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
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
Press Release June 25
Press Release June 27