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North Cachar : Black “Jewel” of India’s North East
|by Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle|
India's North East is a vast region with over 200 ethnic communities and an equal number of vales with a unique culture and identity. The people in these areas take great pride in retaining their ethnic and cultural identity. Some deviants amongst them have fallen prey to terrorism which has assumed a criminal color. Thus extortion, kidnapping and crime are the flavor with ideology used as a cultivated prop to sustain their anti social activities.
North Cachar, in Assam is one such area which has seen over 30 people being killed in the past fortnight or so. North Cachar has two principal groups of the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD), the Dilip Nunisa and the Jewel Gorlosa faction. The Nunisa faction is in cease fire mode while the DHD (Jewel) group offered for peace during the month after being accused of causing extensive violence over the past few years in the area. Dilip Nunisa was particularly apprehensive of this peace offer indicating, 'It is strange that after a series of brutal killings of innocent people they have suddenly come out with the so-called ceasefire proposal. It seems like the outfit is trying to buy time for re-grouping, since several of its cadres have been arrested or killed in recent times.'
He accused that, 'The outfit led by Gorlosa has become a puppet in the hands of the NSCN (IM)', to Sentinel, Assam. The corruption racket in North Cachar Hills is driven by the DHD Black Jewel group which is at the forefront in all militant activities of extortion and kidnapping.
Meanwhile to increase security in North Cachar, a Border Security Force (BSF) battalion was deployed for protection of personnel engaged in the railway gauge conversion project. This raises the number to three BSF battalions in NC Hills and Karbi Anglong. 'We held a series of meetings with the Railways recently and decided to deploy one more battalion in NC Hills to provide exclusive protection to the personnel engaged in the gauge conversion work,' inspector-general of the BSF (Assam and Nagaland frontier), P.K. Mishra indicated to the Daily Telegraph.
The apprehension expressed by Dilip Nunisa of sincerity of the Jewel Gorlosa faction is justified given the large number of charges of kidnapping and extortion against it. The Group is also seen as an extension of the NSCN IM in the area. The NSCN IM is outsourcing many of its tasks to such groups as it facilitates in collecting money and conduct criminal activities in such areas.
These fears found expression in the killing of many innocents by the DHD (Jewel) faction in the past few weeks, resulting in the railways suspending operations in the area. Most of the victims were innocent labor and truck drivers, attempting to earn an honest living through their hard labor.
North Cachar is however a microcosm of the violence in the North East. According to Ministry of Home Affairs, in 2007, the North East Region recorded 1,489 incidents, more than in Jammu and Kashmir which had 1332 incidents. J&K recorded 3,401 incidents in 2003, whereas the number of violent incidents in NER was limited to 1,332. Civilian killings in the NER have escalated to 498, highest since 2003. During the same period, violence in Kashmir claimed only 158 civilian lives. Till 2006, the NER had recorded less civilian killings than Kashmir. In casualties among security forces thankfully NER is behind J&K. In 2007, 79 security forces personnel were killed in NER, whereas in J&K, 110 died in action. Interestingly, Naxal-related violence has overtaken both the NER and J&K recording 1,565 incidents. However, as far as civilian casualties are concerned, it is less than those recorded in NER.
In the North East, Assam has emerged as the top state with highest civilian killing of 314 including security forces personnel. Last year, the State recorded 584 incidents, and the first three months of 2008 saw 153 violent incidents, resulting in 62 killings. This spells for a violent year ahead.
Guwahati is emerging as a flourishing arms bazaar with weapons and explosives traded for the large number of militant groups operating in the North East numbering approximately 30. 10 Programmable Time Explosive Devices (PTED) were seized by the police recently, "The PTEDs were meant for the ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom) and was headed to Kakopathar in eastern Assam through the Network Travels cargo," said city police spokesman Debojit Deuri. These were being regularly booked through a transport operator's network. Cox's Bazaar in Bangladesh has been a favorite location for arms running in the North East. Similarly the border areas are also favorite haunts of militant groups for purchase of weapons. "Almost all the underground groups in the North East purchase weapons at a very cheap price from gunrunners in the border areas, especially Bangladesh. You can buy everything including missiles," Kughalo Mulatonu, a senior rebel leader of the S.S. Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) stated recently.
As in other militancy affected areas, the solutions in the North East will come from within the region. The catalysts will remain education, employment and enterprise. Till indigenous people develop such capabilities we will continue to see many Jewel Gorlosa's stamping out development seen as intervention by the community.
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