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North East Insurgency: UNLF signed peace deal with Centre

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Internal Security: Insurgencies

  

Context: The UNLF (United National Liberation Front) is the oldest valley-based, Meitei insurgent group in Manipur signed a peace agreement with the central government

 

About UNLF:

It was formed on November 24, 1964, with the goal of secession from India. Led by Arembam Samarendra Singh initially, it has two factions presently, with the armed wing known as the Manipur People’s Army. The UNLF has operated in the valley areas of Manipur and some Kuki-Zomi hill districts, receiving training from the NSCN (IM), a Naga insurgent group. Proscribed under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, it has faced setbacks, operating from Myanmar’s regions.

In 1986, Mizo National Front (MNF) transformed into a mainstream political party.  The Mizoram Accord of 1986 marked the end of insurgency in the state.

 

For Insurgency in Manipur: Click Here

Other agreements signed recently:

AgreementDetails
Assam-Meghalaya Inter-State Boundary Agreement (2022)The agreement aims to resolve disputes in six sectors. Assam receives about 181 sq. km, and Meghalaya gets about 18 sq. km of the disputed areas.
Karbi Anglong Agreement (2021)A tripartite agreement involving five Assam insurgent groups, the Centre, and the state government. Five militant organizations (KLNLF, PDCK, UPLA, KPLT, and KLF) laid down arms, with over 1,000 armed cadres transitioning to mainstream society.
Bodo Accord (2020)Signed by the central government, Assam government, and Bodo groups (including NDFB factions), it redraws and renames the Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD) as the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) in Assam.
Bru-Reang Agreement (2020)A quadripartite agreement involving the Centre, Mizoram, Tripura governments, and Bru leaders. Aims to settle Bru community members, indigenous to Northeast India, in Tripura, with the Home Ministry covering settlement expenses.
NLFT-Tripura Agreement (2019)NLFT, banned since 1997, reached an agreement resulting in the surrender of 88 cadres with 44 weapons. The National Liberation Front of Tripura operated from camps across the international border.
Roll Back of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)The government withdrew AFSPA from a significant part of the Northeast, including the entire Tripura and Meghalaya. In Arunachal Pradesh, AFSPA remains enforced in only three districts.

 

Status of insurgencies in North-East:

Last year, the Union Government reported that there has been an 80% decline in civilian deaths and 6,000 militants have surrendered in North East India since 2014.

 

Factors Leading to Insurgency in Northeast India:

FactorsDetails
Multi-ethnicityNortheast India (NEI) is highly ethnically diverse, home to around 40 million people, including 213 of the 635 tribal groups listed by the Anthropological Survey of India.
Government attempts at integration without understanding tribal nuances fuel insurgencies. Inter-tribal rivalries exacerbate ethnic insurgencies.
Historical The region’s complex history of colonialism, post-independence border disputes, and socio-economic challenges have fueled the rise of various insurgent groups seeking autonomy, identity preservation, and socio-economic development.
E.g., Naga National Council (NNC) declared independence from India on August 14, 1947, under the leadership of Phizo.
Lack of Economic DevelopmentLagging development in NEI results in limited employment opportunities. Insurgent groups exploit economic hardships, attracting disenchanted youth.
Sense of Isolation, Deprivation, and ExploitationGeographic distance from New Delhi and limited Lok Sabha representation breed disillusionment. Reduced voice in corridors of power fuels discontent, making armed rebellion attractive.
Demographic ChangesRefugee influx from former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) alters the region’s demographics.
Internal Displacement– Ongoing internal displacement, particularly due to inter-ethnic violence, heightens instability.
External SupportChina and Pakistan’s covert offensive in the region raises concerns. Pakistan’s Special Services Group (SSG) historically supported Naga guerrillas.
NNC leaders sought Chinese support in 1967, marking Chinese involvement in NEI.  The success of China’s people’s revolution inspired insurgent leaders, fueling the rebellion.
Perceived Excesses by the Indian Army (AFSPA)Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) alienates locals, seen as draconian. Essential for counterinsurgency, AFSPA faces criticism from Human Rights organizations, vilifying it in the eyes of insurgent groups.
Sources of FundingFunding through extortion, arms, and drug smuggling. Proximity to the Golden Triangle facilitates illegal drug trade, supporting separatist organizations.

 

Institutional Measures to Address Insurgency in Northeast India:

MeasuresDetails
Ceasefire AgreementsOngoing ceasefire agreements with various other militant groups across states. The oldest agreement with N.S.C.N.-I.M. dates back to July 25, 1997.
Peace TalksE.g., the Nagaland peace accord in 2015 with NSCN to end the insurgency.
Military OperationsSecurity force operations, including the army, state police, and paramilitary forces, to contain militancy. Military operations, e.g., air strikes in Mizoram and operations like Rhino and Bajrang against U.L.F.A. militants
AFSPAAFSPA in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, and parts of Arunachal Pradesh
Strengthening Micro-democratic InstitutionsEmpowerment of local governance modules like autonomous development councils, gram panchayats, and village councils. Enhanced functionality and legitimacy, bringing diverse communities into the development stream.
Developmental MeasuresImplementation of programs like Border Area Development and Hill Area Development.
Special category status to Northeast states; Developmental assistance for Infrastructure projects through Bharatmala Pariyojana
Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS)-UDAN; Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Project, India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway Digital North East Vision 2022 National Bamboo Mission

 

Conclusion

The insurgencies of NEI have continued for the past seven decades despite various efforts by the Government of India for a permanent solution. However, with the older generation passing away and the new generation having little interest in insurgencies, the time is ripe to hammer out a long-term strategy for the elimination of residual insurgencies.

  

Insta Links:

Insurgency in North East India (NEI)

 

Mains Links

Q1. The North-East region of India has been infested with insurgency for a very long time. Analyse the major reasons for the survival of armed insurgency in this region. (UPSC 2017)

 

Q2. Human rights activists constantly highlight the fact that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) is a draconian act leading to cases of human rights abuses by security forces. What sections of AFSPA are opposed by the activists? Critically evaluate the requirement with reference to the view held by the Apex Court. (UPSC 2015)

 

Prelims Links

Which Schedule of the Constitution of India contains special provisions for the administration and control of Scheduled Areas in several States? (UPSC 2008)

(a) Third
(b) Fifth
(c) Seventh
(d) Ninth

 

Ans: B