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Press Release
June 26, 2001

NEW DELHI, 26 June, 2001: Mr. H.N. Das, former Chief Secretary of Assam, spoke of rampant corruption of politicians, bureaucrats and other agencies manning the 'delivery system' for public goods, that had resulted in an artificial boom in Guwahati. He drew a graphic picture of more than 604 multi-storied buildings that had come up in Guwahati in the period 1995-2000, mainly as a result of money that had been siphoned out of the government's coffers, and largely under the aegis of the Surrendered ULFA (SULFA). These constructions involved an investment of over 1,200 crores. "Along the riverfront, you will see dozens of palatial bungalows. Most of them belong to the SULFA." He also noted that "there has been an enormous increase in investments and conspicuous consumption in Guwahati as a result of funds siphoned off from Government schemes." Mr. Das said, "The poor people get very little, sometimes nothing."

Mr. Das was speaking on the second day of the three-day Seminar on "Addressing Conflicts in India's Northeast" organized by Mr. K.P.S. Gill's Institute for Conflict Management.

Speaking at the same forum, Mr. Prakash Singh, who served as Director General of Police in Assam, said, "If it is said that the Government of India is the greatest financier of insurgency in the Northeast, it would not be off the mark." He added, "According to a study, if the total money invested in Nagaland on development had been given directly to the people, each Naga would have Rs. 25 lakh. Mere allocation of funds," he reiterated, " will not lead us anywhere. The law and order angle has to be factored in. Development can only follow after insurgency has been contained to some extent."

Mr. Das reaffirmed this perception, stating that "a lack of economic development is not the 'sole' reason, but just one among others, for fuelling insurgency in the Northeast …. It would be simplistic to believe that development by itself can end insurgency…"

Mr. Das also said, "Each of the insurgent outfits in the region was initially raised from among people who harboured feelings of neglect and 'colonial exploitation' or who strongly resented certain perceived wrongs to the particular community or sub-region they belonged to. The outfits then gained strength through clandestine support of politicians and overground frontal organizations and with funds procured mainly by extortion."

Speaking on the impact of the conflict in Assam on the women of the State, Anuradha Dutta, Professor of Political Science at the Guwahati University, stated that "Women are simply seen as the property of the enemy. Their lack of social and economic security compounds their vulnerability to violence." She emphasized the link between militarism and violence against women, and also elaborated on the various roles women play in insurgency related conflicts, including their role as victims of sexual and physical abuse; their role as peace negotiators; and their direct involvement in terrorism. Prof. Dutta said that "The growing number of incidence of rape has eroded the idea of the 'harmonious' and 'effective' family life…The psychological trauma associated with sexual violation and with the loss and disappearance of family members last long, even after peace returns."


Karan Sawhney, Director, International Centre for Peace Initiatives, speaking at the same forum said "I regret to say, our history has been a history of disrespect for people. Unless people are empowered to deal with their own problems, New Delhi will keep on recruiting battalions and sending them to deal with problems in all parts of the country".

According to an accomplished journalist and security analyst from Guwahati, Mr. Jaideep Saikia’s calculations, the ULFA’s budget for the current fiscal year is a whooping Rs 31 crore plus. This money would be raised through extortion from the tea industry, business houses, industrialists, politicians and government officials. His reading of the state’s view of the ULFA is, that it is an ‘ armed criminal gang masquerading as motivated political activists’, bereft of any ideology. Saikia attributes the relative successes, which the outfit had scored, to the Indian security forces being essentially stimulus responsive and not proactive in dealing with the ULFA’s campaign of violence. The liberal assessment of ULFA would be that it poses itself as an anti thesis to the Indian state. It must also be understood that the ULFA, notwithstanding its present day character, has also come to be a result of the anger against New Delhi for what has been variously termed as exploitation, condescension and a step motherly treatment. Indeed, New Delhi has begun to take Assam more seriously as a result of the ULFA. Jaideep Saikia said that the ULFA today "possesses the character of a true warlord", and without mincing words he added, the ULFA "in its quest for swadhin Asom… acts out an agenda which is in complete variance with the weighty nuances which gave it birth."

Regarding the extension of the cease-fire with the NSCN (IM), Dr. Samir Das, Reader in Political Science at the University of Calcutta, questioned the lack of efforts towards revitalising the civil society in the past three years.

Speaking on the role of civil society in areas of conflict, Dr. Das observed that the state should play the role of moderate facilitator as the strategy of playing an all-important role has backfired. According to him, there is a tendency to look on the state as a saviour of all things, and this tempts the state to ‘jump in everywhere’. He was of the opinion that not all conflicts are non-resolvable in the initial stages. The state, in his view, cannot gain by intervening prematurely in zero-sum conflicts. Dr. Das also underscored the importance of the distinction and polarisation between the internal and external Non-Governmental Organisations in the North East. He asserted that the latter cannot play a significant role and they can only act as facilitators with the former. In this context, he mentioned the case of the slain social activist Sanjoy Ghose in whose case the main accusation was that he belonged to an external NGO, AVARD-NE. He also wanted the reforms of local communities to emerge from within, as this would send the right signals.

On the final day of the seminar tomorrow, Mr. G. M. Srivastava, ADG (Training), Assam Police, will speak on "Negotiating with Terror: Settlements and Principled Settlements". Journalist Wasbir Hussain would make a presentation on Multi-force Operations in Counter-Terrorism: A view from the Assam Theatre". Prof. Imdad Hussain, Department of History, NEHU, Shillong, will speak on Army or Police: Ethnic Considerations in Conflict Management in Tribal North East India".

Working Paper

Press Release June 25

Press Release June 27





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