Maoist Armed Conflict – More than Insurgency

An Exclusive on How & Why Insurgencies in Northeast, currently facing the threat of absolute wipe-out, can rise up from its Phoenix ashes to become the most feared and deadliest ever.

By- Akashdeep Mahanta

The Communist Party of India-Maoist or Naxalites trying to forge links with the insurgent groups of Northeast India is no longer a new story. There were multiple attempts from a long period by the Red rebels in allying with major insurgent groups of NE region for strategic reasons as well as for arms procurement; however those attempts had largely failed initially due to ideological differences between the path of revolutionaries and secessionists. The rebel groups of NE, mostly fighting for Independent homelands felt insecure at shaking hands with a pro-Indian rebel group. This was much to the frustration of the Maoist leaders as northeast was a high priority for strengthening their military as this region was the main route of access to the huge illegal weapons market into India. This was especially important after their previous major weapon supplier LTTE was almost wiped out in Sri Lanka. Efforts however continued from the CPI-Maoists to tie up with Northeast rebel groups.

Look North-East philosophy of Maoist

As per sources, the Eastern Region Bureau of the CPI-Maoist under leadership of national chief of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) Kishenji alias Koteswara Rao was entrusted with the mission of establishing a strong foothold for their organization in the North East. This time, Kishenji had a two-tier plan. He not only decided to improve relations with the rebel outfits, but also decided to set up their own bases in the region, especially in Assam, taking advantage of the NE rebel groups being progressively sidelined by the Government of India, luring with talks on political power and money besides their own internal conflicts.

By the time Kishenji admitted during a media interview in January 2010 that he has met ULFA Commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah and that he wants the ULFA, the PLA and other such groups to fight the exploitative Indian state alongside them, strong relationships between Maoists and Insurgent groups of NE were already in the making. In Manipur, the Maoists signed an agreement with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) back in October 21-22, 2008 where the PLA and the CPI-Maoist swore to honor and support the sovereignty of the two countries, – India and Manipur as well as to extend full moral and political support to each other in the liberation struggles to overthrow the common enemy, i.e. Indian oppressive rule.

The Maoists have also established links with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isaac Muivah) and this fact has been admitted by none other than Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai on May 9, 2010. In fact the self-styled Foreign Secretary of the Naga outfit, Anthony Shimray who was arrested from Kathmandu on October 2, 2010 confessed to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) team that he had booked a huge consignment of sophisticated weapons in China worth Rs. 4.5 crore for the Maoists. It came in sharp contrast to earlier claims by Muivah who had stated that NSCN (IM) had turned down offers from Maoists in helping them with arms and ammunitions.

The Danger ahead – for Assam and other states of North East

When Aditya Bora, a former ULFA militant and two others were arrested at a Maoist camp in the Saranda Forest bordering Odisha and Jharkhand, the immediate conclusion that media made was that ULFA had started providing training to Maoists. However later it came to light that Aditya Bora was no longer associated with ULFA as he had left the outfit due to ideological differences and that he was the President of the Assam Students’ Youth Organization (ASYO), a over ground Maoist group in Assam. His other accomplice was found to be Tingrai Orang, general secretary of Assam Chah Janajati Suraksha Samiti (ACJSS) and this revelation was enough to ring the bells of the security forces and officials of the nation, – that the red corridor has extended itself to Assam already.

The emerging coalition of Maoists and NE insurgents, the Red Army setting up their own bases in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh poses a threat to change the course of insurgencies of the region to a much dangerous level. Although there seems less likelihood of a war-like situation in near future, there is ample scope for the Maoists to foster their influence in the region:

a)      Reasons of insurgency still remain alive

The reasons why insurgencies like ULFA emerged in Assam still remains the same in Assam as analyzed in the previous report ULFA makes End, But reasons are Alive. The Assam Government may continue to claim about links between Akhil Gogoi or KMSS with Maoists, but on the ground the fan base of KMSS, demanding land rights, scrapping of the mega-dams, etc have become synonymous with the agony of common men. Be it be the farmers plight or lack of industrialization, unemployment,- the agony of the common man continues to haunt all rural areas making it a happy hunting ground of Maoists recruiters and ideologues to foster their goal.

As observed by Ajit Kumar Singh, Research Fellow at Institute for Conflict Management, The Maoist foray into the NE is fraught with grave security risks. While insurgent violence by local groupings is on a clear decline, bad governance, fractious tribal politics, and a poor developmental profile combine with the rudderless remnants of failing insurgencies, provide an ideologically focused group like the Maoists an extraordinary opportunity to harness the abiding grievances of the region to their wider disruptive venture

And to prove these words, the fact that a Maoists Upper Assam Leading Committee (UALC) is already active in Assam and receives huge amount of money for promoting their cause is probably enough. Reports also indicate Maoists efforts to extend their base into the Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Kamrup, Sonitpur and Darrang Districts of Assam. The fact that over 20 Maoists, all local Assamese youths, have been arrested in Assam’s Tinsukia and Sivasagar Districts in the last three months is indeed worrying.

b)      Maoist struggle more a class struggle, not communal

The armed struggle of groups like ULFA was mostly communal in nature, due to which the outfit lost the support of most tribal communities and ethnic groups of Assam. For example, the Killing of Amitabh Rabha, son of Chandra Rabha and a Central Committee leader of United Reservation Movement Council of Assam (URMCA) at Tamulpur of Nalbari on November 17th, 1990 had brought the first rift between ULFA and Ethnic groups of the land which continued till date. Similarly, other major insurgent outfits were engaged in tribal wars and fights amongst different communities, – Nagas Vs Meities, Bodos Vs Adivasis, etc. On the other hand, the Maoist armed struggle philosophy unites all oppressed and poor in a common pool, which takes the form of a class and mass struggle instead of a mere communal struggle which the Northeast rebel groups engaged in, much to the dislike of the common man.

In fact, the only condition the Maoists have attempted to impose on the Northeastern groups is that they should stop carrying out massacres of Hindi speaking civilians and stick to attacking only the   enemies of the people, and not the poor, wherever they come from. At today’s scenario, with most insurgent outfits of the Northeast slowly coming together under China’s advice to unite, there is little doubt that such a mere compromise will not be made by NE rebels.

c)      Nature of Trainings – terrain specific

One of the main disadvantages that armed rebel groups of North East faced, though they never admitted it, is their nature of training. While they receive and train with the most sophisticated weapons and undergo the most rigorous guerilla war-fare training, their skills are often limited to war-fare in hilly terrains and not in plains. This is mostly because the insurgent stick to training camps in dense forests and remote hilly areas of north east. As a result, when they come out in open plains, whether it’s the ULFA or PLA, they struggle to some extent fighting from behind trees or paddy fields.

On the other hand, the Maoist training bases mostly focus on terrain-specific fights in plains such as putting up camouflaged fights from paddy fields etc. The security forces have admitted themselves that the Red Army cadres have mastered the art of terrain specific guerilla war.

As a case in point, just over two months back the single-handed fight of a Naxal woman commander of Chatgaon dalam, Raneeta Hichami, alias Ramco with her .303 rifle against a a huge group of commandos armed with sophisticated arms was held with high respect by media as well as security forces themselves. Raneeta was fighting bravely even after suffering bullet injuries until her comrades (some of them injured) were able to move away safely. Most importantly, in spite of limited ammunition she alone kept the forces guessing about the number and position of the Naxals in the cornfields by switching positions until she was gunned down much later by the crawling commandos. From this incident, one thing is certain; – The Maoist training has been able to make their cadres most deadly and fearless guerilla fighters, a nightmare for security forces.

In North east too, with increasing partnership of Maoist-Ne rebels as well as their own bases, the armed cadres of this region in coming future can be expected to be better trained in ground conditions and thereby create further destruction to life, property and security. 

The insurgencies of the Northeast, currently facing the threat of absolute wipe-out can rise up from its Phoenix ashes to gain strength over a period in all fields, – training, tactics and strategies of warfare. With Maoists, they would find a greater nationwide force ready to and create further and newer bloodshed in the region. Unless of course the root of all issues are controlled and proper preventive actions enacted by Government.

And just in case one doubts what intentions the Maoists have in Northeast apart from obvious proximity to a weapon market through its porous border, the following excerpt from the Maoist Party Programme document would probably explain:

The struggles of the Kashmiri, Naga, Assamese, Manipuri and other nationalities in north-eastern region are already going on by assuming the armed form. The people of these oppressed nationalities are not only fighting for their identity but also for the just cause of achieving their honorable right of self-determination, including the right of secession and the demand for secession.

Our party must unequivocally support these nationalities’ struggles. It must also resolutely oppose the vicious attempt of the Indian ruling classes to suppress these movements with their military might. The right of self-determination including, and up to, the right of secession, must be firmly upheld and highlighted in all circumstances.

ACJSSAditya BoraAnthony ShimrayArmed conflictAssamAssam Students Youth OrganizationASYOChah Janajati Suraksha SamitiChandra RabhaCommunist Party of India-MaoistG K PillaiInsurgencyKishenjiKMSSKoteswara RaoMaoistMaoists Upper Assam Leading CommitteeNalbariNational Investigation AgencyNational Socialist Council of NagalandNaxal woman commanderNaxalitesNIANorth EastNSCNParesh BaruahPeople’s Liberation Guerrilla ArmyPLAPLGARed rebelsrevolutionariesULFAURMCA