Monday, July 5, 2010

Northeast (July 5, 2010)

Four reports today:
1) Much in contrast to my previous post on the DHD(J) dismantling, Telegraph takes the view that the sordid drama has only now started.

Dima Hasao slipped back into an unnerving disquiet after the arrest of Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel) commander-in-chief Niranjan Hojai from Nepal last Friday, while Dispur prepared to answer some uncomfortable questions. The first sign of Dima Hasao’s unrest was evident from the “paralysing” indefinite bandh called by the outfit from today, seeking the release of Hojai and its chairman Jewel Gorlosa arrested last year. Hojai is a key accused in the case of autonomous council funds being siphoned off to the DHD (J), which the National Investigation is probing.

The district was just beginning to taste peace after a long reign of terror unleashed by the outfit, when today’s bandh signalled fresh trouble. Some of the DHD (J) cadres even set on fire the gate of the Jatinga designated camp in protest against the arrest while some left the camp to take shelter in a Dima Hasao Autonomous Council guest house nearby this evening. The outfit surrendered under Hojai on October 2 last year. The arrest, a source said, would also raise uncomfortable questions for Dispur, already facing a torrid time over the alleged Rs 1,000-crore financial scam in the district. The government will have some explaining to do on the Hojai front.

For one, how did Hojai manage to give the state security personnel the slip to land in Nepal and then fly to Singapore, soon after he was charge-sheeted by the NIA? Secondly, Dispur’s sincerity in resolving militancy has already come under the scanner, indicated by the strong reaction of Dethang Naiding, the president of the Jadikhe Naisho Hoshom, the apex Dimasa body, to Hojai’s arrest. Naiding said the law would take its course in the Hojai case. “But we want to know how did he escape in the first place? Secondly, what is the state government doing to resolve the militancy issue? Restive DHD (J) cadres have called an indefinite bandh, the staff of the council have gone without salary for over six months, the condition of the roads in the district is pitiable. The district has been completely ignored”.

“Having helped bring the DHD (J) to the mainstream with help of others, we are now facing threats for nothing happening on the peace front. The cadres have made it clear that talks will be incomplete without their leadership. We will not be responsible for any untoward incident that might take place because of recent developments,” Naiding said. An NIA official today said Hojai had rented a flat in Singapore’s Woodlands residential enclave, where he was always being watched. He said Hojai flew back to Nepal last week, and NIA, in close collaboration with the Nepal police, picked him up on Friday and whisked him off to Raxaul in Bihar.

2) To answer the question on what GoI or GoAssam are doing, one needs to read Patricia Mukhim's take again in Telegraph. I usually dont agree with her, but she seems to have hit the jackpot on this one.

However, the Northeast is also a paradox. While there is no dearth of India baiters in this region, there are an equal number of enthusiastic young men and women enrolled in the security forces. Six of the CRPF men, who were tortured and killed on June 29, came from Assam. There is quite a good number in the different regiments of the military and the police service. As elsewhere, ordinary people suffer economic depression and mis-governance and from the after-effects of corruption.

A ready example is the Rs 1,000 crore rip-off from Dima Hasao district — an amount earmarked for its speedy development. Investigations by one agency are over and it is clear who has made off with the booty, but the process of nabbing the guilty is so slow that people have almost lost faith in the system. When disenchantment and bitter cynicism visits the disinherited, then Maoism with its kangaroo courts and instant justice system may seem like the way out of a hell-hole.

The Centre is increasingly exposing its policy of incoherence whether in dealing with insurgents in the Northeast or the Maoists. Manipur has just recovered from a long bout of blockade of NH39 by the All Naga Students Association, Manipur (Ansam). Several Naga academicians have defended this blockade as the ultimate action taken by desperate people before launching into a full-scale war. They argue that blockades and economic sanctions are the tools adopted by institutions like the UN and by powerful nations to put pressure on governments. The question is whether the Centre is on the same page as the Naga ideologues on the question of “economic blockade” as an instrument of suppression against an entity perceived as the enemy — in this case Manipur. The 69-day blockade is not the last of its kind. Ansam has already declared that this is temporary. Ironically, if goods trucks no longer ply on NH39, the incomes of sundry groups, used to surviving on the “taxes” paid by the truckowners and drivers, will dry up. Is this what Ansam wants?

The irony here is that the Centre is now least interested in the Naga-Manipur issue after the major bottleneck has eased with the opening of NH39. Now whether the truckers wish to use the highway or want to take a detour is the headache of the Manipur government. Truck drivers have said they will not ply on NH39 until highway security guards are deployed. This is a futuristic action plan, which will take years to materialise.

The ANSAM bit requires a new post altogether. Blockades are enforced by powerful bodies to show who the real boss is, but lets get this straight, blockades dont and wont move GoI. Never has, never will. GoI is such a huge elephant that it does nt really care. But when the elephant does care, it swats the blockade like a fly. Think Sri Lanka airlift, which was the next best after the Berlin airlift (?!), or the Nepal and Karachi blockade. Those are blockades by a powerful body to show who the boss is. The ANSAM blockade is a tragedy complicated by compulsions of the diplomatic kind. Folks such as R.S.Pandey and P.C.Haldar dont want to swat the fly right away, but they dont want things go for too long either. Too long here was a short spell of 69 days (!). The elephant does swat. On that note, the ANSAM update:
3) David Choro and Samson Remei

Director-general of police Yumnam Joykumar Singh today said efforts were on to arrest United Naga Council (UNC) president Samson Remei and All Naga Students Association, Manipur (Ansam) president David Choro. “The warrants have been issued (against the two leaders) and cash awards on their arrest have been announced. We are looking for them and will arrest them,” Joykumar Singh told reporters today. Imphal police had registered a case against Remei and Choro for imposing the economic blockade along the Imphal-Jiribam and Imphal-Dimapur highways from April 11 midnight. The blockade, however, was suspended on June 18.

Following a request from the police, the chief judicial magistrate, Imphal issued warrants against the two Naga leaders. The police case against the two Naga activists came after the Imphal bench of Gauhati High Court ordered arrest of Choro for imposing the economic blockade, following a public interest litigation.

But the Manipur police have been looking for these two idiots from June 1st. Duh... What is now official is that the Manipur police are officially looking for DC and SR... But eh, dont exasperate just yet, cos:

Choro, however, attended a public meeting in the Senapati district headquarters yesterday. The meet — “Naga convention” — resolved to “sever” all political ties with the Manipur government and decided to launch a “non-cooperation” movement against the alleged “anti-Naga” policy of the state government. The convention also declared the autonomous district council elections “null and void” and that the councils would not be allowed to function.

I wish I had all the emoticon control that brf would allow me.
4) Update on HNLC and their travails in Bangladesh:

The Khasi militant outfit, Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), has opened a stone quarry in Bangladesh near Dawki in Jaintia Hills, after a scarcity of cash because of its inability to carry out largescale extortion. The outfit also has several betel nut plantations in Bangladesh to earn extra income to conduct its operations. “We came to know of the existence of a stone quarry owned by the HNLC in Bangladesh from the arrested and surrendered militants,” East Khasi Hills superintendent of police A.R. Mawthoh told reporters today. “They also have betel nut plantations along the border to eke out a living,” Mawthoh said.

The police claimed that as they were keeping a strict vigil, the HNLC was unable to carry out any extortion in Shillong for the past several years. This may have prompted the outfit to run businesses like the stone quarries and betel nut plantations. The police said many HNLC cadres worked at both the places. They also believe that members of the HNLC travelled on boats on the Umngot river in Dawki, along with Bangladeshis, to collect boulders for the stone quarry.

With the onset of winter when the water level is low, many Bangladeshis come in large numbers to the Umngot river to collect boulders. The BSF apprehended a self-styled sergeant major of the HNLC, Pariston Pakyntein, near Dawki in May. He confessed to the police that the HNLC had been running the stone quarry somewhere near Jaflong in Sylhet district of Bangladesh for the past two years and many cadres continued to work in the quarry.

The outfit, formed two decades ago and fighting for an independent Khasi homeland, was active in Khasi hills and carried out killings, kidnappings and extortion till 2004. R.G. Lyngdoh, home minister in 2004, came down hard on the HNLC and the department had filed several cases against many businessmen who had donated money to the militants under threat. The home department’s action had paid dividends, as extortion had reduced to a certain extent. The police had also busted several finance cells of the HNLC in parts of Shillong, besides arresting senior cadres who were manning these cells.

The biggest setback for the HNLC was the surrender of its chairman Julius Dorphang in 2007. After Dorphang came overground, there was largescale exodus of HNLC cadres from their camps in Bangladesh. The police claim that at present, the total strength of the outfit is below 50, as more than 150 had surrendered in the past. The firepower of the outfit also reduced considerably. Though the chairman of the outfit came overground, other top leaders like general secretary Cherishsterfield Thangkiew and commander-in-chief Bobby Marwein along with a few cadres are still in Bangladesh. The top leaders vowed to carry on with the organisation despite the setbacks.

Not just this group, there is another outfit in Meghalaya (Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA)) where a former police official, Champion R Sangma, has joined and is leading the charge of the light-brigade. And of course, needless to say, a basket-case in the making with examples such as this.

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