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Maoist Threat Emerging in Assam : Pillai

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Insurgency-related violence is on the decline in northeastern states, with the exception of Meghalaya, which has seen a sudden increase in violent activities by militants, former Home Minister G.K. Pillai said Monday.

While states such as Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh have seen a decline in insurgency-related violence, the law and order situation in Meghalaya has deteriorated, Pillai said. “There were only 61 incidents of violence in Nagaland in 2011 compared to 64 in 2010, and no security personnel have been killed in Nagaland in recent years,” Pillai said.

Pillai was in Guwahati to attend the seminar “Sustaining Peace in Northeast India: Changing Dimensions,” organized by the Center for Development and Peace Studies.

In Assam, the number of violent incidents dropped from 251 in 2010 to 145 in 2011, and only 46 extremists were killed last year, compared with 109 in 2010. He said the militants’ support base has also shrunk after several factions surrendered and participated in the democratic process by contesting elections.

The situation in Manipur, perhaps the most troubled state in the northeast, appears to be improving. The number of incidents has dropped from 367 in 2010…. to 298 in 2011,” added Pillai, who is a distinguished fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses.

However, the number of security personnel killed increased from six in 2010 to 10 in 2011, probably due to the fact that no real dialogue with militant groups has taken place in Manipur so far. He also pointed out that the state police have become politicized and highly dysfunctional. Arunachal Pradesh is by and large peaceful, with the exception of the two districts of Tirap and Changlang.

Even in Tripura, the situation is improving: there were only 13 incidents in 2011 compared to 30 in 2010, Pillai said. But Meghalaya tells a different story.

In recent years, however, law and order in Meghalaya has deteriorated. In 2011, there were 56 incidents in Meghalaya, compared to 29 in 2010,” Pillai said, adding that growing tribal rivalries and political uncertainties have led to a lack of focus on governance and security issues. “Mizoram and Sikkim are beacons of peace and other states in the region must learn from their example,” Pillai added.

New Maoist threat in Assam
Pillai said the Maoists are beginning to threaten Assam. “The Maoists’ strategy is to fish in troubled waters and exploit any grievance or even perceived grievance. This must be addressed at the grassroots political level and not turn into an armed movement,” Pillai said.

Political party workers should counter Maoist propaganda at the village level and educate people about the negative effects of violence. “The Maoists have a fascist character and do not believe in parliamentary democracy.

They believe in an armed movement to take over political power. The subtle campaign of the Maoists, posing as champions of the underdog and protectors of the destitute, is only a part of their broad-based campaign to seize political power through armed struggle,” he said.

Pillai urged the Assam government to nip Maoism in the bud by learning from the experiences of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who was also present, acknowledged the problem of rebels but said that a Maoist revolution would not succeed in that state.

“In states like Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, farmers are heavily exploited. So there is discontent among them, and Naxalism is on the rise in these states,” Gogoi said, adding that farmers in Assam were far less harassed.

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