Insurgencies in the Indian Northeast: An Overview

The position of women in the contexts of conflicts in Assam is best assessed in the framework of numerous insurgencies that have historically mushroomed in the Northeast of India. These insurgencies in different historical phases had different characteristics. Most prominent among them were:

1.      Pre-18th century insurgencies against invasion by mainland Indian empires.

2.      The insurgencies against British colonial occupation of independent kingdoms like Meitei or Kuki kingdoms and independent Naga and Mizo tribal republics etc.

3.      The insurgencies against annexation with independent mainland India at the time of decolonization by the British.

4.      The insurgencies against Delhi rule.

5.      The insurgencies and mass upsurges for autonomous statehood within the states of Assam or Meghalaya.

6.      Insurgencies by tribes within Assam against rulers who they perceived as forces of Assamese chauvinism/Tribal revolts against non-tribal rulers.

7.      After anti-immigrant and partial autonomy movements like AGP came to power, militant groups like United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) emerged with a maximalist position of total liberation from India when the limited autonomy failed to impress the people with some dramatic results.

8.      Refusal of the governments to reach honourable settlements with the relatively peaceful mass movements opening up spaces for militant groups to emerge.

9.      Resumption of armed activities by splinter militant groups and surrendered militants after the main body of the insurgent groups strike deals with the governments and gain a foothold in the power structure.

10.  Insurgencies by tribal and other ethnic groups against large-scale influx of refugees and migrants which reduced them to the position of minorities in their own traditional homelands—as in Tripura, Bodoland region etc.

11.  There is also an ongoing blame game where several political forces allege that rulers at the State and Centre have instigated some dissident groups to take up arms to undermine and weaken popular governments of rebel movements. This charge is leveled not only by some rival groups and rebel groups but also by some columnists.

12.  The militant groups have nexus with similar insurgent groups in Myanmar and Bangladesh and even of late in Bhutan.

13.  A general culture of extortion, corruption, gun-running and lawlessness and partial and periodical collapse of state authority as well as the traditional tribal authority etc., have made the Northeast a fertile soil for not only the emergence of insurgent groups but also for their sustenance and prolonged existence and continued operation even unrelated to their original objectives.

There were Naga, Mizo and Kuki insurgencies even during the British times.

Nagas and Mizos opposed annexation with independent India and launched insurgency movements right from 1947 onwards and later entered into prolonged negotiations with Delhi governments and Naga and Mizo rebel outfits like the Naga National Council and Mizo National Front struck deals with Delhi and participated in elections and came to power at the state level.

Insurgent groups emerged soon after 1947 among Kukis and Meiteis, often fighting against each other, and both fighting against dominant Nagas of neighboring Nagaland who they accuse of occupying their areas.

The 1960s witnessed the emergence of Tripura tribal militancy against the Bengali settlers as the tribals became a minority in their own land. Armed insurgency groups emerged with greater prominence among Bodos after the autonomy movement under AASU and later AGP came to power in Assam in the 1980s after protracted mass upsurges.

The Autonomous States Demand Committee (ASDC) of Assam achieved a significant victory when they won their demand for an autonomous district council comprising the two districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills and this has led to the emergence of Dima Halam Daogah (DHD), a militant outfit claiming to represent the Dimasa minority tribe in Karbi Anglong, mostly the inhabitants of North Cachar Hills, and the United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) claming to fight for protecting the interests of Karbi minorities in Dimasa-dominated North Cachar Hills.

Women have played a significant role in these movements to carve out a space for themselves in the movements and insurgencies for self-determination and autonomy and at the same time they have been victims at the receiving end of violence and suffered a lot due to the violence, both by the militant groups as well as the security forces indulging in transgressions.

Militant assertions by women against laws restrictive of their gender rights and liberties and against civil rights violations and excesses by state armed forces have also been recorded, in Assam, Manipur and even in Meghalaya and Tripura.

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