India believes it has defeated the tribal separatists in its northeast,
except, perhaps, for the state of Manipur. Throughout the northeast, there are
still thousands of armed rebels out there who, while no longer fighting to
throw off Indian rule, are now making a good living as bandits. But in Manipur,
violence from a combination and tribal and political rebels continues to grow.
been rebel activity in the seven states of northeast India (Assam, Arunachal
Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya) for over 60 years.
The total population of this area is 39 million, with most of it (72 percent)
in Assam. Despite peace breaking out in most of the region, Manipur continues to smolder. On October 21st,
a bomb went off in a gambling hall there that left 18 dead, including three
policemen. The local communist rebels claimed responsibility for this, claiming
that they were trying to eliminate the vice of gambling from Manipur.
The war with
the communists has been bloody. Four years ago, several thousand Indian troops cleared two thousand communist rebels out
of camps in Manipur. The operation uncovered about a hundred camps. About 25
rebels were killed and 34 captured. The rest fled, some into neighboring
Myanmar. But there, they often encountered Myanmar troops, who have been newly
stationed along the border to try and prevent the communist groups from freely
crossing. The communist Maoist rebels have increasingly built up their system
of camps in Manipur, and this recently reached the point where the Indian
government considered it more than just a nuisance.
past five years, the government has eliminated rebel sanctuaries in neighboring
Bhutan and Bangladesh. But the rebels have adapted, and continued to operate,
especially the Maoist communists. Although Manipur has a population of 2.5 million, it suffered more dead
(314) last year than neighboring Assam (209 dead and a population of 27
million.) For the last five years, terrorist violence has left over 300 dead
each year in Manipur (which has over 30 tribes, but tribal rebels are much less
of a problem than the Maoists).
energetic counter-terror efforts of the last five years has led to the various
political and tribal rebel groups in Manipur to join together (rather than
sometimes fight with each other, as in the past.) The battle is intense, with
nearly 500 clashes so far this year. Manipur has four times as many police per
100,000 people (554) than the Indian average (127). The main problem is the
same as the rest of the northeast; the movement of people from the rest of
India into the area, without the native tribes having any say in the matter.
government, and the influx of poor outsiders and ancient tribal animosities
have led to over half a century of rebel activities. Most of the rebels rely on
banditry (theft and extortion) to sustain themselves, and most Manipuris just
want peace. But now the Maoists are seeking to establish a communist
dictatorship, and that idea has caught on with many young men who are willing
to die, and steal, for it.