Counter-Terrorism: Anarchy in Assam

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January 20, 2008: India is now into its fifth decade of rebel activity in the northeast state of Assam. With a population of 28 million (about the same as Iraq or Afghanistan), rebel violence in Assam left 439 people dead last year. That's up from 242 last year, and 254 in 2005. The violence goes back to the fact that Assam was never part of India until India was created by the British in 1947. Many of the dozens of ethnic groups in Assam did not want to be part of India, and resented the influx of people from other parts of India. Twenty years ago, this resentment became more violent. Worse, the rebel groups sustain themselves through various extortion activities, and outright theft. Corruption has always been a problem in Assam, and the several thousand armed rebels makes it worse. While only 129 rebels were killed last year, 1,627 were captured or surrendered. Most of the dead (65 percent) were civilians, with the rest (24) being security forces. There were 500 violent incidents involving the rebels, but many more cases where the rebels intimidated or terrorized people.

Over the past five years, the government has eliminated rebel sanctuaries in neighboring Bhutan and Bangladesh. But the rebels have adapted, and continued to operate. There are four main rebel groups, each composed of several factions. Attempts to negotiate a comprehensive peace deal have failed, largely because of factions, and the continuing resentments by over a dozen (of over fifty) ethnic groups in the state that do not want to be a part of India. Attempts to placate the rebellious populations have failed, largely because of rebel attacks, and corruption. Even expanding the local police force has been difficult, because of a lack of qualified (literate) recruits, and threats (against police and their families) by the rebels.

 


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