Intro: After being shunted out of Bangladesh and Bhutan, the underground outfits have now made Myanmar as their safe shelter and hideout. Impeccable evidences of China propping them up are with the intelligence.
The deadliest ambush and attack on an army convoy of 6 Dogra Regiment at Paraolong Village in Manipur Chandel District on June 4 by a combined group of 6 militant outfits has jolted and rattled both the official and security circles, besides taking New Delhi by shock and surprise. This was the worst ever attack on the army in the last two decades. This has also at the same time raised the concern at the formation of a joint front of extremists groups comprising NSCN (K), People’s Liberation Army (PLA), United Nation Liberation Front (UNLF), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (Prepak), Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), and Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL).
The coming into being of 6 extremists groups under the banner of United Liberation Front of South East Asia (UNLFW), according to insurgency watchers, has added a new dimension to insurgency in North-East. But, it has to be noted that this is not for the first time that different underground outfits have come together. After flexing their muscles, they have made their exit. Records speak of formation of Indo-Burma Revolutionary Front (IBRF) with UNLF, NSCN (K) and ULFA on May 22, 1990. The joint declaration made by UNLF, NSCN(K) and ULFA frontline leaders included Sana Yaima, SS Khaplang and Arabinda Rajkhowa respectively vowed to fight for the liberation of Indo-Burma region from the colonial rulers. But, it existed for namesake.
It was followed by the birth of yet another group in 1995 in the name of United Liberation Front of Seven Sisters (ULFSS) by ULFA and NSCN. Hit by factionalism and split, ULFA opted out of the Front which subsequently eclipsed. Paresh Baruah, C-in-C, parted ways with Arabinda Rajkhowa over strategic differences and tactical moves. Baruah wanted aggressive and hawkish policy towards New Delhi in contrast to the soft approach of Rajkhowa. NSCN had split between Isaac-Muivah and Khaplang.
It was in 2002 that all the major Meitei insurgent groups of Manipur formed an umbrella organisation under the name and style of Manipur People’s Liberation Front (MPLF). Quite interestingly, inner conflict and squabbling over distribution of extorted money as well as territorial hegemony drew a curtain over their bonhomie. MPLF could make headlines, but no headway and became inconsequential. Latest development indicates that Kamtapur Liberation Organization (KLO) and anti-talk faction of NDFB might join UNLFW led by SS Khaplang, its chairman.
Against this backdrop, questions have been raised in knowledgeable circles about the continuation of UNLFW, described as a new face of terror in north-east. It is this newly floated Front that has owned up responsibility for the attack on the army convoy. Intelligence agencies monitoring the insurgency developments said militant groups still in wilderness with extraneous forces backing them often become desperate to forge an alliance with one another for vengeance and extortions.
Intelligence quoting a statement of Paresh Baruah hinted all the extremist outfits outside the ambit of ceasefire are planning to form a common platform as a part of their strategy to secede from India. Such desperation is quite understandable. The loss of emotional bases and virtual isolation from the masses as demonstrated in their larger participation in democratic process have pushed the extremists to the wall. Their own stand on sovereignty and total independence is also perplexing with different groups claiming chunks of territory of one another. There is also the clash of ethnicity, pride and egos.
It is no use to blame the intelligence failure or tactlessness on the part of the Dogra Regiment to move in one convoy. Time for the Centre is to go for proactive strategy, besides recasting its policy to deal firmly with north-east militants. It is also important that Indo-Myanmar has to plan joint offensive against these underground elements in the jungles of Myanmar.
Jyoti Lal Chowdhury Silchar (The writer is a senior journalist)