2006-03-02 06:42:00 UTC
BRIG GEN (RETD) M. SAKHAWAT HUSSAIN
Hanns Seidal Foundation (HSF), Islamabad, a Pakistan-based German
organistaion arranged a South Asian Seminar in co-operation with Islamabad
Policy Research Institute (IPRI) on 1-2 February 2006. The topic designated
was "Political Violence and Terrorism in South Asia". Almost all South Asian
(SE) countries were represented. Besides SE, there was a representation each
from Afghanistan and Singapore.
India was represented by two of the prominent journalists cum think tank,
Mr. Prem Shankar Jha and Mr. Sanjoy Hazarika, an expert on North-East Indian
(NEI) issues. For obvious reasons I was more interested in Mr. Hazarika's
paper "Violent Separatist Movements in North East India and Counter Measures
of the State" than others though each one of the papers was full of
interesting information, and included candid discussion on Balochistan and
Waziristan - the anti-al Qaida operation being conducted by Pakistan defence
forces in collaboration with US forces. The civil society in Pakistan
remains critical of Pakistani government for its short-term measures in
tackling what seems to be political issue in Balochistan and social issue in
Waziristan. They are also unhappy about military actions taken in both
places instead of resolving the problems politically to achieve long-term
Be it as it may, as mentioned in my initial remark, Mr. Sanjoy's paper
interested me the most for a few reasons. Firstly, the paper had reference
of Bangladesh; secondly, the paper in its entirety dealt with current NEI
issues that somehow the Indian authority feels Bangladesh is involved in. We
are concerned with development in NEI as it touches our own security.
Thirdly, for the reason that the subject was straight from a speaker whose
credential as NEI expert is beyond any doubt and a local NE Indian himself,
therefore, the paper was not only diligent but as authentic as it could be.
Mr. Hazarika is an internationally acclaimed researcher currently involved
in Delhi-based 'Centre for Policy Research' and is at the same time
columnist of The Statesman and former member of Indian Security Council.
Fourthly, his paper preceded mine entitled "Political Violence and Terrorism
in South Asia: in Bangladeshi Perspective" that also had reference to
continuous insinuation against Bangladesh by Delhi. Delhi particularly
blames Bangladesh and makes allegations like sheltering NEI separatists and
endeavouring to create religious extremism in Asom's five Muslim majority
Many prominent Indian think tanks, supported by Indian government,
continuously chastise the government of Bangladesh for fomenting unrest in
these districts with the help of illegal Bangladeshi Muslim settlers in
collusion with Pakistan's ISI. Mind boggling accusations. Bangladesh is not
a power of any measure that can support such luxurious mischief against a
neighbour as giant as India.
On the contrary, bombs had been falling on Bangladeshis and suicide squads
threatened its own stability. Surprisingly most raw materials used by these
terrorists were of Indian origin passed through penetrable Indian borders.
These particular quarters of think tank continuously propagate both within
and outside India that Bangladesh is in unison with Pakistani intelligence
ISI to destabilise NEI with the ultimate aim of annexing it as part of a
scheme to realise greater Bangladesh. A perception as illogical and
fallacious as it could be. This kind of rhetoric changes gear with the
change of ruling party in Dhaka. It is not so true about changes in Delhi.
That sets out wrong signal to the Bangladeshis who happen to be divided in
line with conflicting political ideology. In fact these few districts of
Asom, which are mentioned again and again as adjacent to Bangladesh had been
Muslim majority area much before partition of India in 1947. Historically,
Asom or Assam had been part of colonial Indian Bengal administration for a
long time and large migration did take place much before Assam was separated
from Bengal administration.
In the above context, though Mr. Sanjoy's paper did not blame Bangladesh
directly nor for the increase in Muslim population in those areas as Mr.
Jaideep Saikia and others did, but he mentioned the Indian accusation both
as regards illegal migration and sheltering separatists. Interestingly, Mr.
Sanjoy's paper acknowledged the deep-rooted insurgency in NEI mentioning
them 'separatists' and 'separatists organisations' instead of 'terrorist' or
'terrorist organisation' as other Indian analysts would put it. He candidly
admitted that the separatist movement in NEI is the oldest in the region and
much more complicated than the much-hyped Kashmir issue.
According to his paper, not only that NEI has divergent ethnical mix but
almost every state is infested with small and large insurgent groups
fighting Indian authority for decades. According to him there are 30 large
groups in existence but as per Indian intelligence review there are 130
large and small groups in operation. Some of these represent larger section
of people who remain socio-politically deprived within the Indian Union.
However, it is not number of organisations that is of paramount importance
but the fact that almost every state is besieged with separatist elements
challenging the presence of hundreds of thousands of security forces
operating with impunity that violation of human rights is rationalised as
Mr. Sanjoy projects the historical evidence that oldest and one of the
longest fought separatist movement of South Asia is the 'Nagalim Movement'
which still remains unresolved. In fact the Naga movement is considered to
be the mother of all insurgency in South Asia. Though the movement has gone
through radical changes and transformation but it still remains a prime
concern of India as the movement has husbanded all other separatist
organisation within that region. The Naga Movement, that started in 1929 for
a separate homeland led by Dr. Angami Zapu Phizo and his NNC (Naga National
Council), still continues. Currently it is Nationalist Socialist Council for
Nagaland [NSCN (I-M)] led by Mr. Isak Chishi and T. Muhiva are the present
forerunner of the fight though the other faction out of original
organisation, NSCN ( Khaplan), a pro agreement group has become less
significant. It is in these ambit that expert like Sanjoy also agrees that
Naga Movement is the mother of all separatist movements in NEI.
Therefore, one is tempted to suggest that a brief background of the Naga
struggle is to be comprehended if one has to understand North-East Indian
tangle in which, for all geo-political reasons directly or indirectly,
Bangladesh remains a factor. Indian historians and strategists while
discussing Bangladesh's liberation war categorically mention that the very
geo-strategic location of Bangladesh vis-à-vis NEI was one of the prime
factors in India's strategic decision to help liberate the people of the
then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.
More to follow