of NDFB.
Expressing indignance against the Indian State by boycotting national functions like Independence and Republic days has been the custom with many underground groups in India's NE region. Engineering bomb-blasts on such occasions has been quite the norm with Pakistani or Pakistan's ISI controlled Kashmiri groups in Jammu & Kashmir. But what emerges from the deadly attacks in two NE States on 2nd October 2004 onwards is that while the choice of the date is symbolic, the aspect of their being so concerted only indicates that the kind of coordination and planning was of a level higher than just the organizations suspected or claiming to have implemented them.
Having predicted the entry of Pakistan's InterServices Intelligence (ISI) into the NE from Bangladesh a year and a half before it was confirmedby intelligence agencies in the region - in mid 1993 -and having followed their activities there, I have mentioned with details in a number of my earlier columns about the presence of leaders and members a number of NE based underground groups enjoying sanctuary and being trained there, with full assistance from that country's Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI). While the process of ISI's NE links was initiated by ULFA, when its leaders fled to Bangladesh in December 1990, it was merely a matter of time that other groups, a part from those mentioned so far, and a number of others, including Meitei ones like the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) joined the conglomerate.
There are reasons for 2004 being a year witnessing stepped up levels of terrorist type violence, as against the insurgent type of earlier years. By 2003, between the ISI and the DGFI, the tally of camps organized for training or safe-housing NE groups inBangladesh, had already become almost 200. With the India-Pakistan peaceprocess plodding on, essentially under USA's pressure on the latter, Pakistani jihadi groups, including elements of Al Qaeda and Taliban were moved to Bangladesh, where they are not sitting idle. As such, their arrival fitted well into the scheme of Harkat ul Jihad e Islami (HUJI)and the Jamat e Islami, which have been tasked to 'Islamistise' India's entire Eastern region. Part of this process is also training, arming and motivation of India's NE militants. High on the list of aims for them is to maintain the momentum of violence, sabotage installations, assist Bangladeshi illegal migrants in getting settled, keep creating communal situations and not to agree to any peace negotiations with the Indian establishment. Bhutan and India's coordinated action against ULFA, NDFB and Kamtapu Liberation Organisation(KLO) as well as peace negotiations of NSCM (IM) and some smaller groups are actions which need to be countered. Yet another unpleasant surprise, in the wake of the events following the unfortunate killing of Thangjam Manorama Devi, in Manipur, is there-emergence of the 'Chinese hand'. As reported in media, during a raid on some premises of Manipur University, one of the professors broke down and confessed to having visited Hong Kong nine times in six months. So it should come as no wonder that all kinds of formulae like banning Hindi movies, or targeting 'outsiders', murders, abductions, extortionsor worse, are attempted.
Meanwhile, the Government of Bangladesh continues with its ostrich-like intransigence. The message which needs to be passed urgently and effectively toBangladesh and jihadis is that the cost of such a trend will be prohibitive.
(The author, a security analyst, is Editor, WordSwordFeatures & Media)