Internal Security Issues 104 – The Northeast Insurgency | Part 2

In the second part of the series on the Northeast insurgency, we analyse the factors responsible for the insurgency, the challenges being faced and  the impact of insurgency on the region’s economy. (The first part of the series is here)

Factors responsible for insurgency in the Northeast

  • Lack of development and basic amenities coupled with corruption and diversion of funds, often to the coffers of insurgents e.g. siphoning of food-grains meant for the public distribution system, a large proportion of which falls in the hands of the militants
  • Unemployment problem in the region stands as a major cause for sustained insurgency.
  • Feeling of alienation and deprivation among the tribal population
  • Demography: In spite of several political permutations and combinations, the political boundaries in most cases do not coincide with the existing social boundaries. It has lead to the demands of various ethnic categories for recognition of their distinctive identity.
  • Similar ethnicity across the border on Myanmar side
  • Porosity of the border with Myanmar due to difficult terrain
  • Change in demographic pattern due to infiltration from across the border
  • Disconnect with the other parts of India and fellow Indians
  • Widespread corruption among the ruling elite
  • Lack of visionary leadership among the tribal communities
  • Easy availability of arms and ammunition
  • Political support from various factions
  • Instability in Myanmar
  • Factional in-Fighting among the insurgent groups.
  • Military reasons – AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Act).
  • External support – China and Myanmar.

Challenges and concerns:

1. The linkage with organised crime

The biggest challenge to the North East is extortion carried out by various insurgent groups. Extortion has become meticulously organised activity in the region and is one of the major sources of funds for the militants. Other sources of their funding include arms and drugs smuggling.

2. Maoist Consolidation in North East:

The Maoists have been able to extend the red corridor to the Northeast. The arrests of various top Maoist leaders in this region during 2013 revealed the extent of Maoist infiltration in Northeast India.

The Maoist rebellion in Northeast India is at present in its ‘latent phase’ which involves mobilization of the masses, political awakening, visiting villages, engaging in small struggles on local issues, picking up students’ issues, fighting corruption, short–listing shelter and arms dumps and identification of local militant elements.

3. Spread of Islamist Militancy:

Northeast India, shares an 1880 km long porous border with Bangladesh, a country that is a hotbed of Islamist militancy. Though radical Islam has not yet seeped into the Muslim population in the region, the arrests of twelve persons in Assam during November‐December 2014 with links with the Islamist terror outfit Jamaat‐ul‐Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) shows that radicalization of a section of Muslim population has begun in the region.

4. Trans-national linkages

India’s Northeast is one of South Asia’s hottest trouble spots, not simply because the region has as many as 30 armed insurgent organizations operating and fighting the Indian state, but because trans-border linkages that these groups have, and strategic alliances among them, have acted as force multipliers and have made the conflict dynamics all the more intricate.

The impact of insurgency on economy:

 The persistent insurgency atmosphere has been the most important contributor to economic stagnation of the region.

1. Connectivity:

The gateway to the North Eastern Region is the chicken’s neck of Siliguri area in North Bengal and all flows to and from the Region on the surface routes have to pass through this neck and the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam, Guwahati being the grand nodal point. Therefore, any disturbance in the Brahmaputra Valley and/or its adjoining hills brings the activities in the whole of the Region to a stand-still position.

2. Infrastructure:

The subversive activities of the insurgents’ damage rail tracks, cause accidents leading to loss of life and property, create terror among the travelers and throw the entire system out of gear. Similarly, vehicles in the State and National highways are often attacked, passengers and transport workers are killed or wounded and sometimes abducted for ransom; and goods are looted.

3. Industry including petroleum and tea:

As the articulated economic grievance hovers around the idea of so called regional colonialism based on the alleged drain of rich resources of the region, any violent political movement makes petroleum and tea as its target.

4. Environment:

On the one hand, insurgents damage forests by taking shelter there and on the other, anti insurgency operations also lead to denudation of forests. This not only means that conservation activities and other forestry operations are hampered thus resulting in the loss of valuable natural resources but also that a grave threat is posed to the fragile ecology of the region.

5. Development of the interior areas

The insurgency has aggravated the problem to such an extent that development workers of both the Government and NGOs are utterly discouraged from going to the hilly and rural areas as they face constant extortion and threats of abduction or death.The insurgents by breeding a cult of hatred against the supposed or real outsiders are blocking all inflows of resources, ideas, expertise and initiative to the societies of the North East.


In the next part, we will analyse Government’s response to the NE insurgency and the way ahead . (Click here for part 3). This is supposed to be one of the most comprehensive series in Internal Security related Issues. Your feedback is welcome ?

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