NEW DELHI, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- Failing to control the growing network of Maoist rebels in the insurgency-hit northeastern states, India's Interior Ministry has set up an anti-rebel cell to ensure periodic review and close monitoring of rebel activities.
"An anti-Naxal cell headed by an additional secretary in the Interior Ministry has been set up with a view to ensuring periodic review and close monitoring of the action plans drawn up by the states to deal with the Naxal problem," an Interior Ministry's internal note said.
Naxal is the term used in India for Maoists; it comes from the village of Naxalbari where the movement began in the 1970s.
The note said the group has also been assigned the task of constantly monitoring the activities of Maoists and to coordinate with the federal and state intelligence agencies to prevent expansion of rebel activities in other states. The cell was established following the strong recommendations for the need of such an elite committee. The chiefs of the Intelligence Bureau and Research and Analysis Wing, India's external spy agency, have been appointed as members of the cell.
Worried over the expansion of the Maoist network in the northeast, the Interior Ministry has asked intelligence agencies to keep a close watch on the growing interaction between Maoists and separatist groups in the region.
Senior Maoist leaders from Jharkhand state have been making frequent visits to Nagaland and Assam, the two worst insurgency-hit states over the past six months. Indian security agencies said they have started scanning past connections of Maoists leaders to the tea gardens and hills of Assam. Security forces and intelligence agencies were surprised after they recovered Maoist publicity material from Nepalese youths belonging to the Gorkha Liberation Force from Dimapur in Nagaland. Security forces also made a similar recovery from a youth in western Assam.
The Central Committee of Communist Party of India (Maoists) in a recent conclave held along the Chhattisgarh-Andhra Pradesh border passed a resolution extending its moral support to the movement of tribal communities and tea tribes of Assam in their struggle for tribal status.
"The resolution passed by Maoists extending support to tribal communities in northeastern states is an early-warning signal for the government as the region is already hit by separatist violence. Maoists' presence there would further worsen the situation. The government should prevent such a situation from taking serious turn at this stage," said Kalyan Barooah, an expert on insurgency in the northeastern region.
He said the entry of Maoists into the northeast -- particularly in Assam and Nagaland -- could rejuvenate waning separatist movements.
"The central Interior Ministry has sent instructions to the intelligence agencies of different security forces seeking detailed information about the network established by the Maoists in several parts of northeast, especially Assam and Nagaland," said a top ministry official attached with the anti-Naxal cell.
Maoist rebels have caused a serious internal security problem for India as 11 of its states have been hit by Naxalite violence for more than a decade, killing more than 10,000 people and security personnel. The rebels have strengthened their presence in the poverty-stricken central, western and southern Indian states. Their expansion to the northeast would be bad for India as the region is affected by poverty and shares a porous border with Bangladesh and Myanmar.
With a view that poverty and non-development are major reasons for the expansion of Maoism in the country, the government earmarked an additional $100 million under the police modernization scheme. The fund was allocated to buy demining equipment, the latest telecommunication equipment and modern weaponry.
The government also constituted an interministerial group to review the implementation of centrally sponsored schemes undertaken in the rebel-affected areas.
"Naxalism is a social evil. It can only be tackled through social and security measures. The government should address the problem more seriously," said Tara Shankar Sahay, a security expert at the Center for Asian Strategic Studies, a non-governmental think tank.