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KeywordsIndiaBangladeshBhutanethnic separatismIslamic extremismterrorism

The problem of separatist extremism in India in the twenty-first century has not only not exhausted itself, but has also developed noticeably. The traditional hotbed of instability is a group of seven states of North-Eastern India (NEI). The states of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland were the most turbulent in the past decade. The unresolved nature of various conflicts and contradictions between local ethnic groups, economic problems and the transparency of borders with neighboring states have led to the persistence of increased terrorist activity of separatist groups in this region of the state*.

Map of Northeast India.

Given the long history of many ethnic separatist movements, some of which have adopted terrorist methods since the 1960s, it is important to emphasize that their demands still focus mainly on the right to form a new state within the Indian federation according to the principle of ethnicity, as well as on obtaining independence within the framework of the country's constitution. Methods of fighting for the implementation of the demands of the most radical movements of various SWI ethnic groups (AssameseBodoNagaMizo, etc.) are systematic attacks on government forces, government officials and private businesses, as well as on various infrastructure facilities. Countering the extremists of the region is the main task of various paramilitary groups - Assamese Riflemen, Border Security Forces, Indo-Tibetan Border Forces, etc. However, the Indian government prefers to solve the problems of SVI without the participation of regular troops.


Traditionally, an important factor influencing the development of various separatist groups is the use of militant training camps on the territory of neighboring states in the region. For example, most of the major Assam United Liberation Front (OFLF) bases in the early 2000s were located in Bhutan and Bangladesh. The All-Singapore Tiger Force (TDF) had bases adjacent to the OFO camps in Bangladesh. The TSA and Assamese groups such as the Bodoland National Democratic Front (NDFB) and the Bodo Liberation Tigers had numerous bases in Bhutan. As a result, more than 10 major terrorist groups in Northeastern India had permanent camps in neighboring Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.1

The Governments of these Countries had different approaches to this problem. For example, Dhaka has not officially recognized the fact of communication with the OFO militants and other terrorist groups for a long time, denying the presence of extremist camps on its territory. Since 1993, Bhutan has refused to authorize a joint operation with India on its territory because of its unwillingness to violate its sovereignty. However, the authorities of this small Himalayan state failed to solve the problem on their own. The bet was made on negotiations, as the forces of the Royal Army were not enough to effectively fight the Indian militants. In the late 1990s, Bhutanese authorities negotiated with the OFLA and other groups to dismantle their main bases. However, the agreements of 1999-2001 were not implemented in practice. For the Indian military forces, the militant camps were also out of reach.

The improvement of Bhutanese-Indian relations in the early 2000s changed the usual balance of power for Indian separatists. In line with the development of the strategic partnership between India and Bhutan, a landmark event was held in December 2003.

* For more information, see: Likhachev K. A. India: Nationalism does not give up / / Asia and Africa Today, 2011, N 2 (editor's note).

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joint anti-terrorist operation. The main battles of Operation All Clear (VHF) unfolded in Southern Bhutan, where the concentration of militant bases was greatest. More than 30 bases were destroyed: 13 of the OFO, 12 of the NDFB and 5 of the Kamtapur Liberation Organization. In total, about 700 militants were neutralized.2 The VHF was the most sensitive blow to separatist forces, especially Assamese groups, outside India in all previous years.

At the same time, it is important to emphasize that it is the OFO group that is traditionally the main enemy of the Indian government, not only in Assam, but also in SWI as a whole. A large number of indirect facts indicate that this large group has practically ceased to protect the interests of the Assamese ethnic group proper, has long been guided by its own criminal interests and has close ties with the Interdepartmental Intelligence Service of Pakistan (IP). However, the activity of OFA has been so high in recent years that it requires a more detailed review in a separate article.

The role of another active Assamese group of the Bodo ethnic group, the NDFB, should also be highlighted. In 2003, the leader of the All-Fatherland Students ' Union confirmed that the NDFB had already established links with the MR and the General Directorate of Military Intelligence (GAD) of Bangladesh in the late 1990s, after which it began to work together with the OFA 3.

In general, information about the close connection of these two groups with the special services of Pakistan and Bangladesh was available earlier, but over time there was more and more evidence of this. For example, Paresh Barua, the leader of the OFOA, has been living in a GOVER-protected building in the Dhaka suburbs since 1990. At the same time, it is known that OFO field commanders regularly traveled to Pakistan for consultations and training in the 1990s, using false passports issued in Bangladesh. And even though the Islamic extremists and Assamese separatists do not share a common ideology, the presence of a common enemy has created the ground for their cooperation. Many Indian experts believe that Assam, with its extremely complex ethnic palette and geostrategic location, presents Pakistan with a good opportunity to weaken India with the "thousand cuts"method. According to them, the main goal of Islamabad is to pull part of the Indian troops from Kashmir to Assam through terrorist attacks.4


In addition to the military component, the central government of India did not avoid the policy of peace agreements with the largest groups. In particular, a number of such agreements in the 1980s with separatist groups for a certain period of time led to the stabilization of the socio-political situation in Nagaland, Mizoram and Assam. Despite the fact that most of the separatists then went over to the number of moderates, the most radical militants did not lay down their weapons. Among them are the factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, the NDFB and others. However, the split in the ranks of the separatists had a negative impact on their combat potential and allowed for a certain time to reduce the level of violence. That is why the Indian government's forceful counteraction to the separatists was periodically supplemented by regular negotiations with them.

The central government's bid for negotiations provided for two options for the development of events: either concluding a final peace or delaying the negotiation process. In any case, the active phase of the confrontation stopped. In addition, due to the long absence of active actions, the morale of the militants decreased, and their groups weakened, which also played into the hands of the authorities. In this case, if the separatists were the first to break the truce, and their activity led to the death of civilians belonging to the same ethnic group as the extremists themselves, they lost the support of the local population for a certain period. Therefore, delaying negotiations in the absence of consensus with the separatists was a good way to either reduce the group's morale or bring it to a marginal state. The main disadvantage of this strategy was that delaying negotiations could also be used by the extremists themselves to regroup forces.


In addition to the ethnic Assamese, a radical part of which still supports the independence of Assam (OFOA), the most numerous in this state are the Bodo tribes, who support the creation of a separate state - Bodoland. In 2001, one of Bodo's groups, the Bodo Liberation Tigers (TOB), laid down its arms and two years later, as a result of negotiations with the government, formed a legal administrative structure with partial self - government functions in the state-the Bodo5 However, in 2003, as a decade earlier, the reason for the uneven distribution of Bodo across Assam was a decisive factor in the central government's refusal to form a separate state of Bodoland. 6 Despite this, only the NDFB group remained in active opposition to the central authorities among the Bodo tribes. And it is possible that the NDFB's links with the OFA and MR played an important role here.

However, the VHF results had a negative impact on the positions of the OFA and NDFB. Therefore, 2004 was characterized by a decline in terrorist activity in Assam. And the following year, the NDFB leaders decided to engage in a peaceful dialogue with the central government of India, leaving the goal of creating an independent Bodoland within the framework of the Indian Constitution. On May 25, 2005, an official truce was signed between the NDFB and the Indian Government. Since then, the NDFB has set out to consolidate various groups and social strata of Bodo around itself in order to become the dominant political force. In fact, this meant the final transition from extremism to legal political activity. This strategy became possible after the split and serious armed clashes between the factions of the majority party of the Bodo tribes - the Progressive Front of the Bodo People. Now the personal income tax requirements have been reduced to the creation of a separate state 7.

Most likely, the government's strategy was based on the fact that in the current conditions, the NDFB will have no choice but to negotiate peace and legal political activities, which is even more painful-

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she will weaken the group's position. However, the leaders of the NDFB were disappointed in the negotiation process, although the group did not officially declare the end of the truce. The peaceful dialogue was maintained thanks to the position of the Government of India. Maintaining the status quo was beneficial to both the authorities and the NDFB: government forces gradually took control of areas affected by Bodo extremists, and NDFB fighters were able to gather strength and attract new members to their ranks without fear of persecution.

During this, if you can call it that, "peace negotiation process", the NDFB militants were repeatedly accused of violating the terms of the truce. A joint monitoring group consisting of representatives of the central Government, the Assam State Government and members of the NDFB, which was set up to monitor compliance with the truce, was unable to complete its tasks. Moreover, according to Indian intelligence, the OFO began to attract NDFB fighters dissatisfied with the long truce to commit terrorist attacks in the Bodo territories, in the Bodoland Territorial Zone district on the border with Bhutan. OFO leaders pushed the most radical members of the NDFB to take active actions that disrupted the negotiations.8 Moreover, in 2007, the union of NDFB and OFA, which had collapsed at the beginning of the decade, was revived. Despite this, NDFB leader Ranjan Daimari, who also lives in Bangladesh, said in an interview in May 2007 that he was not going to break the truce and would wait for the results of negotiations between the central government and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NCC) factions and other groups.9

By mid-2007, however, it was clear that the policy of peace agreements with extremists was largely failing to meet expectations. Between 2003 and 2005, the central Government signed a truce with nine factions in Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura. But only one of the factions of the National Front for the Liberation of Tripura (NFLN) did not violate the truce during this time.


Another state in Northeastern India, Manipur, has been increasingly turbulent throughout the second half of the 2000s. The situation in this economically undeveloped and densely populated region began to escalate after 2001, when a peace agreement between the Government and the FNL factions, at least for a while, tempered the separatist sentiments of the Naga tribes. However, such actions of the government caused serious dissatisfaction among Manipurians. Their fear was that the Naga tribes would eventually be able to create Nagalim (or "Great Nagaland") with the support of the authorities, including at the expense of the border districts of Manipur. The gradual escalation of violence resulted in 472 people being killed in Manipur between 2004 and 2007, despite the truce agreement.10 The activation of various Manipur groups, in particular the United National Liberation Front (ONFO), has demonstrated the inability of the authorities (at least temporarily) to control the situation and maintain the rule of law in this state.

Another terrorist attack here occurred on March 16, 2006, when a religious procession at the Krishna Birth festival was attacked (6 people were killed). For the first time in the history of Manipur, a terrorist attack affected places of religious worship 11. It is noteworthy that the terrorists used not the traditional ethnic or socio-economic reason for SVI, but a confessional one. This practice is typical mainly for Islamic extremists.

In December 2006, after questioning two ethnic Manipurians carrying several kilograms of RDX, it was revealed that one of them was a member of the Kashmiri terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LiT). The militant was a contact of the ONFO with this Kashmiri group, and also contacted representatives of LiT in Bangladesh 12. Thus, it turned out that the largest terrorist group in Kashmir, based in Pakistan, is expanding its area of influence not only in this region, but also in the north-east of the country.

A well-known Indian expert B. Raman notes that in 2007 - 2008, cooperation was discovered between the Islamic extremist group Harkat ul-Mujahideen (HauM) and the International Islamic Front (IIF)13 Osama bin Laden. At the same time, such local SVI groups as the Muslim OFOA, the Islamic Security Forces (ISF), and others were already involved in this alliance. One of the Khawm - Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen factions coordinated the actions of Indian Islamic extremists from Bangladesh. The strategy of Islamic extremist groups operating in the states of North-Eastern India, as well as in the OFO, at this time included attacks on unguarded "light" targets, while usually managing to avoid serious losses.14

In our opinion, the existence of links between local Islamic groups and international terrorist organizations, as well as with Pakistani and Bangladeshi extremist groups, is not so obvious. But the development of events in 2008-2009 confirmed the possibility of such a link in this SVI region.

It was Manipur that became the most unstable state in Northeastern India in 2008. Manipur accounted for more than 40% of the total losses due to increased terrorist activity in all seven states of the region. Thus, on March 18, 2008, 15 migrants from Bihar were shot dead in the Mayai Lambi workers ' camp15. Notably, the ethnic Manipur separatist groups ONFO and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) denounced the action as unacceptable, saying that the fight should be against the central government, not against the people. 16 The attack was aimed at intensifying inter - communal clashes between migrants, mostly ethnic Bihar, and local Manipur residents. And the biggest terrorist attack was a series of explosions on October 21, 2008 in the Manipur capital city of Imphal, which resulted in 17 civilian casualties.17 The handwriting of this terrorist attack was also similar to the usual actions of Islamic extremists. Hence the assumptions about the involvement of these tra-

page 47

This indirectly confirms the information about the expansion of the influence of this Kashmiri group in Manipur.

However, the central Government's main focus in 2008 was on countering the growing activity of local separatist groups. Due to the rapid increase in violence, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFRA) was reintroduced in Manipur in 2008. This act was first applied in 1958-it removed restrictions and responsibilities from the armed forces operating in areas of unrest. Officers were granted the right to search any private property or premises without a warrant or charge. 18 Since 1958, the Act has been in effect in Assam and Manipur, and since 1972, throughout North-East India.19

Subsequently, the Act has been suspended or introduced at various times in various Indian states. For example, in Manipur, in 2004, the ASPVS was suspended due to mass protests against the murder of an innocent woman who was retroactively accused of having links to extremists.20 Such cases have always attracted criticism from the public both inside and outside India.21 The situation in Manipur appears to have become so unstable in 2008 that the central Government was forced to reintroduce the APVS, despite its extreme unpopularity.

As for the other states of North-Eastern India, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Sikkim were virtually unaffected by extremism at the end of 2008. The situation in Tripura and Meghalaya states was characterized by moderate instability. In Assam, Manipur and Nagaland alone, more than 1,000 civilians were killed in terrorist attacks in 2008, about half of them in Manipur. As for the losses of militants, 489 were killed in 2007, and 609 in 200822.


For quite a long time, Nagaland remained the most conflicted state, except for Assam and Manipur, although in the period 2002 - 2006 it was located in the same state. a relative truce was maintained. However, by the summer of 2007, there was also an escalation of violence here, caused by a split and clashes between different factions of the NSSN. The growing number of casualties resulting from the confrontation between the NSSN (Issac-Muiwa) and NSSN (Khaplang) factions, as well as the NSSN (Unification) splinter faction (I-M), has led to serious destabilization of the situation. As a result, on 3 January 2008, the State Legislature passed a vote of no confidence in the Nagaland Democratic Alliance (DAN)Government, 23 voting in favour of direct presidential rule.24 And in India, this has always meant an extreme degree of political destabilization. However, the March 5, 2008 elections brought DAN back to power, although extremists called for a boycott. The new Government has declared its peaceful position in resolving disputes with naga25 extremists. But in the current situation, the peaceful position was ineffective and testified to the inability of the DAN to extinguish the surge of violence in the state by force.

Soon, the old hotbed of terrorism in Nagaland was rekindled.


Before the political crisis of 2006, Bangladesh's general political course was determined by the Islamist Bangladesh National Party( BNP), which denied any accusations by New Delhi of supporting Indian terrorist groups. Despite numerous meetings and negotiations with India since 2001 on a wide range of issues - economic, trade, border security, etc. - Dhaka has not conducted a real fight against Indian terrorist groups on its territory. But it was the presence of militant bases from North-Eastern India in Bangladesh that contributed to the preservation and rapid recovery of Indian separatist groups.26

It is noteworthy that Bangladesh itself, in the period 2005-2006, amid the growing political crisis, became an arena for the activation of local Islamist terrorist groups, especially the Jamaatpul Mujahideen Bangladesh. However, it seems that local Islamic extremism has not changed Dhaka's position on countering extremist organizations from India. Thus, according to reports from the Assam Border Security Forces, by 2006 there were 172 training camps for militants of various extremist organizations in Bangladesh.27 Bilateral cooperation within the framework of the Joint Working Group was limited to visits of Indian delegations to Dhaka in August-September 2005 and the signing of several agreements in the trade and oil and gas spheres.28

But in 2007, there were radical changes in the political situation in the region. The active activities of the Interim Government weakened the Islamist forces in Bangladesh, which had negative consequences for the SVI separatists. In August, at bilateral talks, the Indian side announced the need to extradite the leaders of the OFO living in Bangladesh. It is noteworthy that for the first time, the Bangladeshi delegation acknowledged the presence of Paresh Barua, the leader of the OFOA, on its territory, although it stated that Barua was allegedly released from Dhaka prison in 2003 at the insistence of the Bangladesh Human Rights Commission and subsequently went into hiding. At the same time, Bangladeshi diplomats promised that they would find P. Barua 29.

The victory of the secular center-left Bangladesh People's League party in December 2008 significantly weakened the influence of Islamists on various state institutions, including the GUVD. The policy of the central authorities of Bangladesh towards the OFLA and other Indian groups has clearly changed, which is evidence of some progress in India-Bangladesh relations.

As a result, in July 2009, at the 15th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt) Manmohan Singh called on his counterpart Sheikh Wajed Hasina to step up the fight against Indian extremist groups in Bangladesh. And the authorities of Bangladesh really soon began a major anti-terrorist operation. Paresh Barua was forced to flee Bangladesh, and OFOA, NDFB, LiT

page 48

and other groups have suffered serious losses in the course of fighting with government forces.30

January 12, 2010 India and Bangladesh announced the launch of comprehensive cooperation in combating cross-border terrorism, 31 and signed a package of five agreements that provided for the provision of $1 billion in Indian subsidies to Bangladesh for this purpose.32 This allows us to hope for a long-term solution to the problem of cross-border terrorism between the two states and for a serious weakening of separatist groups in North-Eastern India.


In 2009, amid improving relations with Dhaka, the central government of India decided to use force in the three most unstable states of SWI. The main vector was first directed to the territories of Arunachal Pradesh bordering Myanmar; the task was to prevent the militants from leaving the Indian territory. In February 2009, a large-scale anti-terrorist operation began here. Government forces targeted the bases of the OFLA, all factions of the NSSN, and many other groups.33 Subsequently, the area of operation expanded to include Assam, Manipur and Nagaland, which led to a retaliatory escalation of violence, especially in Assam. Thus, on April 6, 2009, on the eve of Manmohan Singh's visit to Assam, four explosions occurred in several cities of the state, killing 9 people.34 The OFO claimed responsibility for these and other terrorist attacks. However, in general, the effectiveness of the security policy was confirmed, which, in the end, led to a decline in terrorist activity in the SVI.

The summer anti-terrorist special operation in Bangladesh also proved effective. By September 2009, about 200 activists from various groups had surrendered to the Indian authorities, 35 which reduced the violence in SWI. Statistics show with confidence that the number of terrorist attacks and victims among the civilian population, government forces and separatists in this region significantly decreased by the beginning of 2011. So, in 2008, 1,051 people died, in 2009 - 853, and in 2010-322 people.36

Although it is too early to talk about the final solution to the problem of ethnic separatism in the SVI. Despite the fact that the largest terrorist group of the OFO has split - the main part of it has started negotiations with the government, and the NSSN factions and other groups in Manipur have gone into the shadows-the fundamental causes of the development of separatist extremism have not been resolved. The most dangerous situation is in Manipur, where, against the general background of serious socio-economic problems, ethnic clashes between the NagaKuki and Meitei peoples do not stop. And the possible expansion of Lashkar-e-Taib's influence in this state is an additional cause for concern.

D'Souza S.M. 1 Border Management and India's North East - a_180706

Chandramohan B. 2 Indo-Bhutan Joint Action against Insurgents - ramohan_051009

3 NDFB-ULFA Combine on Killing Spree // The Hindu, 2 May, 2001.

Saikia J. 4 Islamist Militancy in North East India. New Delhi: Vision Books Pvt. Ltd., 2004, p. 86 - 99.

5 Memorandum of Settlement on Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) - htm

Amarjeet Singh M. 6 Resolving the Bodo Militancy

7 Ibidem.

Kumar A. 8 Assam: ULFA's Rebellion Based on Murder, Lie and Deceit Continues -

Routray B.P. 9 Assam: The NDFB's Resurrection // South Asia Intelligence Review. Vol. 5, No. 46. May 28, 2007.

D'Souza S.M. 10 Negotiations with Insurgents in India's Northeast - DSouza_100608

Amarjeet Singh M. 11 State of militancy in Manipur -

Khurshchev Singh T. 12 The Attack on Migrants in Manipur -

13 International Islamic Front (IIF) - satporgtp/usa/IIF.htm

Raman B. 14 Bleeding Assam Cries out for Attention -

15 Manipur rebels kill Bihar workers -

Khurshchev Singh T. 16 Op. cit.

Anurag K. 17 Blast rocks Manipur: 17 killed, 30 hurt -

18 Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act -

19 Armed Forces Special Powers Act: A study in National Security tyranny / South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre -

20 Fake justice // Frontline. Vol. 26. Issue 20. Sep. 26 - Oct. 09,2009.

21 See in particular: Getting Away With Murder. 50 Years of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act // Human Rights Watch. August 2008, p. 19.

Amarjeet Singh M. 22 Changing Face of Bodo Insurgency - 9

23 DAN represents the Nagaland Democratic Front and BJP coalition.

Talukdar S. 24 Unrest in the hills // Frontline. Vol. 25. Issue 2. Jan. 19 - Feb. 01, 2008.

Talukdar S. 25 Chance for peace // Frontline. Vol. 25. Issue 7. Mar. 29 - Apr. 11, 2008.

Goswami N. 26 A Way Out of Naga Factional Violence - 30708

D'Souza S.M. 27 Border Management...

Gupta R. 28 Bangladesh: Recent developments (Aug 2005 - Mar 2006) / Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies Special Report 16. April 2006, p. 5.

29 Ibidem.

30 Bangladesh acting tough against anti-India militants operating from its soil -

31 The Joint Communique issued on the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India // The Daily Star (Dhaka), 13 January 2010.

32 India and Bangladesh sign five agreements -

Anurag K. 33 Forces crack down on ULFA, NSCN ultras -

Kalita P. 34 Terror blasts ahead of PM's visit rock Assam, kill 9 // The Times of India, 7 April 2009.

Singh A. 35 As normalcy returns, Tripura withdraws security escorts on NH 44 -

36 India Assessment - 2011 -


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