Internal insurgency

Internal insurgency

Insurgency in North east India

The British had generally followed a policy of non-interference in the NEI. However, the newly independent India in 1947 had the formidable task of uniting various princely states not only of NEI but of the country as a whole. The integration of these distinct cultures of NEI into the “mainstream” was generally met with resentment. The insurgencies started with Naga Hills. Under the leadership of Phizo, the Naga National Council (NNC) declared independence from India on 14 Aug 1947. Despite efforts at political settlement by various leaders of that time, the unrest did not die. As a result, Indian Army (IA) was ordered to undertake Counter-Insurgency (CI) operations in Jan 1956, after the Government of India (GoI) declared Naga Hills as a disturbed area. Thereafter, various regions proactively voiced their demands for freedom/independence, and initiating insurgencies in the region.

There are various reasons for the insurgencies to be born in North east India. These are as under :

Multi-Ethnic Region

North east India is the most ethnically diverse region in India. It is home to around 40 million people including 213 of the 635 tribal groups listed by the Anthropological Survey of India.2 Each of these tribes is having its own distinct culture. Thus, each tribal sect resents being integrated into the mainstream India as it means losing their own distinct identity.

Underdeveloped Region

Due to the difficult terrain configuration of jungles and mountains, infrastructural development in North east has generally been slow, often at a snail’s pace. This has widened the schism between the North east India and mainstream India, and further increased a sense of disenchantment with the Government.


Lack of Economic Development

GoI’s economic policies have also fuelled resentment and insecurity amongst the people. Due to various factors, the development of NEI has lagged behind thereby resulting in lack of employment opportunities. Thus the youth are easily lured by various insurgent groups in order to earn easy money.

Sense of Isolation, Deprivation and Exploitation

Distance from New Delhi and meagre representation in the Lok Sabha has further reduced the vox populi being heard in the corridors of powers, leading to more disillusionment in the dialogue process, thereby making call of the gun more attractive.

Demographic Changes

The influx of refugees from former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) into Assam led to a dramatic change in the demographic landscape of the region. In the Mangaldai by-election in 1979, there were about 45,000 illegal immigrants in the electoral rolls.3 This led to discontent amongst the people of the region, thereby giving rise to insurgency in Assam with the United National Liberation Front (ULFA), formed on 7 Apr 1979, leading the mass anti-immigrant agitation.

Internal insurgency in Kashmir

In 1980, the Islamization of Kashmir began with full force. The Abdullah Government changed the names of about 2500 villages from their original names to new Islamic names. For example, the major city of Anantnag was to be known as Islamabad (same name as the Pakistani Capital).

There was clearly an orchestrated public relations campaign to change the Kashmiri people. There was the distribution of a pamphlet titled the “Tragedy of Kashmir”. Suddenly thousands of copies of Pakistani writer Muhammed Yusuf Saraf’s book “Kashmiris Fight for Freedom” appeared in the Valley, as did “On Guerrilla War” by Che Guevara.

In early 1986 were the first clear outbreaks of violence when Muslim fundamentalists attacked the minority Kashmiri Pandits. 46  The exact reason of the outbreak remains unclear, but at the end of it dozens of Pandits had been killed and 24 Hindu temples had been burnt by Muslim mobs.

Violent disturbances such as these were all carried out in the name of Islam. The Governor of Kashmir at the time, Jagmohan, observed that most of the disturbances that took place occurred on Friday nights as crowds dispersed from the mosques 48 . Mosques became a platform for religious sermons intermingled with fiery political speeches. The people delivering these speeches were often trained mullahs, who had been sent to Kashmir from Pakistan for this specific purpose.

Before the 1980s, there were pockets of Islamic Fundamentalism present in isolated parts of Kashmir, notably in Sopore and around the Anantnag region. It’s important to appreciate the difference between Kashmiri Islam and the more mainstream fanatical Islam which took over the rest of the Islamic world in recent centuries. In Kashmiri Islam, a variant of Sufism, there is much Hindu Vedanta influence stemming from the fact that most Kashmiri Muslims were originally Hindus who had been converted between 1300-1800. In fact, Kashmiri Islam is based upon the teaching of their Rishis, a word borrowed from their original Hindu philosophy meaning learned scholar.

The insurgents were impacted by very different foreign influences than earlier movements for independence in the valley. The advent of television sets on a mass scale in Kashmir in the late 1980s allowed the Kashmiris to watched indigenous Afghans rise to defeat the Soviet superpower. The impact of this television coverage was serious; in fact, government sources say that there was an order issued to Indian T.V. not to present these scenes in Kashmir.

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