GP Insights

GP Insights # 235, 27 January 2020

India's Northeast: Cadres of eight militant organisations surrender in Assam
Vaishali Handique

In the news
On 23 January, Assam witnessed an arms surrendering.  644 cadres from 8 banned militant groups laid down their arms to join the mainstream. The highest numbers were from the National Liberation Front of Bengal (NLFB) with 301 cadres surrendering followed by 178 cadres from Adivasi Dragon Fighters (ADF), 87 from National Santhal Liberation Army (NSLA), 50 from the United Liberation Front of Assam- Independent (ULFA-I), 13 from Rava National Liberation Front, 8 from National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), 6 from Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) and one from Communist Party of India- Maoist. 

The Ceremony was held at the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital Auditorium and it was presided over by the Chief Minister of Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal along with various police, Army and government officials. 1686 rounds of ammunition, 177 arms, 306 detonators, 58 magazines, 52 grenades, 71 bombs and three rocket launchers were handed over among other sophisticated arms.

Issues at large

First, the majority of north-east India is plagued with the “liberation army turned terrorists”. Most of the groups mentioned above along with others such as the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), People’s Liberation Army, Manipur, and National Liberation Front of Tripura are in action since 1956. Among them very few are successful enough till date to remain valid with their fight for gaining territorial independence.

Second, they became corrupted over the passage of time and also looted and killed their own people because of which they lost their original ground as “freedom fighters”. This, in turn, affected their wealth influx because of which many from time to time have chosen to surrender in the hope of availing government schemes which ensures huge sums of money and services.  

Third, the militant groups became nightmares for their individual states. Some even ran the government of their respective states with Nagaland becoming the most corrupted state in the entire northeast. With the turn of the century, their activities thin down but a bomb blast or two during mass gatherings kept on reminding the public that they are still very much alive and dangerous. The youth are lured into the underground because they see it as an easier way to have wealth. Most youths join the organisations, stay for a year or two and then surrender in order to become local goons who can demand land, money and assets from the community people with the power of their arms and identity of an ex-extremist.

In perspective
The surrender of arms should not become a part of a ritual, that one could observe during the recent period. In 2012, 1600 cadres of various proscribed outfits came over-ground, surrender a hefty amount of arms to seek rehabilitation under various schemes of the Assam government. The surrendered cadres are entitled towards receiving enormous financial support and also entitled to keep arms for their safety. 

In most cases, their terror though gets minimised do not stop. This process has to stop; surrender should be meaningful, and not a publicity event for the government, and a financial arrangement for the surrendered.

Second, in certain cases, the surrendered become synonymous to local goons, threatening people and taking away money and assets by force. If peace is sought in the truest sense, these “peace processes” are just mere shows for the public to see and feel safe, however, the terror never stops. The government ends up pumping huge sums of money into “rehabilitating” them which is not at all justified.

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