MAOISTS LOOK AT NORTHEAST
By Ajit Kumar Singh
November 4 2011
At a time when the conflict profile in the North-East is improving gradually, with fatalities recording a steep decline, and the insurgent groups are being progressively marginalised, the CPI (Maoist) is making determined moves to fill the void, raising grave concerns within the security establishment. If recent reports are any indication, the Maoists, who have for long been forging connections with the insurgents in this troubled region, have now created a strong presence and are in the process of further consolidating their base.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs recently asked the police and security forces across the North-East to remain vigilant as the entire region has of late been facing an upsurge of disquiet on different issues, and the Maoists are known to capitalise on mass movements to establish their roots. The Maoists are specifically targetting victims of ethnic riots, floods and erosion, besides alienated sections in tribal communities, for recruitment and to expand their ‘ideological support base’. As a result, largely peaceful Arunachal Pradesh has emerged as a hotbed of Maoist activity, with people in the Dibang Valley region of the State protesting against the 3000 MW Dibang Multipurpose Project at New Anaya.
Reports indicate that the Eastern Region Bureau of the CPI (Maoist), under Koteswara Rao alias Kishenji, national chief of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army and Politburo member, has been entrusted with the task of establishing a foothold in the North-East. Trends indicate that the Maoists are engaged in a bid to set up a corridor through north Bengal, particularly Siliguri, linking their primary ‘Red Corridor’ strongholds with the North-East to access the predominant route for weapons’ smuggling into the country. With the Maoists regaining some of their lost footholds in the Jangalmahal area of West Bengal, it has become easier for them to penetrate deeper into the North-East.
There are reports that indicate that the Maoists, in addition to their ‘arrangements’ with some insurgent groups in the North-East, have also taken a decision to set up their own units in the region, particularly in Assam. Some ‘modules’ of the Maoist groups are already believed to have started work. According to a news story, citing an unidentified source, “There are specific intelligence reports indicating that youth from Assam are veering towards the Naxal philosophy. We have been exchanging information with all intelligence agencies and it seems that Maoists are trying to establish their base in Assam.”
The arrests of the president of the Assam Students’ Youth Organisation, Aditya Bora, general secretary of Assam Chah Janajati Suraksha Samiti, Tingrai Orang, and another North-East militant at a Maoist camp in the Saranda forest bordering Odisha and Jharkhand early this year had exposed the fact that a Maoist ‘Upper Assam Leading Committee’ was already active in Assam. The UALC, floated by the Maoists, has received Rs 3,00,000 in 2011 and Rs 5,00,000 in 2010 from the Maoists towards “organisational expenses”.
Meanwhile, media reports indicate that at least 18 Maoists have been arrested in Assam’s Tinsukia and Sivsagar districts during September-October. A police officer in Tinsukia district has said, “What is worrying is that most of these arrested persons are ethnic Assamese youth. A few of them have received training in Jharkhand and Manipur.” Earlier, on January 29, the police had arrested six Brihat Nadibandh Pratirudh Mancha (Mega Dam Protest Forum or BNPM) activists, including two women, from various locations in Dhemaji district of Assam. All admitted to their Maoist links.
Maoists are also trying efforts to extend their base into the Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Kamrup, Sonitpur and Darrang districts of Assam. According to the disclosures by Tarjan Majhi, the Sonitpur district ‘commander’ of the Adivasi People’s Army, who was arrested along with five others late last year, at Bhairabguri in Sonitpur district, ‘Sergeant-Major' Das of the United Liberation Front of Asom had provided arms training to APA cadre at Majbat in Udalguri district and helped them establish contact with other Maoists.
The Maoists are known to have forged links with ULFA, APA, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, National Democratic Front of Bodoland and All-Adivasi National Liberation Army in Assam. State Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said on September 2, “Maoists have infiltrated into the State. ULFA is helping them to grow. Some youth from the State took training in Maoist camps outside the State.” Mr Gogoi disclosed that Maoists had two ‘overground’ or cover organisations in Assam — ASYO and ACJSS. Earlier, Mr Gogoi had stressed that several organisations in Assam had links with the Maoists. He particularly mentioned two of them — KMSS and AANLA — and asserted, “I am speaking on the basis of intelligence inputs and evidence. There are several organisations which have links with Maoists. I don’t want to name all. The KMSS and AANLA have links with the Maoists. Their members have gone to take training (at Maoist camps).” Significantly, way back on July 30, 2008, two ANLA cadre, Mikhail Bina and Raju Gaur, were arrested at Golaghat. They had confessed that a large number of the outfit’s cadre were being trained by the Maoists in Jharkhand.
The Maoists’ links with ULFA have a long history and have once again been admitted by Koteswara Rao in a media interview published in January: “We unconditionally support ULFA’s struggle for self-determination in Assam. We only want them to stop attacking the Indian proletariat. We will continue to engage with ULFA on this issue… ULFA cannot ignore the revolutionary struggle of Indians and our enormous goodwill for their struggle… They have to trust us… I sincerely want ULFA, the PLA and other such groups fighting for separate homelands or for self-determination to fight the exploitative Indian state alongside us.”
The NDFB has also declared its support to the Maoists. The NDFB ‘chairman’, DR Nabla, in a statement e-mailed to the media, had said a couple of years ago: “I would like to greet and congratulate the Maoists who are fighting for their legitimate rights and also extend all help to them in their fight against the ruling cliques.” Notably, a June 21 report stated that militants of the anti-talks faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB-ATF) had taken refuge in the northern areas of West Bengal. Similarly, in Manipur the Maoists have already signed an agreement with the PLA. The PLA has signed three ‘joint resolutions’ with the Maoists to carry on their respective ‘struggles’. These links came to the fore during the month-long Operation Monsoon in the Saranda forest of Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district.
The writer is a research scholar with Institute of Conflict Management, Delhi.