On 4 December, an unfortunate incident took place in Nagaland in the midst of the ongoing Hornbill Festival, which marks the rich traditions of the Naga Community. 15 people, including 14 civilians and one special forces personnel, have been killed in the district. A murder case has also been filed. In the evening, the situation turned tense in Mon town as angry protesters surrounded the Assam rifles camp and set it on fire. The Mon area is the stronghold of Naga group NSCN(K) and even ULFA and the incident comes during the state’s signature “Hornbill Festival”, which is being attended by several diplomats.
Seven Naga tribal groups, including the Konyak community, to which the villagers belonged, declared that they would not participate in the festival.
The sequence of events is unfortunate, to say the least, as had been pointed out by both Nagaland Chief Minister and the Union Home Minister. However, the entire episode should be analysed keeping in view the recent incidents and the security scenario prevailing in the region and across the border of Myanmar and China. It is worthy to mention that the persistence with which insurgent groups billeted in Myanmar has been attacking security forces in North East has become a cause of concern the latest being the ambush on 46th Assam Rifles where Commanding Officer Colonel Viplav Tripathi, his family members, and four other soldiers were killed in the Singhat sub-division of Manipur’s Churachandpur district. Prior to that the ambush on the Dogras on 4 June 2015 is still fresh in mind. The analysis of the attack on Colonel Tripathy now clearly points the finger to Manohar Mayum, the commander-in-chief of the PLA, who planned the attack in all probability with the tacit assistance of his Chinese handlers. The drugs trade was prevalent among Myanmar-based insurgent groups, the execution of the ambush bang on the drug route and the existence of Mayum in the Ruili area, and the strong action taken by the late Colonel against drug traffickers should also be kept in mind while analysing the whole situation. Another moot point is the shelter purportedly given by China to ULFA supremo Paresh Baruah as his location strongly indicates the Ruili area of Yunan Province of China.
In the chequered history of counter-insurgency in the North East, Mon-type incidents abound the most important being the Kakopathar Incident of 2006 where 10 innocent persons were gunned down. But at the same time, we should also remember the Dhemaji school bombing incident in Assam conducted by ULFA on 15-08-2004 where 18 innocent lives including children were lost. The takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban has also an adverse effect not only in India but also in the North -East and the recent statement of the CM Assam regarding the missing of many youths belonging to a particular community and efforts to locate them is an eloquent testimony of the ominous theory of radicalization. All these clearly indicate the complexity of the 262,179 Square Kilometer of landmass connected precariously through the Siliguri Corridor to mainland India and favourite place for proxy war by nations and forces inimical to the national security.
The recent address to IPS probationers by NSA Ajit Doval stated that wars are no longer an effective instrument for achieving political or military objectives and civil society can be subverted and suborned to hurt the interest of the nation in the form of Fourth Generation warfare by foreign nations inimical to India is an important point to keep in mind. Though the statement generated a barrage of objections from several important personalities it is quite clear that nations like Pakistan and China are trying to foment trouble in India and for them, the North East India in general and Nagaland, in particular, will be a favourite place to muddle in troubled water keeping in view the historical background of the Naga imbroglio. In fact, the Fifth Generation of Warfare or War of Information and Perception conducted through non-kinetic military action, such as social media operations, misinformation, cyber attacks, etc., have also become a distinct possibility.
In the backdrop of the above analysis, it is strongly felt that both the state and civil society have their role to play to come out of this difficult situation. The state on its part should conduct complete an impartial enquiry and bring the guilty to task in a time-bound manner. However, the very difficult situation under which the special forces operate should also be kept in mind during the conduct of the enquiry. The recommendations of the enquiry should be implemented at the earliest. The innocent victims and their families should be adequately compensated not only in words but in action. Last but not the least is the words of security analyst Shri Jaideep Saikia: “The need of the hour is, therefore, the constitution of a North East Security Council under the PMO, which in its ambit would address traditional security issues like border management, illegal migration, drug-gun running, insurgency and Islamist terror. The formation of such a council would also decisively inform the Northeast that New Delhi is serious about the region’s health.”
The civil society, on its part, should also keep in mind the inimical forces trying their best to create trouble in this area and it should ensure prevention of its penetration to society. Though it is easier said than done, constant interaction among the leading communities which constitute the cultural mosaic of NE will definitely bring about positive changes in the system. The contribution of the Naga Regiment, which recruits mainly from Nagaland and NE, to winning the Kargil War-the stellar role played by Sepoy Imliakum Ao earning Maha Vir Chakra, in the UN mission in Sudan, and in other nation-building processes and the history of its formation should be highlighted and fondly remembered. The 10 days Hornbill Festival, which is a reflection of Naga’s ethos and its traditional closeness to nature and a symbol of Naga Eco-Tourism playing a significant role in the economy and distinct identity of Nagas, is expected to bring a sobering effect on the situation.