ambush, Assam Rifles, attack on Dogra regiment, ceasefire, Garo Hills insurgency, history of militancy in NE, Indo-Myanmar border, Myanmar government, NSCN-K, Paresh Baruah, SS Khaplang, Tirap, United Nationalist Liberation Front of West South-East Asia
It’s not June 4, 2015 when the bloodiest attack on security forces took place in 33 years in North-east and worst on Indian Army in over two decades, but March 27, 2015 that could be regarded as the turning point in the history of militancy in the North-east. It was on that day when the still most powerful NE militant outfit NSCN-K led by the ‘veteran’ SS Khaplang decided to pull off a 14-year-old ceasefire. The outfit had said it would ‘fight to the last remaining man and will never be cowed down by threat of collaborators and traitors’. Five days later on April 2, Khaplang’s men ‘kept their word’ by killing three Army personnel and injured four others in an ambush in Tirap district in south-eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh, near the Indo-Myanmar border. Again a month later on May 3, eight Assam Rifles personnel were killed in an ambush on a convoy of the paramilitary force at Changlang Su area in Mon district of Nagaland. And the June-4 ambush that claimed at least 18 lives of Dogra Regiment reminded Manipur of a similar ambush dating back to February 1982 when 20 jawans of 21 Sikh and one civilian were killed at Namthilok between Imphal and Ukhrul.
In all these attacks, either NSCN-K claimed its ‘responsibility’ or security forces found out its involvement along with other groups. The forces are also worried that NSCN-K’s aggression might encourage other outfits of the region to join the bandwagon called ‘United Nationalist Liberation Front of West South-East Asia’. The conglomerate led by NSCN-K and reportedly including Paresh Baruah-led ULFA(I) and a few others has already owned up the killings. Paresh Baruah, slowly seen as a spent force, was even very prompt to go on air on Assam television channels to claim his men’s role too. He categorically said the ‘mission’ was ordered by Khaplang, who is revered as the guru of all militant outfits taking refuge in the godforsaken territory of Indo-Myanmar border.
Containing militancy NE by using force has always been a tough task in NE due to its rough terrain and porous borders. However, in Assam the forces effectively neutralised militant groups by asserting diplomatic pressure on friendly neighbours like Bhutan and Bangladesh. This the reason why all active militant groups – except for those in Garo Hills of Meghalaya – now have strong roots in Myanmar where the government is yet to assist India in its fight against militancy. Myanmar government’s contention that its forces are too busy tackling home-grown militancy to help India may not stand long if the Narendra Modi-led government decides to have its say on the south-east Asian neighbour. The government should no longer tolerate atrocious deals like Myanmar’s ‘ceasefire’ with NSCN-K which ‘taxes’ Indian citizens in Nagaland for keeping its hearth warm across the border!
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on June 6, 2015)