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Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 13, No. 28, January 12, 2015

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal


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A Fresh Beginning
Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

In a dramatic turnaround of political fortunes in the island nation, Pallewatte Gamaralalage Maithripala Yapa Sirisena, leader of the New Democratic Front (NDF), emerged victorious in a keenly contested Presidential Election held on January 8, 2015. Sirisena secured 6,217,162 votes (51.28 per cent) against 5,768,090 votes (47.58 per cent) polled by Mahinda Rajapaksa, the incumbent President, and candidate of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). A total of 19 candidates were in the fray, but the election was a direct contest between Sirisena and Rajapaksa from the outset, with the remaining 17 candidates eventually securing a joint total of 1.14 per cent votes. Sirisena took oath as the Seventh Elected Executive President of the country on January 9. It was the seventh presidential election.

12,264,377 (81.52 per cent) out of a total of 15,044,490 registered voters cast their ballot at 12,314 centers throughout the country. During the last Presidential Elections on January 26, 2010, incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa had won by a massive majority of over 1.8 million votes, with a total of 6,015,934 (57.88 per cent), against NDF candidate, former Army Chief and ex-Chief of Defense Staff, General (Retired) Sarath Fonseka, who polled 4,173,185 (40.15 per cent). 10,495,451 (74.49 per cent) of a total of 14,088,500 registered voters cast their ballot at 11,098 centers.

The NDF is a conglomeration of several political formations opposing the UPFA, including the main opposition United National Party (UNP).

Since the victory in the war against Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009, the Rajapaksa-led UPFA had won almost all elections in the country: the Presidential Election 2010; Parliamentary General Election 2010; and all Provincial Council Elections, barring the Northern Provincial Council Election of 2013. In fact, since coming to power for the first time in 2005, Rajapaksa had not faced electoral defeat from any quarter. This tremendous accomplishment, according to political analysts and critics, made him believe that he was ‘invincible’, and seduced him into exercising unbridled power. Despite mounting criticism, however, the country witnessed all-round development during his tenure, more so after the restoration of peace following LTTE’s defeat. This included dramatic progress in the Northern Province, the epicentre of war, where, according to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the highest rate of economic growth was recorded, with Provincial Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 27.8 per cent, as against a national average of 8.3 per cent in 2011; and 25.9 percent in 2012, as against a national average of 6.4 per cent. His failure was in his inability to address the issue of national reconciliation, despite sustained rhetoric on the subject.

Rajapaksa’s failure was in his inability to address the issue of national reconciliation, despite sustained rhetoric on the subject. While announcing the LTTE's defeat in Parliament on May 19, 2009, he had famously declared:
This is our country. This is our mother land. We should live in this country as children of one mother. No differences of race, caste and religion should prevail here…Our aim was to liberate our Tamil people from the clutches of the LTTE. Protecting the Tamil speaking people of this country is my responsibility. That is my duty. All the people of this country should live in safety without fear and suspicion. All should live with equal rights… Similarly, it is necessary that the political solutions they need should be brought closer to them faster than any country or government in the world would bring… I seek the support of all political parties for that solution…"

Rajapaksa’s immediate response to the outcome of the Parliamentary elections of 2010 was similarly encouraging:
The assured majority in Parliament given by the voters encourages the Government to proceed with its policies for the strengthening of peace and reconciliation, reconstruction, greater infrastructure development, increased investment in identified areas of growth, and the overall development of the country to make it the centre of economic and social progress in South Asia.

Nevertheless, his talks on reconciliation, particularly with the main Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), were always marred by suspicion, and had remained stalled since January 27, 2012.

The first sign of Rajapaksa's diminishing political sway was evident during the course of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) Elections, held on September 21, 2013. The TNA, which is considered the political inheritor of the LTTE, secured a landslide victory, winning in all five Districts of the Province, with a clear majority in 28 of 36 seats. The Rajapaksa-led UPFA secured just seven seats and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), one seat, out of the total of 38 in the NPC.

Stung by this defeat, and possibly overconfident of his influence outside the Northern Province, Rajapaksa called for Presidential Elections on October 20, 2014, with well over a year remaining in his tenure. Originally, the election was due in January 2016. Soon after he called for the Presidential election, he started losing his grip over his own party. At least 26 of his Members of Parliament, including several Ministers, deserted him. The biggest disaster occurred on November 21, 2014, when his close confidant Maithripala Sirisena deserted the party to join the opposition camp, and finally lead the Opposition in its direct fight against Rajapaksa.

In addition to the support he received from the Sinhalese and Muslims (SLMC supported the NDF), the new President Sirisena was overwhelmingly backed by the Tamils of the Northern Province, who have long been clamoring for justice. Significantly, in Vanni, the erstwhile stronghold of the vanquished LTTE, a staggering 98.05 per cent of voters cast their vote, of which Sirisena secured 78.5 per cent. Similarly, in Jaffna, another one-time stronghold of the defeated terrorist outfit, 64.22 voters exercised their franchise and Sirisena cornered 74.42 per cent of the votes polled. Indeed, the Tamils roundly rejected Rajapksa's perverse appeal during an election rally in Jaffna on January 2, 2015, that "the known devil is better than the unknown angel”.

It is for the first time since the emergence of the LTTE that a Sri Lankan President has received the open support of the Tamils, with the TNA, which had swept the NPC elections of 2013, staunchly backing Sirisena.

President Maithripala Sirisena now has a window of opportunity to initiate a time bound process of national reconciliation. He certainly has the mandate to do so, and TNA has also projected a reconciliatory posture. On July 15, 2014, TNA conceded that Sri Lanka was a unitary State, agreed to denounce separatism, and accepted a united Sri Lanka for all communities. Just in September 2013, TNA had contested the Provincial Council elections on a manifesto calling for self-determination in the Tamil-dominated North under a federal structure. The TNA has now also agreed to submit an affidavit to the Supreme Court in this regard. Nevertheless, if the bonhomie is to continue, issues such as devolution of power, land and police rights will have to be addressed on a war footing.

Sirisena will, however, have to walk a tightrope, particularly with regard to the strident campaign by the international community, particularly western nations, to interfere in the country's internal affairs in the guise of 'investigation of war crimes'. Sri Lanka's comprehensive victory against LTTE had provoked, the much of Europe, the US, and some of the most prominent international agencies including the United Nations (UN), to sustain irrational pressure on Colombo, backed by the surviving elements of the radical Tamil fringe. These countries and agencies will see Rajapaksa's removal as an opportunity for initiatives that could prove detrimental to Sri Lanka's sovereignty, and contribute to a politics of ethnic polarization that would undermine the gains of last over five and half years since the end of the war in May 2009, and of the new hope that the recent electoral outcome brings.

Any perception of 'vengefulness' on the part of the new dispensation, on the behest of the international community, would immediately diminish Sirisena's support base among the Sinhala majority, and would also escalate the currently marginal threat of residual LTTE elements. Apprehensions of an attempted revival by LTTE were reinforced when, in the early hours of April 11, 2014, a Security Forces (SFs) team launched a cordon and search operation in the forest area off Padaviya in Anuradhapura District, and was fired upon by militants hiding in the forest. SFs killed three armed local LTTE leaders, reportedly in retaliatory fire. The dead were identified as Selvanayagam Kajeepan alias Gobi, Sundaralingam Kajeepan alias Thevihan and Navaratnam Navaneethan alias Appan. Earlier, on April 10, 2014, troops had recovered four back-packs containing rations, medicine, clothes, etc., believed to be have been used by the slain cadres, near the encounter site. The SFs had intensified their operations in the Northern Region following a shootout in the Dharmapuram area of Kilinochchi District on March 13, 2014, when Gobi, who had returned to the country after fleeing overseas at the end of the war, had escaped after injuring a Police officer. On March 22, 2014, Police had announced a reward of LKR One million for any information leading to Gobi's whereabouts.

Crucially, reports suggest that the neutralized local group was functioning under the instructions of LTTE leaders, Norway-based Perimbanayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyawan and France-based Vinayagamoorthi Sekarapillai alias Kadiragamaseram Vinayagamoorthi alias Kamanan Vinayagam Sekarapillai alias Vinayagamoorthy Arivazhaghan alias Arivalahan alias Kathirgamathamby Iyyana  alias Vinayagam. According to a Press Release issued by the Media Centre of the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development,
They were preparing the ground for another armed struggle. Immediate objectives of the local group included the recovery of war like material dumped by the LTTE during retreat, re-establishment of LTTE intelligence network, regrouping of the potential cadre including those rehabilitated, collecting information on potential targets, including in other provinces… Investigations revealed that the funds for these activities that came from Europe were being transferred using Hawala system. It was also revealed that many safe houses, vehicles and other resources required for resurgence of the LTTE had been procured by them using this money.

Though it is difficult for the LTTE to regain its influence at the present juncture, as Colombo has succeeded in detecting and neutralizing each conspiracy in its early stages, vigilance will remain an urgent imperative for the new President, even as he takes the process of bringing the process of national reconciliation forward. 

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Jharkhand: Strategic Silence
Fakir Mohan Pradhan
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

In a change for good, the five phase Assembly Election in Jharkhand held in the month of November and December 2014 passed off peacefully, with a record voter turnout of 66.47 per cent. According to the Jharkhand Chief Electoral Officer P.K. Jajoria the State has not recorded this high a polling in any election - Assembly or Lok Sabha - since the creation of the State in 2000. Significantly, Inspector General (IG) of Police (Operations) M.L. Meena, who was a nodal officer in the Election Cell, added, "Since 1996, no election had been peaceful. Casualties were reported in 2009 and 2005 Assembly and Lok Sabha polls from Palamu, Dhanbad, Giridih, Khunti and Dumka." In the General Elections to the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) held in April-May 2014, eight persons - five Jharkhand Armed Police (JAP) personnel, two poll officials and a cleaner of the minibus in which they were travelling - died in a landmine blast by the Maoists in the Shikaripada Police Station area in Dumka District on April 24.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its pre-poll alliance partner the All Jharkhand Students’ Union (AJSU) won 42 seats (BJP 37 and AJSU 5) in the 81-member Assembly, looking to end the persistent political instability since the formation of the State. Jharkhand has seen nine Governments in the 14 years of its existence, with none of these completing a full term. President’s rule has been imposed thrice in the State. Moreover, with BJP now leading the State Government, better coordination between the State and the Centre at the policy as well as operational levels is expected, raising hopes for improved state response to the Maoist challenge. The Maoists, moreover, have lost significant momentum in the State, despite making their presence felt in a number of incidents.

In fact, just a day after the declaration of the results of the Assembly Elections on December 23, over 40 cadres of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) attacked a Police patrol at Itkhori in Chatra District, killing one Policeman and injuring another three on December 24, 2014. The ambush spot was just one kilometre from the Itkhori Police Station. A 30-minute encounter followed, after which the Maoists escaped, taking advantage of the cover of darkness. Director General of Police (DGP) Rajiv Kumar termed the incident a “desperate attempt” by the Maoists who “have lost the ground”.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Jharkhand recorded a total of 97 fatalities, including 48 civilians, 12 Security Force (SF) personnel and 37 left wing extremist (LWE) cadres in 2014. In 2013 the State registered 131 fatalities, including 48 civilians, 26 SF personnel and 57 LWE cadres. With this, Jharkhand retained the dubious distinction of recording highest civilian fatalities for the third year running, though Chhattisgarh, with a total of 113 killings - 25 civilians, 55 SF personnel and 33 Maoists - recorded the highest fatalities in LWE related incidents. Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) data available till November 15, 2014, confirms these trends, with the Jharkhand fatalities at 93, including 77 civilians, eight SF personnel and eight LWE cadres; for the whole of 2013 the figures were 162 killed, including 120 civilians, 30 SF personnel and 12 LWE cadres [the high variance between SATP and Government data on LWE insurgents killed is because MHA records only those killed in encounters with SFs, while SATP includes all those killed in fratricidal violence between various LWE groupings]. In 2015, as of January 11, Jharkhand has recorded three fatalities: two suspected leftwing extremists were killed by Maoists allegedly over a dispute on ‘levy’ collection, at Kadamdiha in West Singhbhum District on January 6; and chief of Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC), Guddu Ganjhu, was killed in an fratricidal clash at Birhu village in Chatra District on January 10. JPC is a splinter Maoist group.

A decline in Maoist activities in the State is evident. While civilian fatalities remain at the same level, SF fatalities have reduced by more than half from, 26 to 12, between 2013 and 2014. LWE fatalities have also come down from 57 to 37, indicating that the extremists are carefully avoiding active engagement with the SFs.

An analysis of major incidents also confirms this trend. While various LWE splinter groups generally avoid clashing with SFs, CPI-Maoist continues to target the SFs. In 2014, out of a total of eight major incidents (each resulting in three or more fatalities), CPI-Maoist engineered just one attack against SFs, on April 24 (during the last phase of the Lok Sabha poll in Jharkhand). Further, there has been just one major incident in which CPI-Maoist suffered major losses at the hands of the SFs: SFs killed three CPI-Maoist cadres, including an 'area commander', at Nayanpur in Giridih District on September 12, in a gun battle that broke out during an area domination exercise by the SFs. Significantly, the Maoists engineered a big revenge attack on the Tritiya Prastuti Committee (TPC) on August 9, 2014, killing at least 14 cadres of this splinter group at Choti Kauriya village under Vishrampur Police Station limits in Palamu District. Maoists also killed three civilians each on two occasions, on June 3 and July 25, suspecting them of acting against their interests. PLFI was responsible for one major incident, killing seven persons, including two Special Police Officers and two members of the Shanti Sena (Peace Army), a vigilante formation operating in the State.  

Geographically, fatalities were recorded in Gumla (18), Palamu (16), Khunti (12), Dumka (10), Giridih (7), Hazaribagh (6), Ranchi (5), East Singhbhum (4), Simdega (4), West Singhbhum (4), Latehar (3), Lohardaga (2), Seraikella-Kharsawan (2), Bokaro (1), Chatra (1), Daltonganj (1) and Garwah (1).

Among other patterns of violence recorded by SATP, the Maoists engaged in at least 12 incidents of arson in eight Districts – Gumla (3), Lohardaga (2), Chatra (1), Dumka (1), East Singhbhum (1), Khunti (1), Latehar (2) and Ramgarh (1) through 2014. In this period LWE groups were also involved in eight blasts in four Districts - Bokaro (3), Giridih (2), Latehar (2), and Hazaribagh (1) – and five recorded cases of abduction. In 2013, LWE groups were involved in 12 incidents of arson in six Districts, eight recorded incidents of abduction and eight incidents of explosions.

An analysis of Maoist violence, as well as of overground and underground activities, through 2014, indicates that a total of 11 Districts, including Dumka, East Singhbhum, Giridih, Gumla, Hazaribagh, Khunti, Palamu, Ranchi, Latehar, Simdega, and West Singhbhum, remain highly affected; Bokaro, Chatra, Garhwa, Lohardaga Seraikela-Kharswan, Ramgarh are moderately affected; and Dhanbad and Godda are marginally affected by LWE activities.

A peculiar feature of LWE violence in Jharkhand is that various splinter groups (which have broken away from the CPI-Maoist) continue to operate, parallel to CPI-Maoist. The most prominent among these groups include the PLFI, TPC, and Jharkhand Prastuti Committee (JPC). These splinter groups are strongly antagonist to CPI-Maoist, and are also engaged in fratricidal struggles - essentially turf wars for territorial dominance - among themselves. Meanwhile, a joint team of Jharkhand and Delhi Police arrested former Jharkhand agriculture minister Yogendra Sao from Sukurpur area in Delhi, on October 5, 2014, on charges of harbouring and operating two extremist outfits — Jharkhand Tiger Group (JTG) and Jharkhand Bachao Aandolan (JBA ) — in the Hazaribagh area.

In a sensational revelation, outgoing Chief Minister (CM) Hemant Soren claimed, on the floor of the Assembly on August 4, 2014, that it was the Police that created TPC and PLFI: “It is our system which creates such organisations. It was Ram [Ex-DGP V.D. Ram] who formed TPC and PLFI in 2004. It is the system we have! We all have to work collectively and not just blaming the Government of the day or policemen is going to help (sic).”

Jharkhand Police had recorded some good catches in 2014. Prominent among them was Krishna Ahir aka Prasad ji, a ‘Zonal Commander’ of the South Chhotanagpur Zone and a member of CPI-Maoist's Jharkhand State Committee under the Eastern Regional Bureau, from the Hapedag Forest under the Angara Police Station of Ranchi District, on August 13. Ahir had a bounty of INR 2 million on his head. Another was Sanjay Ganjhu aka Ramesh aka Rameshwar aka Pratap Ganjhu, member of the CPI-Maoist Bihar-Jharkhand-North-Chhattisgarh Regional Committee, who carried a cash reward of INR one million, from the border of West Singhbhum and Simdega Districts, on December 11. Ganjhu was a key explosives expert. Other significant arrests included: Jetha Kachchap 'second-in-command' of the PLFI, arrested from his hideout in Chautanga village in Tupudana Police Station in Ranchi District on August 5; Praveer Da alias Pravil Da, a CPI-Maoist cadre who played a major role in the 2013 killing of Superintendent of Police Amarjeet Balihar in Pakur District on July 2, 2013, arrested from Harwadangal village in Ramgarh Block in Dumka District on September 27, 2014.

Meanwhile,  the arrest of CPI-Maoist 'zonal commander' Mukhlal alias Mochhu alias Bhagat, carrying a cash prize of INR 500,000 on his head, was clouded by doubts about the actual identity of the arrested person. In another case, Sushil Ganju, a CPI-Maoist 'zonal commander', who is said to have led the Karmatiya massacre in Latehar District in January 2013, and carried a reward of INR 300,000, is believed by the Maoists to have been arrested on November 1, 2014, though Police have not claimed the arrest. The Maoists gave a bandh call, demanding that his 'arrest' be made public.

Altogether, 29 ‘commanders’ at various levels in different LWE groups were arrested through 2014, including at least 14 from CPI-Maoist. A total of 230 insurgents were arrested in 2014 in Jharkhand. Further, seven ‘commanders’ of various groups were killed through 2014, including at least five from CPI-Maoist. Significantly, a former 'sub zonal commander' of the CPI-Maoist, identified as Mangal Nagesiya, was killed by the Maoists at Kanshikona village in Gumla District of Jharkhand in an apparent move to ‘clear ground’. Nagesiya had been with CPI-Maoist for several years, then parted ways to join PLFI, then three years ago formed his own group called Janhit Kranti Party. After killing him, Maoists looted his weapons. He carried a reward of INR 500,000 on his head. Further, out of a total of 10 surrenders two are ‘commander’ level Maoists.

However, in a significant security lapse, 55 undertrials, of whom 26 were in jail on charges of Maoist activities, made a bid to escape from the Chaibasa District Jail when they found the main gate open, as soon as the vehicle in which they were taken to court returned to the jail premises. Two persons, Teepa Das, said to be a CPI-Maoist ‘Zonal Commander’ and Ram Vilas Tanti, died on the spot when Police opened fire on the escaping undertrials. However, 15 managed to escape. Various conspiracy theories have arisen regarding the incident, creating a worrisome picture in conjunction with the simultaneous hunger strikes across Jharkhand Jails in 2014, and Maoists’ declared objective of forming jail communes. 

Further, in November 2014, a confidential Police report revealed that some corrupt Police officials were selling Police ammunition to LWE insurgents, after showing exaggerated bullet consumption in fake encounters or fake target practice. An enquiry is on.

A 'platoon commander' of the CPI-Maoist's People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA), identified as Jeevan Kandulna aka Gajendra Singh, in an interview in the Porahat Forest of West Singhbum District of Jharkhand on November 5, confessed that the outfit was not in a healthy state in its former stronghold of the Porahat 'sub-zone'. He blamed its absence at the grassroots level for the decline and conceded, "The party works through its committees. We don't have the Nari (Mukti Sangh, Women's Liberation Union), and the (Krantikari) Kisan (Revolutionary Farmers') Committee is nonexistent. I am the only person running the party here; there should be at least three."

In efforts at damage control, CPI-Maoist's Bihar-Jharkhand Special Area Committee (BJSAC) 'general secretary' Rupesh ji, on November 15, 2014, asserted that the Maoists' silence should not be mistaken for disenchantment of the militia with its ideology. He claimed that a mass movement was being planned against the forceful eviction of villagers to give mining rights to 19 private companies in Saranda. "How long can the Government succeed if the villagers themselves rise against them?" he demanded. Meanwhile, during his visit to Saranda, responding to a query related to the Saranda Action Plan, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh stated, "Much has to be done. Problems are there. Roads are not good."

In November 2014, CPI-Maoist introduced structural changes in their organization, introducing a new committee with a focus on the Jharkhand-Bihar region, and dismantling an existing committee. The formation of the East Bihar Eastern Jharkhand Special Area Committee (EBEJSAC) - to dominate four districts of Dumka, Godda, Pakur and Jamtara under Santhal Pargana Division, and Bhagalpur, Banka, Jamui Lakhisarai and Monghyr in Bihar - is part of the strategy adopted by CPI Maoist during their Fourth Central Committee Meeting held in 2013.

Earlier the outgoing Director General of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Dilip Trivedi, while addressing the media on the eve of the CRPF’s 75th Raising Day, on November 12, 2014, had termed Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand as the most challenging States with regard to tackling Left Wing Extremism in the country. He worried that Maoists were obtaining capabilities to detonate a mine from a long distance and hinted that some States, including Jharkhand, had a vested interest in letting Maoist violence continue.

Interestingly, in the beginning of 2014 Jharkhand proposed to phase out deployment of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) in the State within a period of five years to reduce the financial burden. In October 2014, however, the State was once again urging the UMHA to deploy an additional seven CRPF battalions in some of the CPI-Maoist-affected Districts, which have seen the worst violence triggered by LWE since 2004. Over 24 battalions of CAPFs are currently deployed in the State. Jharkhand has a Police-population ratio of 174 per 100,000, as on December 31, 2013 (National Crime Records Bureau data). The CRPF recently sent two small squads (35 per squad) of women commandos to fight the Naxals in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, for the first time.

On January 2, 2015, the newly elected Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Raghubar Das, declared that he would provide development-oriented schemes and good governance in the State, as he held “administrative failure” to be a major cause of Naxalism. He announced that, within a month, the teachers’ recruitment process would commence, and 17,000 Policemen would be appointed within a 'couple of months'. Such ambitions, however, must be moderated by the prevailing political culture of the State. According to media reports, 22 candidates in the recently concluded Assembly Election in the State have or had alleged LWE links, with 10 of these having present or past links with CPI-Maoist. Seven of them have managed to win the election.    

Maoists appear to have adopted a strategic silence in Jharkhand, currently focusing more on Chhattisgarh. A stable Government in the State presents a unique opportunity for decisive action against the Maoists over a longer term, as the political vacillation and opportunism of the unstable coalition Governments of the past could see a decline, even as coordination between the BJP-led State and Central Governments improves.

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Meghalaya: A Little Respite
Giriraj Bhattacharjee
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

The trend of rising insurgency-related fatalities in Meghalaya continued through 2014, with a total of 76 fatalities, as compared to 60 in 2013, an increase of 26.67 per cent, according to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP). Consequently, the State continued to hold the dubious distinction of being the second-worst insurgency affected State in the Northeast in terms of overall fatalities, with Assam accounting for the highest number of fatalities at 305. Meghalaya secured this unenviable position for the first time in 2013.

One fatality has been recorded in 2015 [data till January 11]. Two Achik Matgrik Elite Force (AMEF) militants killed a gatekeeper, Entison Sangma (30), at Ronkhugre in the West Khasi Hills District on January 11. "We suspect the killing was for ransom and was the handiwork of AMEF," said Superintendent of Police, West Khasi Hills, S. Nongtyngnger.

In spite of the rise in fatalities, indices suggest a consolidation of peace in the State. Crucially, civilian fatalities, which had been rising continuously since 2009, registered a decline of 17.86 per cent in 2014, as compared to the previous year, dropping from 28 to 23. Incidents of civilian killing in both years, remained at 20. Civilian killings in 2014 were reported from five Districts - East Garo Hills, West Garo Hills, North Garo Hills, South Garo Hills and South West Garo Hills. These Districts accounted for all the insurgency-linked fatalities in the year, leaving the remaining six Districts of the State outside the ambit of fatal violence. In 2013, fatalities had been reported from seven districts – the five above, as well as West Khasi Hills and South West Khasi Hills.

Fatalities among Security Force (SF) personnel, which had increased sharply in 2013, over 2012, recorded a decline in 2014. Two SF personnel had been killed in 2012; nine in 2013, as against six in 2014. On the other hand, the State recorded the highest single-year fatalities among militants since 1992, with 47 killed in 2014. SFs action led to 27 militant fatalities [in 22 encounters], while another 13 rebel cadres were killed in internecine clashes; seven militants were lynched by angry villagers in 2014. In 2013, militant fatalities stood at 23 – including 15 killed by SFs; six lynched by villagers; one killed in a factional clash; and another one killed by his own group. The ratio of SFs to militants killed improved to 2:9 in 2014, as against 3:5 in 2013.

173 militants were arrested in 73 separate incidents in 2014, as compared to 64 in 2013. The arrested militants belonged to Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), 48; Breakaway faction of A’chik National Volunteer Council (ANVC-B), 29; Achick Songa An’pachakgipa Kotok (ASAK), 25; Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), 21; United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I), 13; United A’chik Liberation Army (UALA), 11; Achik National Cooperative Army (ANCA), 10; A’chik National Liberation Co-operative Army (ANLCA), six; AMEF, five; and A’chik National United Force (ANUF), three; Liberation Achik Elite Force (LAEF), one; People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) one. In one of the significant arrests, three ASAK militants, including its ‘finance secretary’ Cherang M. Sangma, were arrested from the Asanang area, about 18 kilometers from Tura town in West Garo Hills District, on May 24, 2014.

Mounting SF pressure also led to rising surrenders. 796 militants surrendered in 2014, as compared to just nine in 2013. The A’chik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) and ANVC-B were disbanded at a function at the Dikki-Bandi Stadium at Dakopgre in Tura in West Garo Hills District on December 15, 2014. 748 cadres from both factions - 447 [ANVC] and 301 [of ANVC-B] were present as the ‘chairmen’ of the two militant formations - Dilash Marak [ANVC] and Bernard N Marak [ANVC-B] - signed the Affirmation Agreement at the disbanding ceremony. The ‘commanders-in-chief’ of both outfits, Jerome Momin and Mukosh Marak, respectively, were also present. Chief Minister Mukul Sangma, during the ceremony, termed the former Garo militants as ‘misguided outfits’. However, ANVC ‘chairman’ Dilash Marak opposed the statement, observing, "When we started our war we did not follow any example set by any oppressed or suppressed indigenous group. Our minds were crystal clear. We were not misguided..." This dissonance is significant in the context of a multiplicity of other 'peace deals' between Governments in the region and insurgent formations, which have failed to secure an enduring peace. Further, the number of surrendered cadres from each faction was much higher than the Government's estimated cadre strength, creating the potential for future difficulties between these groups and state negotiators.

Chief Minister Sangma, on June 6, 2014, had declared that as many as 10 militant groups were operating in Meghalaya. These included – HNLC, GNLA, ANVC, ANVC-B, ASAK, UALA, ANLA, ANLCA, A’chik Tiger Force (ATF) and ANUF. Sangma also provided estimates of the cadre strength of each of these: GNLA, over 200 cadres and about 110 new recruits; ANVC, 163 cadres; ANVC-B, 151 cadres; ASAK, 60 cadres; HNLC and UALA, 40 cadres each; ANLA, 15 cadres; ANUF and ATF, 10 cadres each, and ANLCA, five cadres. Of these 10 groups, the centre of activity of nine was in the Garo Hills, while HNLC operated in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills. Sangma, moreover, omitted the name of another militant formation, LAEF arguing that the Government did not want to give undue credibility to this 'minor group'. With the disbanding of ANVC and ANVC-B the number of active groups has been reduced to eight.

Meanwhile, the State Government continued to bring other Garo militant formations on board the negotiation process. On January 6, 2015, Sangma disclosed that his Government had appointed three interlocutors to hold parleys with various splinter groups operating in the Garo Hills region, with the exception of GNLA. The militant outfits that had declared their presence in the Garo Hills include UALA, ASAK, ANUF, A’chik National Liberation Army (ANLA), ATF, ANLCA and AMEF. Earlier, GNLA ‘commander-in-chief’ Sohan D. Shira, on September 5, 2014, had threatened to conduct a wave of serial blasts in Garo Hills targeting Government institutions and Congress offices in retaliation against Chief Minister Sangma's alleged policy of 'sidelining' Garo outfits in talks, while preparing the groundwork for negotiations with HNLC. Significantly, talks with HNLC are yet to start. On January 7, 2015, HNLC reiterated its readiness for talks, but made it clear that it was not ready for demobilization and disarmament.

Meanwhile, GNLA remains the most dangerous outfit operating in the State. Indeed, of 23 attributable civilian killings in 2014, GNLA was involved in eight, followed by AMEF and ANLA, two each. 11 fatalities remained unattributed. Similarly, of the six SF fatalities, GNLA was responsible for five, while one remained unattributed. As GNLA was most active, it also suffered the maximum number of losses in terms of cadres killed. Of 47 militants killed in 2014, 10 were GNLA; followed by ANVC-B and UALA, six each; ASAK, 4; and ANLA (3).

Significantly, to neutralize GNLA and the Assam based ULFA-I, a counter insurgency (CI) operation, Hill Storm was launched on July 11, 2014. A September 5, 2014, report quoted an unnamed senior Police official involved in Operation, as saying that connectivity between 'commander-in-chief' of GNLA Sohan D. Shira and his immediate aides had been partially choked off in the preceding month.

More worryingly, multiple splits in militant outfits operating in the Garo Hills have led to an increase in abduction and extortion cases. Chief Minister Sangma, thus observed, “The major militant outfits operating in Garo Hills region have been demanding a separate Garoland, while the new outfits are mostly groups of deserters from ANVC, GNLA and others, who are mostly engaged in extortion and kidnappings and have no specific demands or ideology”. The split in GNLA led to the formation of the Garo National Liberation Army-Faction (GNLA-F) in 2013, which rechristened itself ASAK in February 2014. In 2014, ASAK split further and AMEF was formed. According to partial data compiled by SATP, there have been a total of at least 54 recorded incidents of abduction in 2014, in which 70 civilians were abducted (29 persons were rescued or released, one was killed, Information about the remaining 40 is not available). In 2013, there were 17 reported incidents, in which 36 persons were abducted. Open source data on abductions and extortion is severely inadequate to gauge the scale of such incidents, since reported instances is likely to be a fraction of the actual. Indeed, according to an unconfirmed July 4, 2014, report, 175 persons were abducted for ransom between June 2013 and June 2014, and 98 just between January 1, 2014, and June 30, 2014. 19 incidents of extortion were also recorded through 2014, compared to 17 such incidents in 2013, according to the SATP database.

Though no pro-Inner Line Permit (ILP) agitation was recorded in 2014, such agitations and consequent violence in 2013 had resulted in loss of over INR 310 million to the State. ILPs are issued under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation, 1873, and are required by Indians other than natives of Nagaland, Mizoram, and Arunachal Pradesh to enter these States, and there has been a periodic demand by locals to extend this provision to Meghalaya as well.

Meghalaya boasts a fairly high Police-population ratio of 416 per lakh population, compared to an all-India average of 141. However, Police-density remains low, at 49.9 policemen per 100 square kilometres, when compared to an all-India average of 54.7. On July 7, 2014, Chief Minister Sangma noted, "There is shortage of Police manpower to deal with regular crime, militancy and investigation. Hence, the Government has decided to look forward to creating the new infrastructure taking into consideration the present scenario.” In one such attempt, a dedicated special unit for tackling insurgency, Special Multi-Task Force or Special Force 10, is to be set up by September 2015, with a maximum of 1,200 recruits. SF 10 will be deployed for counter insurgency operations.

Perhaps the most significant long-term challenge is to secure international borders. Meghalaya shares a 443-kilometre-long border with Bangladesh, of which around 70 kilometers is unfenced, along terrain that is difficult to patrol. 57 camps and hideouts of various militant formations operating in India's Northeast, including those of GNLA and HNLC, still exist in Bangladesh. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) on April 16, 2014, criticised the State Government for its tardy approach to completing the fencing of the Bangladesh border. An unnamed UMHA official noted, in April 2014, “There are a lot of local issues that have to be addressed by the State Government. The MHA can only implement construction work when the State has given all clearances, as land is a state subject. The slow approach in solving these problems is proving costly for national security."

The broad trends in Meghalaya appear positive at present, but unless decisive steps are taken against the remaining insurgent formations operating in the State, the dangers of an abrupt escalation will remain. Given the enveloping instability of the regional situation, moreover, there is always the risk of an overflow of troubles across state and international borders.


Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
January 5-11, 2015



Security Force Personnel











Left-wing Extremism








Total (INDIA)















Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


Countrywide blockade would continue until further notice, says BNP Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi: Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi on January 7 said the ongoing countrywide blockade would continue until further notice. Rizvi alleged the Government had used members of the law enforcement agencies to spray pepper at BNP chief Begum Khaleda Zia's Gulshan office in Dhaka city so that she died.

Earlier, on January 5, Begum Khaleda Zia announced a countrywide indefinite blockade of road, rail and waterways. She said, "The programme will continue until further notice. We will set the next course of action after the situation calms down. I will ask the 20-party alliance leaders and activists to carry on with the movement until our demand is fulfilled.". Dhaka Tribune , January 8, 2015; Dhaka Tribune, January 6, 2015.


Australia warns of terror attacks in India, says report: The Australian Government warned that terrorists were planning attacks in India, and urged its citizens to "exercise a high degree of caution" while travelling through the country. "We continue to receive reports that terrorists are planning attacks in India and assess that attacks could occur anywhere at any time with little or no warning, including in locations frequented by Australians," said a statement on, the Australian government's travel advisory site. Times of India, January 7, 2015.

Fidayeen threat on Delhi-Lahore friendship bus, says report: Following intelligence inputs received from a foreign agency on January 2 of a possible fidayeen (suicide) attack on Delhi-Lahore friendship bus, both the countries have stepped up security measures for the bus service. The buses originate from Delhi on every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and from Lahore every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. DNA, January 8, 2015.


Constitution will be promulgated on January 22, says Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam: Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam remarked that the new constitution will be promulgated on January 22 even if it has to be done through voting. Gautam, who is also the vice chairman of Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), said so at a time when the political parties are, apparently, nowhere near consensus on the disputed issues of constitution drafting while the January 22 deadline is just two weeks away. eKantipur, January 10, 2015.


25 militants and nine SFs among 39 persons killed during the week in FATA: At least seven Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) militants were killed and several others injured in explosions at a terrorist centre in the Sipah area of Khyber Agency in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on January 9.

Six militants were killed in an exchange of fire with Security Forces (SFs) in Dattakhel tehsil (revenue unit) of North Waziristan Agency (NWA) on January 9.

Four soldiers were killed and two others sustained injuries in a roadside blast when the soldiers were on a routine patrol in the Bashak area Orakzai Agency on January 9.

Four SF personnel were killed and two others injured in an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion apparently targeting the vehicle of SFs in Lower Kurram Agency on January 8.

Twelve militants were killed in shelling by gunship helicopters of the Army while four terrorist hideouts were also destroyed in Mama Ziarat and Khadarkhel areas of Datta Khel tehsil in NWA on January 7.

Three bullet riddled bodies were found at a graveyard in Qandhari area of Safi tehsil in Mohmand Agency on January 6. Daily Times; Dawn; The News; Tribune; Central Asia Online; The Nation; The Frontier Post; Pakistan Today; Pakistan Observer, January 6-12, 2015.

15 civilians and nine militants among 29 persons killed during the week in Sindh: Four al Qaeda terrorists, including a 'commander', were killed in alleged encounter with Police in the Qayyumabad area of Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh.

Three suspected militants, identified as Gul Pir Khan, Noor Alam and Ameer Mohammad, were killed in a Police encounter led by Crime Investigation Department's (CID) Counter-Terrorism Unit on Northern Bypass, on the outskirts of Karachi on January 6. Daily Times; Dawn; The News; Tribune; Central Asia Online; The Nation; The Frontier Post; Pakistan Today; Pakistan Observer, January 6-12, 2015.

Violence took 7,655 lives in 2014, says survey: Pakistan faced a range of internal security issues in 2014, resulting in a wide range of violence, including terrorism, militant attacks, sectarian violence, crimes, target killings, security operations and drone strikes. Compared to 5,687 deaths in 2013, a total of 7,655 people died in 2014 as a direct result of violence, which is an average increase of about 35%, revealed a survey conducted by Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS). The most significant increase in violence was in observed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where fatalities more than doubled from 1,457 in 2013 to 3,399 in 2014. Daily Times, January 10, 2015.

Terror sanctuaries in Pakistan an issue of concern, says Pentagon: The Pentagon said on January 10 that the "sanctuary" that some of the militant groups enjoy in Pakistan has long been an issue of concern. Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said that it was for Pakistan to continue the fight against terrorism in its own interest, and noted that like the Paris victims, Pakistanis have been victims of terror. Daily Times, January 12, 2015.

Over 8,000 seminaries operate without affiliation: Over 8,000 seminaries have neither been registered with the Ittehad-e-Tanzeemat-e-Madaris Pakistan (ITMP), an umbrella of five schools of thought, nor with the Ministry of Religious Affairs, raising a serious question over their curriculum's legitimacy and their source of funding. Following the National Action Plan (NAP) committee's recommendations, officials associated with provinces' Auqaf departments are gathering data about madaris/makatib which have never been registered with the ITMP, Ministry Of Religious Affairs or with the Provincial Auqaf Departments. Tribune, January 7, 2015.

President signs military courts bills into law: President Mamnoon Hussain on January 7 signed into law the 21st Constitutional Amendment Bill of 2015 as well as the Pakistan Army Act 1952 Amendment. President signed into law the 21st onstitutional Amendment, making it applicable with immediate effect. The 21st Amendment to the constitution would provide constitutional cover to trial of offences relating to terrorism by military courts. The Senate on January 6 had approved the 21st Constitutional Amendment as well as the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill 2015.

Former President and Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari said on January 11 that the military courts would save the future of the coming generations from terrorism. Zardari said that the situation prevailing in the country demands political wisdom from all political parties of the country. Daily Times, January 8, 2015; Daily Times, January 12, 2015.

Operation clean-up launched against banned outfits operating under new names, says Federal Minister of Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan: The Federal Minister of Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on January 7 that a clean-up operation has been launched against those banned outfits that have started operating under new names, and all such groups are under strict watch of security agencies. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that media should completely blackout coverage of terrorists, saying that they would "die their natural deaths" if not given any publicity. Daily Times, January 8, 2015.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government offers PKR 10 million bounty for information leading to the arrest or death of TTP 'chief' Mullah Fazlullah and LI 'chief' Mangal Bagh: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government on January 5 announced a PKR 10 million reward for information leading to the arrest or death of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) 'chief' Mullah Fazlullah and Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) 'chief' Mangal Bagh Afridi. The Provincial Government has prepared a list of 615 high-profile militants and proclaimed offenders and is offering a combined bounty of PKR 760 million, according to sources. The names of Fazlullah and Mangal Bagh feature on the list that includes high-profile militants and proclaimed offenders from 22 Districts of the Province and adjoining Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Tribune, January 6, 2015.

Ulema for public execution of convicted militants: The Ulema and religious scholars from different schools of thought on January 9 underlined the need for public execution of convicted militants so that no one could dare to take lives of innocent people by carrying out subversive activities. They extended their complete support to the government initiatives taken to uproot extremism and terrorism from the country, saying that all religious sects were united against terrorism. Daily Times, January 10, 2015.

Security costs may force many schools to shut down: As the Government reviews security measures following winter vacations, owners of private schools said the costs associated with the arrangements could result in a large number of the institutes winding up for good. According to All Pakistan Private Schools Association, the total number of private schools in Peshawar is 2,027 of which 915 were checked and their security arrangements were declared satisfactory. Tribune, January 8, 2015.


Maithripala Sirisena sworn in as Seventh Executive President: The winner of the 2015 Presidential Election Maithripala Sirisena was sworn in on January 9 as the Seventh Elected Executive President of Sri Lanka. Sirisena, leader of the New Democratic Front (NDF), defeated the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the Presidential Election held on January 8, 2015. Sirisena secured 6,217,162 votes (51.28 per cent) against 5,768,090 votes (47.58 per cent) polled by Rajapaksa. Colombo Page, January 10, 2015.

The South Asia Intelligence Review (SAIR) is a weekly service that brings you regular data, assessments and news briefs on terrorism, insurgencies and sub-conventional warfare, on counter-terrorism responses and policies, as well as on related economic, political, and social issues, in the South Asian region.

SAIR is a project of the Institute for Conflict Management and the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

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Dr. Ajai Sahni

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