Friday, May 2, 2008

Analysis: Maoists eye India's northeast

NEW DELHI, May 1 (UPI) -- Indian intelligence and security agencies are worried over the efforts of Maoist rebels to set up bases in the already restive northeast, which has now overtaken Jammu and Kashmir in militancy-related violence.

Security experts are analyzing the possible ramifications of the move. Following inputs from the Intelligence Bureau, the Interior Ministry sounded a red alert to the region's seven states directing them to put their police and central paramilitary forces on high alert, said a top IB official, who declined to be named.

The official said agencies are worried because the presence of Maoist rebels would further complicate the situation in the region, already under the grip of a severe armed conflict.

Intelligence inputs sent to the federal Interior Ministry suggest Maoist rebels have supported the issue of scheduled tribe status in Assam that would grant the state's residents greater access to educational and employment opportunities. Assam's tribal communities have demanded the status.

Intelligence inputs suggest Maoists have targeted two comparatively weak separatist outfits, the All Adivasi (tribal) National Liberation Army and Adivasi Viper Militant Force. The inputs say Maoists have already established contacts with these two organizations, which are active in the districts of Assam bordering Bhutan. These two groups have launched a massive recruitment drive in various parts of Assam and other northeastern states.

Ajai Sahani, executive director of Institute of Conflict Management, a nongovernmental think tank, said: "Armed Maoist guerrillas have prepared a detailed action plan for the future, which is aimed at a geographical spread. The plan includes ... the following:

"Coordinate the people's war with the ongoing armed struggles of the various oppressed nationalities in Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and other parts of the northeast. Build a broad united front of all secular forces and persecuted religious minorities such as Muslims, Christians and Sikhs."

The strife-torn region is dominated by Christian and ethnic minorities.

Maoist rebels operate in 13 Indian states and are trying to set up a Maoist republic in the country.

Security agencies say they are keeping a close watch on the activities of the AALNA and its associate group. Communications of leaders and top activists of these two groups have been put under surveillance in a bid to intercept possible communications with the Maoists.

A report on internal security states: " The security situation in the northeastern region would further deteriorate if Maoist rebels succeed in getting their foothold in the militancy-marred region."

Maoists are also eager to enter the northeast as it is part of their long-cherished dream of establishing a Red Corridor from Andhra Pradesh state to Nepal.

The documents of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) reflect a comprehensive strategy -- military, political, economic, cultural and psychological -- harnessed through the party, the People's Army, and the United Front.

India's security establishment has conceded that the Maoist threat is the country's single-biggest internal security challenge. But the threat is still viewed restrictively as it affects only a few states.

"Statistics of incidents never give a real picture of the ground. Whatever is visible is only the mere tip of the iceberg. Unless caution is exercised, volcanoes can erupt," said O.P. Rathore, director general of police of Maoist-hit state of Chhattisgarh.

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