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The bitter truth

The bitter truth

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: December 27, 2004

Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil's admission that at least a part of the Centre's development fund for the Northeastern States goes to finance terrorist activities there, hardly comes as a surprise. The fact has been known for decades to people familiar with developments in the region. Contractors implementing Central projects-and projects run with Central grants-in the power and other infrastructure sectors regularly pay a percentage of the total amount spent. An alarmingly large number of employees of these as well as Central and State Government offices, also contribute a part of their salaries every month- some because they are from the region and sympathetic to a particular terrorist group; others because they are intimidated into doing it by assaults, murders and abductions.

Mr Patil, who was responding to a question at the Intelligence Bureau's annual Centenary Endowment lecture in Delhi last Thursday, was doubtless right when he pointed out that besides receiving foreign funds, terrorist and insurgent groups also financed themselves though gun-running, abductions for ransom, narcotics smuggling, bank robberies and extortion. It is common knowledge that tea gardens in Assam regularly pay huge amounts to the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) and organisations like the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB). The basic fact, however, remains that these outfits can indulge in all this because of the Government's failure to stamp out the insurgency that began in the region in the 1950s when the Nagas took to arms.

Of course, nobody can under-estimate the problems that the Central and State Governments face in combating insurgency in the Northeast-difficult terrain, hilly and densely forested; lack of roads; porous borders with Bangladesh and Myanmar, and the active assistance and sanctuary the former provides to secessionist rebels from the region who have 195 camps on its soil. While all this is true, the fact remains that there has been, for long spells, a lack of the kind of focus and determination that successful conduct of counter-insurgency operations require. In Assam, the Congress has not been above playing footsie with the ULFA for electoral support. In Nagaland, a Congress Chief Minister's links with the National-Socialist Council of Nagalim (Khaplang) is hardly a secret. There is besides, a lack of sensitivity and alertness which was most glaringly underlined by the recent flare-up in Manipur which might have been prevented if Delhi had taken prompt measures to defuse the tension building up over the alleged rape and murder of a young woman by men of the Assam Rifles. The impression that India's counter-insurgency operations lack a resolute and coordinated thrust, that all this has served to convey, has been reinforced by the revocation of POTA. This is most unfortunate. Counter-insurgency is as much a military as a psychological operation which targets the hope of eventual success that keeps most insurgent and terrorist groups going.

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