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Naxalites And The Northeast Rebels: Alliance In The Making – Analysis

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Amidst the rather swarming media coverage of the left-wing extremism surge in India, here comes a newspaper report indicating the attempt by the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) trying to forge links with the insurgents operating in the Northeast.

According to the report, the Maoists have “started eyeing the Northeast region, yet again.” Quoting a unnamed official in New Delhi, the report says that the present attempts by the extremists are beginning of fresh efforts, after their previous attempts to establish strong roots in the Northeast region had failed. The official further says that some Maoist “modules” have started working in Assam. “We have got the names of some such modules, but we are not disclosing it at this moment due to security reasons”, he says.

As per the book, almost

The inroads the CPI-Maoist are making in the Northeast come as no surprise. The essentially socialist outlook of a majority of the insurgent movements in the Northeast and their abhorrence of the ‘domination of a colonial India’, make them natural allies of the CPI-Maoist. The ethnicity-based insurgencies of the Northeast are, moreover, progressively approaching exhaustion or have been trapped in an unending and un-winnable stalemate with SFs for years, making them attractive targets of a Maoist effort to ‘mop up’ their surviving potential in alliances or, eventually, under the Maoist banner.

The movement into Manipur — and, indeed, other theatres of the Northeast — was also inevitable in terms of the repeatedly articulated strategy of the Maoists. The Maoist Party Programme document unambiguously expresses its solidarity with armed militant movements in other parts of the country including the Northeast.

The struggles of the Kashmiri, Naga, Assamese, Manipuri and other nationalities in north-eastern region are already going on by assuming the armed form. The people of these oppressed nationalities are not only fighting for their identity but also for the just cause of achieving their honourable right of self-determination, including the right of secession and the demand for secession…

Our party must unequivocally support these nationalities’ struggles. It must also resolutely oppose the vicious attempt of the Indian ruling classes to suppress these movements with their military might. The right of self-determination including, and up to, the right of secession, must be firmly upheld and highlighted in all circumstances.

Similarly, Maoist Strategy and Tactics of Indian Revolution document makes it obligatory for the party to “be in the forefront of every democratic demand of the nationalities whether it is for autonomy; for equal status for their languages; for separate statehood; against economic, social cultural and other forms of oppression by a certain dominant nation.”

Past attempts at forging alliance

Such ideological rhetoric notwithstanding, such attempts are primarily directed towards facilitating undisrupted arms supply from Southeast Asia for the Maoists. How much of it has actually materialised is a matter of speculation. The below are a compilation of the CPI-Maoist’s outreach endeavours in the Northeast.

In October 2008, the Manipur based People’s Liberation Army (PLA) inked a three-point pact with the CPI-Maoist calling for consolidation of “mutual understanding and friendship” to “overthrow the common enemy”, the “reactionary regime of India”. The joint declaration by the PLA and the CPI-Maoist followed a two day meeting between both the outfits at an unspecified location in Manipur on 21 and 22 October. According to the three point pact, both the PLA and the CPI-Maoist vowed to,

  • Honour and support the sovereignty of the two ‘countries’ (the sovereignty of India and the sovereignty of Manipur);
  • Extend full moral and political support to each other in the liberation struggles to overthrow the common enemy, ‘the Indian reactionary and oppressive regime’
  • Recognise and honour the historically endorsed territorial integrity of the two ‘countries’, namely Manipur and India.
India
India

A month later, the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), another Manipur based outfit, released a statement evincing its interest for a similar agreement. A statement issued by the outfit in Imphal on the occasion of its 45th foundation day on 24 November 2009 read,

“The UNLF believes that there is a common interest in the fight against the Indian state by the CPI(Maoist) and the liberation struggles of Manipur and the (Northeastern) region. The UNLF shall actively pursue a policy of mutual help and support with the Indian revolution through the CPI(Maoist).” Few meetings understandably took place between the CPI-Maoist and the UNLF in Kathmandu in the months following the statement.

The other outfit that the CPI-Maoist has tried courting is the Assam based United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). Maoist leader Kishenji admitted during a media interview in January 2010 that he met ULFA commander in chief Paresh Baruah. “I met him under the party name of Pradip, that is my identity for him. He does not know me as Koteswara Rao or Kishenji. I wish to speak to him again. 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.”

While the purported linkages with the UNLF, PLA and the ULFA has remained at a somewhat tactical level, nexus with the Naga outfit, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) did appear to have reached a stage facilitating at least one consignment of timer devices for the Maoists.

Anthony Shimray, NSCN-IM’s ‘foreign secretary’ and its chief arms buyer, who was arrested from Kathmandu on 2 October 2010 told the National Investigation Agency (NIA) team that interrogated him that he had booked a huge consignment in China — assault rifles, machine-guns, rocket launchers, timers for explosive devices and communication gadgets worth Rs. 4.5 crore, for the Maoists and the Northeastern outfits. The first batch consisting of mostly timer devices reached the Maoists in October 2010. The next batch was supposed to have reached them in December 2010-January 2011. Few of the timer devices recovered from CPI-Maoist’s Bengal secretary Sudip Chongdar alias Kanchan who was arrested in December 2010 in Kolkata is believed to be from the first batch of supply. The NSCN-IM had earlier told the government that it has turned down a request by Maoist leader Kishenji to help in procurement of arms.

Will revolutionary and secessionist paths meet?

It is natural to express doubts whether the secessionist goals of the Northeastern insurgents and the revolutionary goals of the CPI-Maoist, which does not advocate secession, could meet. Answer to this was provided by Kishenji during his January 2010 interview. He said, “We do not want to impose the model of our struggle on them, as they know how to fight best under their own circumstances.”

The only condition CPI-Maoist attempted to impose on the Northeastern groups is that they should desist from carrying out massacres of Hindi speaking civilians. “But we want them to attack the enemies of the people, and not the poor, wherever they come from”, Kishenji said. When the insurgent outfits of the Northeast are reeling under a spate of existential challenges, a minor compromise of this nature wont be difficult.

The Possible Impact

The alliance between the Maoists and NE insurgents, in all likelihood, would have emboldening impact on the course of the insurgencies in the region– though it is not expected to result in any extraordinary spike in violence in the immediate future. The insurgencies of the Northeast, currently battling a state of weakness, can, however, be expected to gain in strength over the coming months, profiting from its strategic alliance with a powerful nation-wide insurgency, particularly in terms of improvements in training, tactics and strategies of irregular warfare which the Maoists have evolved to a fine art. For the Maoists, the Northeast abutting the ungoverned spaces in Myanmar would open up avenues for arms and explosives on a permanent basis, further adding to their destabilisation capacities.

(Some of the arguments in this post are borrowed from my earlier piece written in 2008)

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Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray

Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray served as a Deputy Director in the National Security Council Secretariat, Government of India and Director of the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM)’s Database & Documentation Centre, Guwahati, Assam. He was a Visiting Research Fellow at the South Asia programme of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore between 2010 and 2012. Routray specialises in decision-making, governance, counter-terrorism, force modernisation, intelligence reforms, foreign policy and dissent articulation issues in South and South East Asia. His writings, based on his projects and extensive field based research in Indian conflict theatres of the Northeastern states and the left-wing extremism affected areas, have appeared in a wide range of academic as well policy journals, websites and magazines.

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