Volume 10, No. 27, January 9, 2012
Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal
- PAKISTAN: Blind Spot in FATA – Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
- INDIA: Andhra Pradesh: A Deepening Calm – Fakir Mohan Pradhan
- INDIA: Tripura: Mopping Up – Giriraj Bhattacharjee
Blind Spot in FATA
Tushar Ranjan Mohanty
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management
Pakistani authorities had been flaunting their success in forging a ‘peace accord’ among various factions of the Taliban at a Shura-e-Muraqba (Council for Protection), a joint five-member council formed by the Afghan Taliban and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), along with other Pakistani militant outfits, on January 2, 2012. The establishment claimed that the TTP had agreed to end attacks against Pakistani Security Forces (SFs). Afghan Taliban ‘commander’ Mullah Mohammad Omar had put pressure on militant groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan to form the new grouping to end targeting of Pakistani SFs and, instead, to focus attention on United States (US)-led troops in Afghanistan. Later, all Jihadi (holy war) groups, in consultation with Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the shadow Taliban Government for Afghanistan) decided to set up a committee to resolve differences among various factions and step up support for the war against Western forces in Afghanistan. A statement issued in the form of a pamphlet to the media in Waziristan after the meeting declared, “All Mujahideen — local and foreigners — are informed that all jihadi forces, in consultation with Islamic Emirate Afghanistan, have unanimously decided to form a five-member commission. It will be known as Shura-e-Muraqba.”
Dissent was, however, quickly in evidence, as the TTP declared that, while it would end attacks against civilian targets in Pakistan, its campaign against the Pakistani SFs would continue. The day after the Shura-e-Muraqba deal, TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told the media, “Yes, we signed an accord with three other major Taliban groups of Maulvi Nazeer, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and an Afghan Taliban faction, to avoid killing of innocent people and kidnapping for ransom, but we did not agree with them to stop suicide attacks and our fight against Pakistani Security Forces.” He added, further, “for us, Pakistan is as important as Afghanistan and, therefore, we cannot stop our activities here.”
Lest any ambiguity remained regarding their intentions, on January 5, 2012, TTP militants executed 15 Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan Agency (NWA) in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on January 5, 2012. The bullet-ridden bodies, thrown on a hill in the Mir Ali Sub-district, were spotted by tribesmen in the morning. The victims, who had been guarding the boundary between FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), had been taken hostage on December 23, 2011, in a pre-dawn attack by TTP militants on their post in Mullazai area of Tank District in KP.
TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told local media, “We have killed these personnel. This is revenge for the killing of our comrades in Khyber by Pakistani Forces. We will soon take revenge for other operations too.” Significantly, Qari Kamran, a prominent TTP ‘commander’, had been killed by SFs, along with 12 others, on January 1, 2012, at Alamgir Killay in the Kermina area near Landikotal in Khyber Agency.
‘Revenge’ killings by the TTP are not a new phenomenon. But the January 5 incident was significant not only in scale and brutality, but also in the fact that it came so soon after the ‘accord’ the Pakistan establishment had engineered among various Taliban factions, but crucially with the TTP, since this is the group that has created the greatest threat to security and stability within Pakistan.
Meanwhile, FATA continues to work to deserve it reputation as the “most dangerous place on earth”. Despite registering a 43 per cent decline in overall terrorism-related fatalities, from 5,321 in 2010 to 3,034 in 2011, according to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), FATA remained the most violent region, certainly, in South Asia. The numbers gain added significance in view of the fact that FATA has a tiny population of just 3.34 million, less than two per cent of Pakistan’s total. The fatalities among the civilians (488) as well as SFs (233), remain very high, despite a 9.62 and 11 per cent decline, respectively, in 2011, as compared to the previous year. On the other hand, militant fatalities have declined dramatically, from 4,519 in 2010, to 2,313 in 2011, accounting for nearly 96.46 per cent of the total decline in fatalities (2,287) over this period. Militant fatalities nearly halved between 2010 and 2011, an index of the growing reluctance of Pakistani SFs to engage on the ground.
A total of 281 major incidents (involving three or more fatalities) were recorded in 2011 as against 384 in 2010. The decrease, both in number of militants killed as well as major incidents, has been registered because of the low intensity, indeed, progressive suspension, of ‘military operations’ in the tribal belt.
Fatalities in FATA: 2009- 2011
Source: SATP, *Data: Till December 31, 2011
Another indicator of the region’s volatility was the fact that 185 incidents of bomb blasts were recorded in 2011, marginally down from 190 in 2010. However, the fatalities in such attacks decreased considerably from 453 in 2010 to 203 in 2011. There were eight suicide attacks in FATA in 2011 as against 12 in 2010. While 314 persons were killed and at least 441 were injured in suicide attacks in 2010, 77 persons lost their lives and at least 141 were injured in 2011.
Prominent among the suicide attacks in FATA in 2011 were:
August 19: At least 56 persons were killed and 123 were injured in a suicide attack during Friday prayers at Jamia Masjid Madina in the Ghundai area of the Jamrud Sub-division in the Khyber Agency.
May 28: Eight persons were killed and 11 were injured when a suicide bomber targeted pro-Government tribal elders at a market in Salarzai village of the Bajaur Agency.
April 23: A suicide bomber struck the vehicle of an anti-Taliban militia leader, killing him and four others in Salarzai, the main town of Bajaur Agency.
Tribal elders and tribal militia faced the brunt of militancy. In 2011, as many as 12 tribal elders were killed by militants in 15 incidents. Moreover, an unspecified number of tribal militia members have been killed fighting the militants. The worst ever attack on the tribal militia was the August 19, 2011, suicide bombing, which killed 56 persons and injured 123, in a revenge attack on the Kukikhel tribals at the Jamia Masjid Madina at Jamrud. TTP claimed responsibility for the attack, justifying it on the grounds that the Kukikhel tribe had raised an armed militia against them.
The militants also continued to target surrendered cadres. Officials and former militants have claimed that ‘hundreds of militants’, who had surrendered to Government Forces in FATA, were facing threats from active TTP members, who were pressuring them to rejoin the group, or face reprisals. In a media interview, Haji Shafqat Gul, a member of the Bajaur Peace Committee, stated, “At least 3,000 militants have laid down arms and expressed repentance over their association with Taliban in Bajaur Agency. A majority of them are now receiving warnings from the Taliban leaders to join their ranks again.” In other Agencies, including Khyber, Orakzai, and the North and South Waziristan Agencies, individual figures are not available, but an unnamed spokesman of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) asserted that a total of about 9,000 former insurgents had surrendered.
To replenish their strength, the extremists are trying to force former members back into the organisation, and are also in search of new recruits. The education system has been repeatedly targeted, as have uneducated and unemployed youth. According to a report prepared by the Society for the Protection of Rights of the Child (SPARC), the literacy rate in FATA has dropped sharply, from 29 per cent in 2009 to 17.42 per cent in 2010, because of the actions of the militants and inaction of the Government. Militants have set 673 schools on fire across the FATA region since 2004.
Despite the evident loss of operational momentum, the SFs launched three ‘major offensives’ in FATA in 2011. Operation Koh-e-Sufaid (Operation White Mountain) was launched in the Kurram Agency at midnight, July 2-3, 2011. The operation, which lasted till August 18, 2011, accounted for at least 139 deaths among the militants according to Army sources [no independent verification of this categorization is possible, as media access to areas of conflict is severely restricted], nine among SF personnel and four among lashkar [tribal militia] members. An operation was launched in the Khyber Agency against Lashkar-e-Islam and TTP militants on October 21, 2011 and is under continuation. 62 militants, 21 civilians, 18 SFs and 12 tribal militia members have been killed so far. 34 militant hideouts were neutralised and 30 militants were arrested. Another targeted operation, without any designated name, is still going on in the selected areas of Orakzai and Mohammad Agencies. The operation is an extended part of Operation Brekhna (Thunder) which was launched on April 6, 2011 and is under continuation. Till date, 268 militants and 14 SFs have been killed. According to an unnamed official, over 200 militants were killed in the offensive till November 23, 2011.
The continuing duplicity of the Pakistani establishment remains visible in the fact that not a single operation has been launched in the North Waziristan Agency (NWA), which shelters the Haqqani faction, the most dangerous militant group operating across the border in Afghanistan. On August 1, 2011, Admiral Michael Mullen, the then-Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, demanded, that the Pakistani Government launch a military offensive against the Haqqani Network in the NWA. This was only the latest in years of continuous US urgings for such an offensive. However, Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in discussions with the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, on August 10, 2011, rejected the US demand for military operations in North Waziristan. Later, on October 18, 2011, he stated, “We have made it clear to the US that we will decide the timing of any such action according to our situation and capabilities.”
Not surprisingly, the US continued its drone operations in the region, though the number of strikes in 2011 decreased to 59, from 90 in 2010. These strikes succeeded in eliminating some high profile al Qaeda and Haqqani Network militants, prominently including:
October 13: A drone strike in Dandi Darpa Khel village in NWA killed four militants, including Jan Baz Zadran, a logistics ‘commander’ for the Haqqani Network.
September 12: Two militants were killed in a drone strike on their vehicle in the Issa Khel area of NWA. One of the dead was reported to be Hafeezullah, a ‘commander’ in the Haqqani Network.
September 11: Abu Hafs al Shari, al Qaeda’s ‘operational chief’ and the replacement for Atiyah Abdel Rahman, was killed, along with three other militants, by a US drone strike on a vehicle and compound in Hisokhel in the Mir Ali area of NWA.
June 3, 2011: A drone strike in the Ghwakhwa area of South Waziristan Agency killed nine militants, including top ranking al Qaeda terrorist leader, Ilyas Kashmiri.
NATO forces also crossed over into Pakistan in their pursuit of militants. In the most dramatic incident of the recent past, on November 26, 2011, NATO forces killed at least 24 Pakistani soldiers in the Salala village in Baizai tehsil (revenue unit) of Mohmand Agency in FATA. The incident led to a near breakdown of the already troubled US-Pak relation. Pakistan subsequently closed the NATO supply route to Afghanistan and ordered the US to vacate the Shamsi air base in Balochistan. The US vacated the air base, but has blocked USD 700 million in economic aid to Pakistan. The NATO supply routes through Pakistan are yet to be restored, and the impact of these developments on the US-Pakistan relation, and on the war dynamic in Afghanistan, is still evolving. US drone attacks into Pakistan have been suspended since the November 26 strike.
Unsurprisingly, elements within the TTP, based in NWA, have established a separate ‘vigilance cell’ to hunt down persons suspected of providing vital intelligence to guide the US in its drone campaign. Known as Lashkar-e-Khorasan (LeK), the group’s only purpose is to identify, capture and execute persons allegedly working for what is described as a ‘web of local spies’ created by the CIA. The LeK draws it strength from both the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group, two formations that control the regions along the Afghanistan border. Moreover, partial data compiled by SATP recorded 33 attacks on NATO supply routes in FATA in 2011, as against 17 in 2010. Fatalities in such attacks jumped from nine in 2010 to 20 in 2011.
In another development, the Kurram Peace Accord, which sought to establish peace between warring Shia and Sunni sects in the Kurram Agency, was signed. A grand jirga composed of tribal elders and parliamentarians from FATA announced a Peace Accord between Shias and Sunnis at Parachinar, the headquarters of the Kurram Agency, on February 3, 2011. The ‘truce’ was declared after three years of fighting and bloodshed that left over 2,000 dead and at least 3,500 injured. There have, nevertheless, been at least three sectarian attacks after the Peace Accord. In one such attack, on March 25, 2011, at least 13 passengers were killed and eight were injured, in an attack on a convoy of passenger vehicles in the Kurram Agency.
The continuing apathy of the Federal Government towards the reconstruction of the war ravaged tribal areas is evident in the fact that the Finance Ministry has delayed the release of funds to the FATA Secretariat, which had sought PKR 11 billion for the creation of 4,545 jobs. The FATA Secretariat had initiated a case for the creation of 4,545 posts in 2009, and the Federal Government approved PKR 15 billion budget in July 2011. Only PKR 1 billion has so far been released.
On June 23, 2011, President Asif Ali Zardari, on the advice of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, and on the recommendation of the KP Cabinet, signed Civil Power Regulations (CPR) Bill, 2011, for FATA/PATA (Provincially Administered Tribal Areas) into law. Describing the CPR Bill, 2011, KP Governor Masood Kausar stated, on June 27, 2011, “It is meant to protect the basic rights of the people of FATA and the PATA, safeguard their honour and dignity, uphold the supremacy of internationally recognised human rights and bring the terrorists to justice.” He added, further, that the new law would deal with cases linked to the wave of terrorism caused by al Qaeda and the TTP, which had ‘immensely affected’ the country over the past several years.
Human right activists and civil society groups have, however, articulated their general apprehension that this ‘draconian law’ would be used as a weapon of oppression by the SFs. Waris Husain, a legal expert in the US, in a Newspaper column in Dawn, pointing out loopholes of the CPR Ordinance, 2011, argued
When one looks to the loopholes left in the Federal Crimes Regulation (FCR) amendments package alongside this regulation, one can see that the residents of FATA face a long battle ahead in fully realising their constitutional rights. The ordinance by the President continues to allow for collective punishment to be exercised on all males above the age of 16, which is “obnoxious” to the protections of the Constitution, in the words of Judge Cornelius. Further, the President did not incorporate a wholesale extension of constitutional rights to the people of FATA, and did not allow jurisdiction for the Supreme Court. This lack of protection paired with a regulation allowing for military operations, may allow for unconstitutional detentions and trials for the people of FATA without any constitutional remedy in the coming years.
FATA continues to reel under the impact of terrorism, even as incoherent and fitful operational, administrative and political initiatives add fuel to the fire. Given Pakistan’s selective approach to terrorism, and the establishment’s continuing support to terrorist groupings operating from Pakistani territory across its borders into Afghanistan, it remains abundantly clear that no comprehensive effort to uproot terrorist and armed non-state groupings in the region is imminent. Under the circumstances, such groupings – including those that target the Pakistani state and population – can only continue to flourish, under cover of the spaces created for externally directed terrorism.
Andhra Pradesh: A Deepening Calm
Fakir Mohan Pradhan
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management
The declining trend in Naxalite or Left Wing Extremist (LWE) violence in Andhra Pradesh, established dramatically since 2006, continued through 2011, with the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) responsible for all significant incidents. The State recorded six civilian and four Maoist fatalities in 2011, as against 17 civilian and 16 Maoist fatalities in 2010. In a remarkable feat, the State, which was once the epicenter of Maoist violence, has not reported a single Security Force (SF) casualty for three years in a row, since 2009. Fatalities in 2011 were, in fact, a tad lower than a third of the previous year. Andhra Pradesh recorded no major incident (involving more than three fatalities), and no incident of ‘swarming attacks’ (involving more than 50 cadres and militia).
Fatalities in LWE/ CPI-Maoist Violence in Andhra Pradesh: 2005 – 2011
Security Force Personnel
Source: SATP, *Data: Till December 31, 2011
Even as the intensity of Maoist-violence reduced in the State, its spatial spread has also contracted further. Maoist-related fatalities were reported from 12 Districts in 2009 and seven Districts in 2010, while in 2011, these were restricted to just three Districts, viz., Visakhapatnam, Warangal, and Khammam. Visakhapatnam accounted for five civilian fatalities, while Warangal witnessed the only other civilian fatality. All Maoist fatalities were reported from the Khammam District alone.
In addition to the incidents in which Maoists fatalities were reported, Maoists exchanged fire with SF personnel on at least another three occasions – once each in Khammam, Warangal and Vizianagaram District. The Maoists also triggered three explosions – two in Visakhapatnam and one in Khammam District. Other incidents of Maoist violence in 2011 included four incidents of setting ablaze construction equipment (three in Khammam and one in Karimnagar) and destruction of Forest Department quarters in Vizianagaram District. The Maoists also abducted two persons in Karimnagar District.
At least 50 Maoists were arrested in the State in 2011, 19 in Khammam; 15 in Visakhapatnam, five in Warangal; four in Guntur; two each in Karimnagar, Vizianagaram and Adilabad; and one in Hyderabad. Among the important arrests, was a `State committee’ leader, Dudekula Rayabose, arrested from Guntur District. Rayabose, a native of Husnabad mandal (administinistrative division) Karimnagar District, had been with the CPI-Maoist for the last two decades.
Another 89 Maoists surrendered through 2011, 66 in Visakhapatnam; eight in Khammam; five in Warangal; four in East Godavari; two each in Medak and Nizamabad; and one each in Karimnagar and Hyderabad. Total surrenders recorded in 2010 amounted to 66. Significant surrenders in 2011 included two ‘commanders’ – Vantala Somaraju alias Sekhar; and Balaraju, who worked along the Andhra-Odisha border (AOB), and carried an INR 300,000 reward on his head. Balaraju’s wife Sunitha who also had a reward of INR 300,000 against her, and who worked with him, also surrendered. The surrender list included three ‘deputy commanders’ – Jartha Nageswara Rao alias Naresh; Gammella Neelanna; and Kakuri Kanthamma alias Shanti alias Syamala
Major recoveries of arms were recorded from three Districts – Khammam, Srikakulam and Chittor. In the unearthing of one arms dump in the Mailapadu mandal of Srikakulam District, Police recovered 1,600 grenade, plastic chambers, springs, rings, safety-pins, hammers, live ammunition and 6 rocket launchers, were also found. It was reported that the material recovered was sufficient to assemble 3,000 grenades.
An analysis by SATP of violence, as well as of overground and underground activities by the Maoists through 2011, indicates that only three Districts in the State – Visakhapatnam, Warangal, and Khammam – remain in the ‘highly affected’ category; Karimnagar, Vizianagaram, Srikakulam, Guntur, Chittoor and East Godavari are ‘moderately affected’; while another four Districts – West Godavari, Adilabad, Nizamabad and Medak are ‘marginally affected’ by Naxalite activities.
Towards the end of 2011, the Andhra Police estimated that there were around 340 underground Maoist cadres remaining in the State, of whom 140 were on the borders with other States, such as Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Andhra Pradesh Police Chief, V. Dinesh Reddy, in a media report dated November 25, 2011, asserted that the Maoists, at one time, had over three thousand cadres in the State.
In June 2011, K.V.V. Gopala Rao, Superintendent of Police (SP) of Srikakulam District, had claimed that there were only eight top Maoists leaders left in the troubled Andhra Odisha Border (AOB) zone. The SP identified these leaders as Nambala Kesava Rao, Central Committee member and in-charge of international affairs; AOB Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) member, Chelluri Narayana Rao; Marpu Venkataramana [former secretary of east division of AOB; Mettaru Joga Rao, member, AOBSZC; and dalam (squad) leaders, Boddu Kundanalu, Erothu Sundaramma, Chelluri Indumathi and Maddu Dhanalakshmi.
Despite cumulative and continuing setbacks, the Maoists persisted in their efforts to regain a foothold in the State. This was most in evidence in their desperate attempts to infiltrate and manipulate the Telengana Movement, which was repeatedly pushed over into aggressive demonstrations and intimidatory mass violence.
Further, a report on the law and order situation in the State, which was tabled at the Collectors' Conference on December 16, 2011, observed that some unresolved conflicts involving developmental projects had the potential to provide leverage to Maoists in the foreseeable future. These conflicts included opposition to the Sompeta and Kakarapalli thermal power plant projects in Srikakulam District; a nuclear power plant project in Vizianagaram; the Hindujas’Power Plant in Visakhapatnam; and the setting up of eight thermal plants on either side of the Krishnapatnam port in Nellore District. The report also highlighted mining issues, particularly bauxite mining in the agency areas of Visakhapatnam; iron ore mining in Anantapur and Khammam.
In April 2011, the Special Intelligence Branch of the anti-Maoist agency of Andhra Pradesh Police had recovered key documents and sketches with details of how the Maoists planned to defend themselves against air attacks, and to capture airports. The syllabus for military training of Maoist cadres is accordingly being revamped, with the introduction of a manual, titled Guerrilla Air Defence, written by the ‘Central Military Commissioner’ and senior Maoist, Tipparthi Tirupati alias ‘Devji’ of Andhra Pradesh. This document includes instructions on how to kill air borne commandos as they rappelled off choppers.
Top security officials involved in anti-Naxalite operations in neighbouring Chhattisgarh and other States indicate that an increasing number of Maoist cadres were now using High Frequency (HF) radio waves instead of Very High Frequency (VHF) waves used earlier, in order to escape surveillance radars available with state intelligence units. The SFs are now planning to obtain and deploy advanced interception equipment which can intercept HF communications.
On its part, the State Police has sought to augment its anti-Maoist capacities. The Andhra Pradesh Government, in October 2011, announced that it would press into service an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for a close monitoring of Maoist activities in dense forests. The UAV, along with a chopper for rescue operations, had been sanctioned by the Centre to beef up the surveillance set-up. The UAV would have its base station at Madurapudi in the coastal city of Rajahmundry. The cost of these UAV’s can vary depending upon the type of payload used, and whether indigenously built, or imported, from a figure of INR 3 million to as high as INR 30 million. The Andhra DGP Reddy commenting on the news of their procurement asserted, “It (the UAV) will help us track down the activities of Naxals even in the thick forests and also send back images.”
The Police population ratio in Andhra Pradesh which stood at 96 at the end of 2007 was increased to 99 in 2008, further to 128 in 2009, has reached 131, as on December 31, 2010.
To supplement Police action against the Maoists, the State Government is also implementing major development programs in Maoist affected Districts. Eight Districts – East Godavari, Karimnagar, Khammam, Srikakulam, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Warangal and Adilabad – are currently under the centrally sponsored Integrated Action Plan (IAP). Further, in March 2011, Soumya Misra, Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Visakha Range, claimed that CPI-Maoist activities in the AOBSZ had declined as a result of new strategies adopted by the Police in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam Districts. The DIG emphasized that the spate of surrenders across this region was due to State Police initiatives which included, amongst others, a sincere effort to provide employment opportunities to tribal youth, minimizing the Maoists’ recruitment base among impoverished tribal populations.
The Andhra Pradesh experience remains a dramatic example of what can be achieved by a coherent, sustained and well-resourced strategy, with a clear political mandate, and a committed Police leadership, against what was, not long ago, one of the country’s most virulent internal challenges. It is India’s abiding tragedy that this experience has not been sufficiently studied and understood by the political, security and intelligence leaderships of the country and other afflicted States, which continue to blunder about with contradictory and confused initiatives that have contributed directly to the spread and consolidation of the Maoist movement. Worse, political mischief and adventurism within segments of the Andhra and national leadership have even put at risk the extraordinary counter-insurgency gains in this State, as they play with fire in the Telengana agitation, creating renewed opportunities for a Maoist revival which, though this has been held effectively at bay by the State’s Police and intelligence apparatus.
The Maoists, indeed, concede their progressive loss of influence in their heartland areas in Andhra Pradesh as a result, not only of the state’s operational responses, but also a dramatic transformation of the social and economic profile. Citing a critical CPI-Maoist document, SAIR noted, in July 2011,
Indeed, in their Social Investigation of North Telangana: Case Study of Warangal, probably drafted towards the end of 2001 or early 2002, the Maoists concede that a wide range of social, political and economic transformations in the region have made recruitment difficult, and popular cooperation with the Police far more frequent, undermining the very possibility of effective Maoist mobilization. The tone of much of this document verges on the comical, as there is constant lamentation over precisely these improvements, and the impact they have had on the ‘revolutionary potential’ in what was, for decades, the Maoist heartland.
The Maoists have, however, repeatedly proved themselves to be extraordinarily adaptable and inventive adversaries, rising repeatedly from the ashes to mount a devastating challenge to state power. Despite the tremendous recovery the state apparatus in Andhra Pradesh has engineered against the Maoist insurgency, there can be absolutely no room for complacency.
Tripura: Mopping Up
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management
Tripura recorded just one militancy-related fatality in 2011, as against three in 2010, a remarkable contrast with the 514 fatalities recorded in 2000, when terrorism was at its peak in the State. The extremists have failed to recover from a sustained and well-crafted counter-insurgency campaign mounted over the early years of the new millennium, which had already decimated the State’s twin insurgencies by 2006. An unflagging focus, both of the State’s Police and its political leadership, has ensured a continuing erosion of the limited surviving capacities of the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF), the principal insurgent formation in the State. On June 15, 2011, the then Director General of Police (DGP) K. Salim Ali, noted further, in a media interview, “Development, largely coupled with the Bangladesh Government's crackdown against Northeast India's rebels, helped Tripura to persuade tribal guerrillas to give up the path of violence… Of the 66 Police Stations in Tripura, only three Police Station areas in the northern part – Kanchanpur, Chawmanu and Gandachara – have some militant presence. We will soon flush them out permanently.”
Clearly, the strike capabilities of the extremists have been crippled. Tripura is among the very few Indian States that has successfully dealt with a major insurgency. Nevertheless, remnants of extremist formations continue to engage in extortion and abduction for extortion. An October 21, 2011, report, citing Police data, disclosed that 74 persons, mostly tribals, had been abducted by NLFT and ATTF militants in the State in 2011, as against 114 and 121 persons in 2010 and 2009, respectively. The South Asia Terrorism Portal database, based on open media sources, recorded six prominent incidents of abduction, in which 30 persons were abducted, in 2011, as against four such incidents in 2010 in which number of abducted persons stood at 18. [These numbers are evident underestimates, as an overwhelming proportion of incidents, particularly in the more remote areas of the State, go unreported].
NLFT remains the most active militant group in the State. Apart from the several incidents of abduction, the group was involved in all the five incidents of firing recorded in 2011. On January 5, 2011, a five-member NLFT team, issued subscription receipts against the names of all Government employees of the Raisyabari area. The receipts demanded three percent of the salary from each Government employee as ‘subscription’ to the NLFT. Failure to comply, the notes declared, would result in death. There was, however, no further action in this regard.
Meanwhile, reports in August 2011 suggested that about 300 NLFT militants, including some 25 women, were undergoing training in the Sajek Hills and Tawolakantai areas of Bangladesh, and the Shan Province of Myanmar. The report also said that the outfit had procured 350 sophisticated Chinese weapons. There are at least three NLFT clusters present in Bangladesh, across the border from Dhalai District, and they regularly sneak into Indian Territory and move around in the deep interiors of the District. One group is led by Athara Babu, another by Bomtong aka Ananda Hari Jamatia, and the third by Lakshilung Halam.
A 15-member splinter group of the ATTF, headed by Sachin Debberma, has reportedly joined hands with NLFT. The NLFT has also reportedly taken over the ATTF ‘headquarters’ at Satcherri in Bangladesh.
On October 20, 2011, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) noted that the NLFT, ATTF, United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and Meitei extremist outfits of Manipur maintained close linkages to engage in subversive and violent activities in the Indian Northeast.
Meanwhile, despite suffering a vertical split on December 26, 2010, the ATTF remains marginally active in the State.
Not surprisingly, the Government continues the ban on these groups. An unnamed Tripura Home Department official was cited in media reports, stating, “Though the four-decade-old insurgency in Tripura has been largely tamed, the Tripura Government remains cautious and continues the ban on NLFT and ATTF.” He added, further, that the State Government had apprehensions that both NLFT and ATTF could increase their violent activities in the State ahead of the 2013 Assembly Elections. In September 2011, the State Government extended the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) for another six months, to apply fully in 34 and partially in six of the 70 Police Station jurisdictions in the State.
Security Forces (SFs) arrested three militants in 2011, the same number of arrests that were made in 2010. Under pressure, the militants continued to surrender. As many as 31 militants, all belonging to NLFT, surrendered in five incidents in 2011. In 2010, the number of surrendered militants stood at 127. According to official records, over 8,075 tribal guerrillas of the ATTF, NLFT and other separatist outfits, have fled from Bangladeshi camps and surrendered before the Tripura Government since 1993.
In a significant development, on April 28, 2011, the State Government declared that all the promises offered at the time of signing a tripartite peace accord with the Nayanbanshi faction of the NLFT (NLFT-NB) on December 17, 2004, had been fulfilled. Bhuchuk Borok, ‘vice president’ of the NLFT-NB praised the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and State Government for their sincerity in fulfilling the terms of the peace accord. However, the process of rehabilitation of former rebels is yet to be completed.
2011 also witnessed peaceful elections for the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC), on February 24, 2011, with an 85 per cent voter turnout. The TTAADC consists of about 527 village committees at the grass roots. The Council was first constituted on January 15, 1982, and elected members were sworn in on January 18 in that year.
Settling another outstanding issue, as many as 3,341 Bru (also known as Reang) tribals, including 914 children below the age of 12, belonging to 648 families, were repatriated to Mizoram between November 2010 and May 2011. Thousands of Bru tribals had fled Mizoram in 1997, following ethnic clashes, which were triggered by the murder of Lalzawmliana, a Mizo game watcher working at Dampa Tiger Reserve near Persang village in Mamit District. Till November 30, 2011, a total of 785 families had been repatriated, and the process is still on.
Amidst all these developments, the infiltration/exfiltration of terrorists across the State’s porous borders, remained a major concern. The unguarded international border facilitates the easy movement of militants, foreign nationals as well as Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agents in the State. Reports suggest that a part of the State under the Gandacherra Sub-division of Dhalai District along the Tripura-Bangladesh international border had been transformed into a ‘free area’. The Government’s attempts to fence and light the borders have been blocked by the militants. 2011 witnessed as many as five incidents of firing by the militants, targeting fencing work. In one such incident on January 31, 2011, NLFT militants shot dead an official of the National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC), identified as C.N. Muni, and injured his driver, at a remote tribal hamlet near the Indo-Bangladesh border in the North Tripura District. Muni, in-charge of the Shewapara border fencing site of NBCC, was traveling in a vehicle when he was attacked.
On January 2, 2012, State Chief Secretary S.K. Panda acknowledged the hindrance in the border fencing exercise due to militant activities in some tribal hamlets. He referred to incidents of firing and extortion in tribal hamlets in Ambassa, Gandacherra and the newly formed Mohanpur Sub-division. For instance, fencing work was stalled for 48 hours in the Simna-II Sector from December 27, 2011, after militants opened fire on fencing workers. On November 25, 2011, Panda disclosed that work on the barbed wire fencing on the remaining 180 kilometers of the border had stopped after the MHA delayed payment. 676 kilometers of the 856 kilometer-long border has already been fenced, and 100 kilometers have been provided with the flood lighting. The problem of infiltration/exfiltration is, consequently, limited to the remaining 180 kilometers.
Despite dramatic improvements, the terrorist infrastructure continues to exist across the border, though the number of militant camps has diminished significantly. On September 1, 2011, Chief Minister Manik Sarkar disclosed that about 14 camps belonging to militants operating in Tripura remained active in Bangladesh. The number has come down appreciably as Sarkar, on March 15, 2003, had put the number of such camps at 51. On September 25, 2011, however, then DGP Salim Ali put the figure at around 20 hideouts in Bangladesh. Ali also mentioned reports of some militant leaders procuring Bangladesh ration cards and ‘settling’ there with their families.
The decision, according to a January 7, 2012, report, to deploy two battalions of Border Security Force (BSF), in addition to the existing 16 battalions, is another measure towards sustaining the pressure on the insurgents.
Tribal militancy in Tripura is rapidly losing ground and is now engaged in a struggle for bare survival. Nevertheless, as Chief Minister Manik Sarkar rightly noted during the Chief Ministers’ Conference on Internal Security on February 1, 2011, “Despite remarkable improvement in the situation, we believe there is no scope for complacency in dealing with insurgency.”
Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
January 2-8, 2012
Security Force Personnel
Jammu and Kashmir
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.
Terrorists from the Tibetan region of China may sneak in to India to eliminate Dalai Lama, says report: The Mumbai Police have received intelligence inputs that some terrorists from the Tibetan region of China may sneak in to India to eliminate the Tibetan spiritual guru, the Dalai Lama. The intelligence inputs states that a Chinese national of Tibetan origin by the name Tashi Phuntsok is likely to enter India to gather intelligence on the Tibetan administration as well as to cause harm to the Dalai Lama. Times of India, January 7, 2012.
Indian Mujahideen in alliance with the ISI is likely to carry out attacks like 13/7 in Mumbai, says report: There is fresh input that the Indian Mujahideen (IM) in alliance with the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), is likely to carry out attacks like 13/7 in Mumbai. Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), DRDO organizations, defence establishments like Mazgoan dock, naval dockyard, ONGC at Uran plant, economic institutions, aviation sector, oil and power sectors etc. are vulnerable, the inputs states. Times of India, January 7, 2012.
Government asks States bordering Pakistan to step up vigil: Government on December 30 asked states bordering Pakistan to step up vigil following inputs that militant from across the border may strike in India, specifically in poll-bound Punjab. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said, “This morning, we have taken a decision to increase level of alertness in states bordering Pakistan and that includes Punjab”. Times of India, January 3, 2012.
Babbar Khalsa International plotting revival and big strike, says Delhi Police: The arrest of two operatives of the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) on December 22 has confirmed what Delhi Police have been suspecting for a while now — that the outfit is on the lookout for a major strike to announce its revival. “Delhi Police arrested two Babbar Khalsa operatives who were planning to assassinate some political and religious leaders. We are investigating to confirm how many people are working with the group,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) Ashok Chand. Economic Times, January 3, 2012.
LeT training 21 women to hit India, says Army: The Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) is raising a group of 21 female terrorists at its training camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) for carrying out sabotage activities in India, Army sources said on January 3. “We have confirmed reports that LeT is imparting training to 21 selected female terrorists at its training facilities in Muzaffarabad in PoK for carrying out terrorist activities in India,” an unnamed Army official said. Times of India; DNA, January 4, 2012.
Navy on alert to foil gunrunning:The Centre has alerted coastal states, including Gujarat and Maharashtra, and asked Navy and Coast Guard to step up patrolling in sea following an ‘interception’ of a telephone call – made from a ship using satellite phone off Kutch coast to the US – about possible arrival of consignment of arms and ammunition along the Indian coast line. The call was intercepted by Central security agencies on December 31. An unidentified person made a call through Thuraya satellite from a ship, which was at that time at Gulf of Kutch, off the Gujarat coast, to a US number. Times of India, January 6, 2012.
ADB loan cleared for road works in Naxal-hit villages: The Union Government has cleared an external loan of USD 500 million from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to finance part of the programme launched by the Ministry of Rural Development to speed up construction of rural roads in Left-Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected villages. Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh has, in a letter, urged Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to issue directions for negotiating and early signing of the loan, which his Ministry has cleared, to shore up resources to give thrust to the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) that is way behind schedule. The Hindu, January 7, 2012.
Maoist chairman Prachanda ready to revise his political report for party unity: As the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) leaders continue to present their views stressing on the need for keeping party unity intact in the Central Committee (CC) meeting, chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda showed his readiness to revise his political report to address the feeling of the rival faction led by vice chairman Mohan Baidya. Prachanda expressed his commitment to revise his political proposal for party unity, said the state-owned news agency RSS. Nepal News, January 4, 2012.
45 militants and 17 SF among 65 persons killed during the week in FATA: At least six militants were killed and 12 got injured on January 6 after Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) and its rival Zakhakhel tribal force exchanged gunfire to gain control of a key base in Bazaar Zakhakhel area of Landikotal in Khyber Agency of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants on January 5 killed 15 Frontier Constabulary (FCB) personnel in Mir Ali area of North Waziristan Agency.
Security Forces killed 10 militants and injured five others during an operation in the Central Kurram Agency on January 4. In addition, at least six LI militants and a volunteer of Zakhakhel lashkar were killed in renewed clashes between LI and the tribal lashkar (tribal militia) in Bazaar-Zakhakhel area of Khyber Agency. Dawn; Daily Times; The News; Tribune, January 3-9, 2012.
‘Secret’ talks with TTP reach decisive phase, reveals an Intelligence Official: ‘Secret talks’ between Pakistan’s security agencies and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who have reportedly splintered down into many different groups entered a decisive phase on January 4. Now both sides are hoping their negotiations will culminate in a ‘lasting’ agreement which will restore peace in the country’s lawless tribal lands. “We have drawn the broader outlines for a possible accord. And what we’re now working on are minor details,” said an Intelligence Official, who claimed the results of the ‘year-long’ peace process would be unveiled shortly.
Meanwhile, al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban and Pakistani militants have held a series of meetings aimed at containing what could soon be open warfare between the two most powerful TTP leaders. Hakimullah Mehsud, the head of the TTP and his deputy, Wali-ur-Rehman, were at each other’s throats, the sources said. “You will soon hear that one of them has eliminated the other, though hectic efforts are going on by other commanders and common friends to resolve differences between the two,” one TTP ‘commander’ said. Dawn; Tribune, January 4-5, 2012.
Thousands gather to honor former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer’s assassin Malik Mumtaz Qadri in Punjab: Thousands of people gathered at Data Darbar in Lahore on January 4 in support of the former Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer’s assassin Malik Mumtaz Qadri, and called for his release. The participants, mostly Barelvi Muslims, held up portraits of Qadri and chanted slogans in his honor. They raised their arms and pledged to follow Qadri “against every blasphemer”.
Meanwhile, Planning and Development Minister Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor on January 6 said that peace and order in the province could not be guaranteed if blasphemy against the Holy Prophet continued. He said the faithful would not always wait for court orders in such cases. Ghafoor suggested that the minority members should wait until the court decided Aasia Bibi’s fate. Tribune, January 5-7, 2012.
Various factions of Taliban join hands at Shura-e-Muraqba: A ‘peace accord’ was reached among various factions of the Taliban at Shura-e-Muraqba (Council for Protection), a joint five-member council formed by the Afghan Taliban and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan TTP, along with other Pakistani militant outfits, on January 2, 2012. The TTP on January 3 declared it would end attacks against civilian targets in Pakistan, but its campaign against the Pakistani SFs would continue. Dawn; Daily Times; The News; Tribune, January 3-9, 2012.
Five million illegal immigrants residing in Pakistan, says the Ministry of Interior: The National Assembly was told on January 6 that about five million illegal immigrants were residing in different parts of the country due to local and regional disturbances. In a written statement, the Ministry of Interior told the National Assembly that out of the five million illegal immigrants, approximately two million were Bangladeshis, 2.5 million were Afghans, and 0.5 million other nationals, including Africans, Iranians, Iraqis and Myanmarese, who had been living in the country for more than three decades. Daily Times, January 7, 2012.
Government ready to discuss Police and land powers with TNA: Loosening its stance against granting police and land powers to the provinces according to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, the Government said on January 3 that it is ready to consider its scope provided the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) put forward its proposals at the talks with the Government. The Government spokesman, Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said, “As a Government we are concerned about giving Police and Land powers to provinces. However, we are ready to consider giving those powers within certain scope if such a proposal is made by the TNA to the Government. For that the TNA should remain at talks with the Government.” Minister Rambukwella told the Government Media Unit. Colombo Page, January 4, 2012.
The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.
A Project of the
Institute For Conflict Management
- Profile: Tehreek-E-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – Analysis (theromangate.wordpress.com)
- ‘At each other’s throats’: Feuds erupt among Pakistani Taliban commanders (news.nationalpost.com)
- TTP says no relenting on attacks against Pakistani forces (thehindu.com)
- Grim exchange of bodies after Pak army‚ Taliban clash (thehimalayantimes.com)
- Pak Taliban say kill 15 soldiers, vow further ‘revenge’ – Hindustan Times (hindustantimes.com)
- Pak Taliban kill 15 kidnapped soldiers (thehimalayantimes.com)
- Bombing kills at least 23 in Pakistan’s Khyber region (vancouversun.com)
- Pakistan Taliban shift focus to Afghanistan – Asia Times Online (atimes.com)
- South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR), Weekly Assessments & Briefings (theromangate.wordpress.com)
- Pakistan bombing kills dozens in insurgent-heavy region (news.nationalpost.com)