Deploying The Army For Internal Security?
Generally, it is not advisable to call in Army for deployment in civil law and order situation. However, there are certain situations when it is advisable to call in the Army to maintain law and order. In India, we have a majority Hindu population with sizeable number of Muslims. With historical background of the two religions and extremist groups among both the communities, it is possible that some incidents involving the two communities could flare up into a serious law and order problem. The Army’s presence is a quick deterrent to escalation of the situation. The Army should, however, be quickly pulled out after the situation is defused and para-military forces should be deployed to prevent any further outbreak.
An example of when the Army should be called in when a communal situation flares up like that after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, or the burning of a rail coach carrying Hindu pilgrims at the Godhra railway station. In such cases, a timely deployment of the Army could have prevented the communal situation flaring up, saving many lives.
Deployment of Army in counter-insurgency
Insurgency in a country is when in a multi-communal population, a minority community feels that the majority community ruling the country is not treating it fairly and equitably. This could be out of racial, linguistic or caste considerations in countries like India, where the institution of caste is a part of its majority religion- Hinduism.
In such a situation, the leaders of the majority community ruling the country, are angered by the fact that a minority community wishes to secede from the Union and decide to use its army to counter the secessionist part of that country. Such is the case in our subcontinent with the Naga Hills, later the state of Nagaland, the Mizo Hills, subsequently, the major tribes of Tripura, then finally in Assam, where the Assamese caste Hindus, angered by the protection given to the Bangladeshi Hindus and Muslim, being allowed to settle in the state of Assam decided to form an insurgent group called the United Front for the Liberation of Assam (ULFA) and fight the government.
To understand the insurgencies in the Northeast, it is necessary to know how the Northeast was populated. Though there is no written record, it is generally believed that the Northeast of India, Myanmar, Southeast Asia, Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal and Tibet were inhabited by Mongoloid people who gradually migrated from somewhere in Northeast China and settled in what is now Assam, Naga Hills, Mizo Hills, Garo Hills, Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills, North Cachar, Mikir Hills, and all the Arunachal hills. In Manipur, Meiteis, Thangkhul Nagas, Mao Nagas, Zeliang Nagas and the Kukis migrated from South West China and settled, the first group in the plains and the others in the hills around the plains. In the Brahmaputra valley, the Mongoloid tribes who settled were the Koch Rajbongshis, Boro Cacharis and Rabhas in the west, while in the east, they were the Morans, Borahis and Chutiyas.
All these tribes were animist. Much later, there was a migration of caste Hindus from the Gangetic plains into the Brahmaputra valley. There must have been intermingling between the caste Hindus and the Mongoloid settlers in the Brahmaputra valley. The result was the caste Hindu Assamese of the Brahmaputra valley, who also followed the caste system like the Hindus of the Gangetic valley. There is no trading community among the Assamese and all of the tribals of the Northeast. That is why when the British came and took over Assam in 1826, they brought the ubiquitous Bania, the Marwaris from Rajasthan and Calcutta. The British subjugated the Nagas living in the Naga Hills since they wanted a safe route from Golaghat in Upper Assam to Manipur. This route was through the Naga Hills, where lived the fierce Naga tribes, whom the British subjugated to some extent after several difficult encounters. The British understood the Nagas and other tribals in the Northeast. Regrettably, the caste Hindu Assamese who were the leaders of the majority Assamese people never understood the tribes of their state, placing them at the bottom of their caste hierarchy. The tribes naturally resented this. When the time for the British to leave came and India was to be granted independence, the Nagas spoke to the British rulers and stated that they did not wish to be placed under the Indians. They wanted the British to give them independence separately.
The British understanding the reasons for the Nagas not wanting to be placed under Indian caste system even toyed with the idea of having a federation of all Hill tribes in Assam and Burma to continue under the British. This was not acceptable to India and finally India was given independence. The Nagas consisting of thirty odd tribes each with its own animist Gods and its different dialects decided to sever itself from India. A group led by Angami Nagas with a sprinkling of other tribes like the Semas, assembled on 14th August in Kohima and declared the independence of the Naga Hills.
The function on 15th August of India’s independence was boycotted by the Nagas. In the beginning, the underground Nagas could only scrounge some weapons from Second World War dumps left behind by the British. The government of India taken aback by this insurgency could only send some battalions from the Madhya Pradesh Special Armed Force that had been raised to fight against the dacoits operating in that state. Naturally, these battalions could not cope with the local Naga people who, though growing paddy in the riverine valleys were also skilled hunters. Regrettably, the Indian Army and the State Armed Police battalions sent to fight the Naga insurgency did not have grounding in guerilla warfare and did not know how to fight the guerillas without alienating the local Naga population. The Army had to be called out as the situation worsened. They also had no special training in counter guerilla warfare at that time. It was much later that the Jungle Warfare and Counter Insurgency School was opened at Vairangte in the Mizo Hills.
Regrettably, the Army, when first inducted into the Naga Hills was not really trained to fight an insurgency. An attempt was made by the Army leadership, but they blundered when they studied the Malayan insurgency which was fought by the British, and blindly applied an action taken by the British Army in Malaya in Nagaland that had just the reverse effect. The Malayan insurgency was organised by the Chinese Communists who used the Chinese settlers in Malaya mainly working as rubber tappers in the Rubber plantation as their cadres. The Chinese settlers lived in shanty towns on the outskirts of the dense Malayan jungle near the rubber plantations. The British Army decided to resettle the Chinese rubber tappers in special camps set up for them and guarded each camp so that the Communist terrorists who lived inside the Malayan jungle could not access the Chinese settlers for food, recruits and brainwashing them. In the Naga Hills, the villages were cited on hilltops and each village had its sacred groves, its dormitories for bachelors, its paddy fields in terraces below the village hutments and its community house and its animist religious shamans. Such villages were hundreds of years old and uprooting the Nagas from these established villages seriously alienated them. The Army also committed serious mistakes when ambushed, by taking revenge on the village nearest to the ambush site. Punishing the village nearest to the ambush on the ground that the Nagas of that village did not warn the Army convoy passing near that village was a serious blunder that only alienated the Nagas further and many young men from the affected village joined the insurgents. Regrettably the senior Army Officers of the Army did not punish their soldiers who beat up villagers or sometimes raped their women. In general, the civilian government of Assam and their bureaucrats did not understand the tribal Nagas from their standpoint of a caste Hindu hierarchy. The caste Hindu bureaucrats placed the Nagas as Scheduled Tribes at the bottom of the caste list. This was a serious misdemeanor in a casteless society. Verily, it has been written that it is only anthropologists like Verrier Elwin and Haimendorf who worked among the Nagas who understood them and earned their respect, and not the casteist bureaucrats. In addition many of the Naga tribes along the Assam border had already been converted to Christianity and the caste Hindus looked down on Christians as much as they looked down on the Scheduled Castes. The Nagas were thoroughly alienated by the mid-fifties and Angami Zapu Phizo slipped into East Pakistan to ask for help from them. Soon the Naga underground were collecting volunteers and sending them across to East Pakistan. The Pakistan Army supplied weapons to the Naga Underground, trained the Naga volunteers and sent them back into the Naga Hills to fight a guerilla war against the Indian Army.
At this stage, the government of India decided to give statehood to the Naga Hills district of Assam. This would have solved the problem, but for several factors. The bureaucrats initially sent to the new state of Nagaland again made the mistake of placing the Nagas at the bottom of the caste list. The alienation of the Naga continued. As the years went by, the Central government made a crucial mistake of pouring funds into the fledgling state of Nagaland. The bureaucrats who came from Assam and the few “turncoat” Nagas who joined politics thoroughly corrupted the state.
The Centre or rather the party in power in Delhi sent in a whole band of thoroughly corrupt businessmen to Nagaland and the Northeast in general who looted the treasury of each of the Northeastern states, particularly Nagaland and Manipur. Grants in crores were dished out to Nagaland and the corrupt contractors brought 90 per cent of the money back to Delhi. I was posted as Superintendent of Police, CBI, at Shillong and every case that I took of blatant corruption was closed in Delhi. In one instance, the governor of all the Northeastern States L P Singh one day called me to the Raj Bhavan to meet the Chief Minister of Nagaland Vizol, probably the only honest chief minister that Nagaland ever had. Vizol said that he had several cases of corruption lined up against his deputy Chief Minister S C Jamir and had collected all the files concerned and locked them up in a room in the secretariat in Kohima and I should go there and study the files and register cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act against his Deputy Chief Minister. When I reached Kohima after a few days and called on the Chief Minister, he told me that I was too late. His Deputy had set fire to one wing of the secretariat and all the incriminating files were burnt!
The Naga Underground now sent a group to China to request the Communist Chinese to help them. In characteristic candour, the Naga Underground wrote to Mao Tse Tung, that they were their Mongoloid brothers and could not survive in a Hindu India and wanted his help to become an independent country. A copy of their letter was addressed to the Prime Minister of India as well!
It took a long time for the Army to control its personnel from taking revenge on the Naga civilians. One of the worst incidents was in Mao district of Manipur at Oinam village. On 9 July 1987, a group of the NSCN IM overran a post of the Assam Rifles near Oinam village of Senapati district in North Manipur killing a JCO and eight soldiers, capturing a large number of Self Loading Rifles, Light Machine guns and Carbines. The Army’s revenge was brutal. They almost flattened Oinam village killing 14 civilians none of whom were cadres of the NSCN IM. Many were shot at close quarters. Oinam has gone in to the folk history of the Naga Hills and songs have been composed on the tragedy of Oinam.
I have operated in the Naga Hills and Manipur. Unfortunately, every force, mainly the Assam Rifles and the CRPF, have been most brutal and criminal in their reactions when their convoys were ambushed because they moved without deploying Road Opening Parties to cover their flanks. There were dozens of cases where after being ambushed, in frustration, troops of the Assam Rifles and CRPF have picked up innocent civilians and killed them in cold blood. If the force had lost seven men in an ambush then seven civilians nearby, picked at random, were lined up and shot. This was cold-blooded murder, but not in one case were any such guilty officers or personnel punished, presumably under the principle that it was bad for the morale of the force. What was the message that such acts conveyed to the hapless people of that state?
A leading example of such an instance in Manipur is the Malom case where ten innocent persons waiting in a bus shelter, including two young boys less than ten years old, were gunned down in cold blood by Assam Rifles personnel because an Improvised Explosive device was exploded near a moving Assam Rifles bus that did not cause major casualties.
The excesses of our armed forces, both Army and para military combined with the enormous corruption imposed on the state by the Centre, keep the cost of living in states like Nagaland and Manipur very high, combined with the creation of a privileged class of politicians and bureaucrats, and have alienated the people badly keeping the option of an insurgency open.
Mizo Hills was a district of Assam that was even more neglected. In 1963 bamboo that grew wild in the forested hill slopes of the Mizo Hills flowered. When the bamboo flowers, the rat population multiplies. Since the majority of dwelling houses in the Mizo Hills are of wood and thatch, the burgeoning rat population gets access to the granaries in the village houses eating up the stored grain. The village officers requested the deputy commissioner and the state officials to store grain in the interiors. Unfortunately the civilian bureaucrats did not pay heed to the requests of the villagers and did not stock grains in the interior villages. The situation deteriorated and led to famine conditions.
In 1962-63, one battalion of the Assam regiment had been disbanded, and most of its soldiers who were Mizos later returned to the Mizo Hills. Laldenga was an NCO in this battalion and he started a campaign to pressurise the district administration to stock foodgrains in the district in view of the likely proliferation of rats. He started an organisation called the Mizo National Famine Front (MNFF). His best efforts did not move the Assam bureaucracy, and the proliferating rats began eating up the grains stored in the huts in all the villages of the Mizo Hills. It reached such proportions that people began starving, eating roots and berries to survive and soon there was famine in the district. The people began dying due to malnutrition and starvation in the interiors. That was the last straw for Laldenga. He erased one ‘F’ from the MNFF, made it the MNF and led his followers across the western borders into the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and contacted the Pakistan Army to seek help for weapons and training to fight a guerilla war to seek freedom for his people.
It took time for the Assam government to provide supplies to the interiors of Mizo Hills, but by then the damage had been done. Laldenga trained his guerillas under the Pakistan Army and positioned four well-trained groups around Aizawl, Lungleh, Champai and Serchip and organised a concerted attack in early 1966. The Assam Rifles headquarters in Lungleh was overrun, the sub-division officer was kidnapped, the treasury was looted and this group returned to the CHT. The attacks by the MNF in Aizawl were so strong that the Army had to get the Air Force to strafe the town to push back the MNF guerilla force. This was the second time that the Air Force had to strafe a guerilla group. They had done it once in the Naga Hills. When the first Army convoys started from Silchar on the 180-kilometre state highway, they got bogged down because the highway was still a dirt road 20 years after independence.
The cause of insurgency in the Mizo Hills was the Assamese caste Hindus placed the Mizo tribals at the bottom of the caste list and treated them as little better than animals. It was a repetition of the story in the Naga Hills. The Mizo insurgency lasted for twenty years and could be solved when the government of India first took the district out of Assam, making it a Union Territory and giving the MNF the option of fighting elections. During the insurgency, the interior villages were uprooted and the people settled along the roads so that they could be guarded against the MNF coming in and getting supplies and recruits. In the Mizo insurgency, there were not so much atrocities as in Nagaland, but the Mizo people were at the mercy of the Indian Army and para-military forces and several cases of rape and shooting of innocent people took place but not so many as in the Naga Hills.
The seeds of the insurgency were laid right in 1947 when the government of India forced the Maharajkumar of Manipur to sign the instrument of accession after bringing him to Shillong in 1949. By this time the Manipur King had already conducted elections for state assembly as was the case in the state of Travancore Cochin. Officials to administer the state were also appointed. They were all removed and the elected assembly was removed. The kingdom that had been ruled for many years with its borders encompassing almost the whole of the Naga Hills was soon converted into a Union Territory with a chief commissioner sent from Delhi to control it. Again a group of unsympathetic officials was sent from Delhi and the officials appointed by the state were all removed. Very soon the Meithei youths were alienated as a band of corrupt contractors from Delhi descended on Manipur. Within a few years, groups of youth had crossed from Cachar into East Pakistan and were asking for help to train and arm them. Strangely, the Pakistan Army, who had helped the Nagas who had also crossed from Cachar into East Pakistan and armed and trained them did not help the Meithei youth and pushed them across into the arms of the Police and Army in Cachar.
With a totally insensitive administration in Manipur sent by the Centre, the youth turned to Communism and crossed to Nepal and Tibet and asked the Chinese to help them. The fledgling Communists led by Bisheshar were trained in Lhasa and then taken to China. They came back as hardened Communists and began attacking the police and looting banks. Regrettably, the CRPF who were deployed in Manipur committed excesses in countering the insurgents. Several incidents took place, where innocent bystanders got killed when the CRPF were ambushed and retaliated to firing indiscriminately. Things became worse and soon the Army was called in. The first general who handled the insurgency in the late 1970s was luckily a very balanced officer, Maj Gen V K Nayyar commanding the 8th Mountain Division.
Unfortunately, the pattern of counter insurgency that he set was regrettably not followed up by his successors and the Army and later the Assam Rifles earned a very bad name for committing excesses. Gen Nayyar had set up his headquarters in Kangla Fort in the heart of Imphal and ordered his units operating in the field to bring all detained suspects to Kangla fort as soon as possible. There he had set up a unit of the local police to whom the suspect, arrested was handed over with weapons seized, if any. His parents were called to the fort and their wards shown to them. If weapons were seized from him these were shown to his parents. If there was evidence of his involvement, this was explained. If he was innocent, he was handed over to them. There were no cases of extra judicial killings during his time. It was during his time that a company of his stumbled on a camp of the PLA. In the encounter that followed several stalwarts of the PLA were killed and their leader Bisheshar was captured alive. Gen Nayyar later became the governor of Manipur and he was revered by the people of the state. He resigned due to differences with the politicians and after that it has been one long story of excesses by the CRPF and Assam Rifles. It was only the BSF who operated in Manipur that has a clean record of no excesses. The two worst incidents both of the Assam Rifles will always rankle in the minds of the Meitheis. The first was the incident in Malom.
Malom was a big Meithei village opposite the Imphal airfield. Militants of the PLA, UNLF and PREPAK—all insurgent groups of Manipur lived at Malom village. On the morning of a day in November 2000, an Assam Rifles bus was returning from Nambol, a small town on the Moirang Imphal road towards Imphal. Militants of an insurgent group had buried an IED on the roadside opposite Malom village. When the Assam Rifles bus was passing, the militants activated the IED, probably using a wireless set. The bomb detonated as the Assam Rifles bus was passing beside it. The exploding IED threw up mud and stones that injured some of the soldiers sitting on that side of the bus. The bus stopped and the soldiers ran out and took position on either side of the road. In addition, a platoon of Assam Rifles of another battalion camping inside the Imphal airfield, located opposite to the Malom village, came running out and took position on either side of the road, probably anticipating an ambush on the Assam Rifles bus after the bomb blast. There was no firing on the bus. Also, no one from Malom village came to see what had happened. It is possible that the villagers might have known about the placing of the bomb on the roadside opposite to their village and did not want to expose themselves.
The Assam Rifles personnel from the bus and also from the airport, who had dashed out after the bomb explosion, took position around the area expecting some fire. They found that there were some ten civilians who were standing in a bus shelter opposite to Malom village a little further down from where the bomb exploded. There was a hasty consultation and then they lined up these ten persons that included two young boys about 8 to 10 years old and shot them dead, probably to punish the people of Malom village for daring to explode a bomb on the Assam Rifles bus. This was cold-blooded murder and totally unjustified. Despite representations from the people and the state government, the Assam Rifles did not punish the personnel who had committed this cold-blooded murder. A young woman from Malom village went on a fast in protest against the inaction of the Assam Rifles and the government of India for denotifying the Armed Forces Special Power Act from Manipur and for punishing the personnel responsible for killing ten innocent bus passengers. She is still fasting and is continually being fed forcibly for nearly 12 years till date.
The second incident was the rape and murder of Th Manorama who was a PLA cadre and had been arrested from her house at night and taken by Assam Rifles personnel and found later raped and shot dead. When she was picked up, the Assam Rifles personnel left a written note that she was being arrested for being a suspected PLA cadre. Here again no action has been taken against the personnel of the Assam Rifles, who picked her up. The sad part of this episode is that the Assam Rifles personnel stated in defence that she tried to run away and they fired and killed her. When examined during the post mortem, it was found that she had died from a burst fired at her from the front, probably done to conceal the fact that she had been raped.
One of the main causes of the continuing insurgency in Manipur is the enormous corruption in the state. I have worked in the CBI in Shillong and seen the enormous corruption that permeated the state. Regrettably, the state has always got corrupt politicians as its governors, except for two exceptions—Lt Gen V K Nayyar and Ved Marwah. Money is siphoned from every deal. As a result, even insurgents are corrupt. Several insurgent groups are formed and split and re-split only for collecting bribes.
The cause of the insurgency in Assam was because of the Bengali Muslims and Hindus illegally migrating into the state. The Bengali Muslim peasants were encouraged by the British to come and settle on vast tracts of cultivable land that was lying vacant in the beginning of the 20th century. By 1931, the migration of Bengali Peasants into Assam had been flooded and the census commissioner warned in his census report of 1931 that a time would come when the Assamese would only have Sibsagar district as their homeland. After independence, illegal immigration from East Pakistan to Assam, Bengal and Tripura continued.
India and Pakistan were separated and given independence on 15 August 1947. This was followed by large scale migration of Muslims from India to Pakistan and of Sikhs and Hindus from West and East Pakistan to India. In India, an Act called the Indian Citizenship Act was legislated in 1955. This stated that the cutoff date for getting citizenship of India for the people who had to migrate suddenly from West and East Pakistan was 26 January 1950.
Now in 1972 after Bangladesh was liberated, Mujibur Rehman, the prime minister of the newly-liberated Bangladesh met Gandhi, India’s Prime Minister and requested her not to repatriate all the immigrants who had migrated illegally from East Pakistan into India between 26 January 1950 to 25 March 1971, the date of creation of the State of Bangladesh in exile set up in India on that date. There was no basis for this demand as the people of East Pakistan were Muslims and the country was created as a Muslim homeland. Indira Gandhi had no right to agree to this, but she did. She naturally expected that these illegal immigrants would be a vote bank for the Congress party. A notification to this effect was sent to the states of Assam, West Bengal and Tripura in early 1972. This order stated that the cutoff date for citizenship for people who had migrated from Bangladesh is now revised to 25 March 1971, the date of creation of the government of Bangladesh in exile in India. This angered the people of Assam, where the illegal immigrants from East Pakistan had occupied vast tracts of vacant agricultural land in the Brahmaputra and Surma valleys.
This led to the Foreigners Agitation in Assam started by the All Assam Students Union (AASU), Ahom Jatiyatibadi Yuba Chatra Parishad, the Ahom Sahitya Sabha, and the Purbanchal Lok Parishad. The agitation turned violent when an election was forced on the people of Assam as the AASU and the connected groups refused to accept the new cutoff date for detection of foreigners from Bangladesh. In this election more than 6000 people were killed in police firings and riotings between the communities involved, the Assamese caste Hindus and the Bengali immigrant Muslims. This culminated in the creation of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). The ULFA started its activities after sending its cadres with the help of the NSCN IM to the Kachin area of Burma for training in weapons and guerilla tactics. By this time the Ahom Gana Parishad had won the elections and formed the government. Since the AGP was their party, the ULFA had a free run of the state and went on a spree of extortion to pay for the training of their cadres in the Kachin Independent Organisation in Burma and also for the procurement of weapons. Paresh Barua, a Moran from Upper Assam was the self-styled commander-in-chief of the ULFA. He tried to get weapons from China but was refused. Then following the old Naga Underground who had gone to East Pakistan and got weapons and training for the Naga Underground Army from there, he sent his cadres to Bangladesh asking the Bangladesh Army for help. His emissaries were taken to the Pakistan embassy who promptly gave help. Both the ULFA and the NSCN IM got several lakh dollars from the Pakistan ISI and with that they were able to purchase weapons from arms factories in Yunnan and got their first consignment of weapons in 1991.
The government of India had by then declared President’s rule after dismissing the AGP government and deployed the Army to control the insurgency. In Assam, there were no excesses committed by the Indian Army or the para military forces deployed, but the issue of giving citizenship to lakhs of Bengali Muslims and Hindus who had illegally migrated from East Pakistan between 26 January 1950 and 25 March 1971, the date of forming the government of Bangladesh in exile in India, was the cause of the creation of ULFA and fighting the government of India. The insurgency was contained, though all the top leaders and several hundred cadres went to Bangladesh and Bhutan and continued fighting from there by slipping into India and carrying out some action and slipping back to Bangladesh. The Pakistan ISI played a big role in this by giving money in lakhs of dollars to the ULFA and the NSCN IM to buy weapons from China.
The insurgency of the ULFA in Assam could have easily have been contained by the para military forces and the Assam police. The Army’s deployment was not really necessary. There were no significant excesses committed by the Army during the insurgency.
Kashmir was a majority Muslim state. Muhammad Ali Jinnah naturally expected Jammu and Kashmir to go to Pakistan, as the state had the majority Muslim population. Jammu and Kashmir was a peculiar state, particularly Kashmir, which had a majority Muslim population. The Muslims of Kashmir were predominantly Sufi, a cult, that had come out of Islam right in the 8th century AD, within hundred years after Islam was born. The people of Kashmir and their language were close to Persia or the Central Asian states genetically and linguistically. They were in this respect different from the Muslims of the subcontinent, who were of Turkish or Afghan origin. Also at that time, fundamental sects of Islam like the Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamaat-e-Ulemae-Islam, the Ahle Hadith and Wahabi Islam from Saudi Arabia had not yet infected the Muslims of Kashmir. Their leader in Kashmir was Sheikh Abdullah who was a devout Sufi. The people of Jammu were majority Hindu Dogras, while the Muslims were unlike the Sufis of Kashmir, were more like the mainland Muslims of India or Pakistan. Ladakh was Buddhist and Mongoloid, like in Tibet or China. The Northern Territories were majority Shia. The Maharaja was a Dogra Hindu and did not want to accede to Pakistan. Neither was he interested to merge with India. He dithered and continued to dither well beyond the cutoff date of 15 August 1947.
The line to be drawn dividing India and Pakistan both in the west and the east was to be drawn by Cyril Radcliffe who was sent by the mother country Britain. He was obviously not a good choice for he had never been to India.
It had been generally agreed that the western provinces of India, Sind, Bahawalpur, Northwest Frontier, the Frontier Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Baluchistan, all majority Muslim areas would go to Pakistan. Punjab which had a mixed population of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus would be partitioned, the western districts going to Pakistan and the eastern districts to India, except for Gurudaspur which was on the eastern border. The road from Amritsar to Jammu incidentally passed through three tehsils on the eastern border of Gurudaspur district which was going to Pakistan. Muhammad Ali Jinnah knew this and was sure that Kashmir would fall into his hands like a plum as there would be no communication from India to Jammu as Gurudaspur district was going to Pakistan. This was the situation, when suddenly during a press conference, Cyril Radcliffe mentioned that the three eastern tehsils of Gurudaspur district would be detached and given to India.
Jinnah naturally cried foul and said so accusing Nehru, the Indian Prime Minister designate, of influencing Cyril Radcliffe through the Viceroy Lord Mountbatten. This probably led to some elements of the Pakistan Army designate and Frontier Pashtun Tribesmen taking the law into their hands and invading Kashmir to forcibly take it to Pakistan. The dithering Raja of Jammu and Kashmir hastily acceded to India and fled to Jammu. Meanwhile, a British officer in Gilgit, of the Northern Territories arrested the Dogra Brigadier and acceded Gilgit to Pakistan. The Indian Army was hastily airlifted to Srinagar and routed the combined force of Frontier tribesmen and elements of the Pakistan Army.
The two armies of India and Pakistan fought a war till 1949 when the United Nations forced the two countries to a ceasefire and drew a line from Akhnur in Jammu, the end of the International border between India and West Pakistan to grid reference NJ 98640 and from thence straight north to the glaciers, dividing part of the Kashmir Valley into Pakistan held Kashmir and Indian held Kashmir. This was the Line of Control (LoC) about 740 kilometres long. The area where there was settled population was Muzaffarabad which was Sunni, while Baltistan, Chitral, Hunza and Gilgit were hilly, mountainous and populated by the Shias.
Pakistan never forgot that first defeat at the hands of the Indian Army and kept trying since then to incite the Kashmiri people to rise up against India. Within Kashmir there was right from 1947, a section of Kashmiri Muslims who wanted union of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan. One of the main persons who harboured this feeling was the Mirwaiz a religious leader, who used to lead the Namaaz from the Jumma Masjid. The other main leader was Sheikh Abdullah who wanted the Hindus to live in amity with the Muslims of Kashmir. He was basically a Sufi. Pakistan Intelligence was fomenting cells in the Kashmir valley right from 1947. There is a long history of groups who slipped into PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) were picked up by the Pakistan Army, handed over to the ISI who trained and armed them and reinfiltrated them into Kashmir. Pravin Swami has chronicled a long history of such attempts, every one of which failed. Pakistan meanwhile fought two wars with India, in 1965 and again in 1971. Attempts by them to train saboteurs all miserably failed. In this connection we should hear the words of the Mirwaiz exhorting the Pakistanis to victory in the 1965 war- “Give victory and glory to Islam, give unconcealed political and religious legitimacy to the Pakistani campaign and rid Kashmir of the zulm of zalims. Make those friends who have come here with hopes successful.” A week later on 10 September by which time it was clear that the Pakistan offensive was being beaten back, the Mirwaiz again invoked God, asking him to take revenge upon the enemy, make them eat dust, create an earthquake to destroy the enemy.”
The interesting facts about the cells created by Pakistan to subvert India were repeatedly exposed by Kashmir Police. At times, such cells worked clandestinely, slipped across to PoK, were trained and financed by the Pakistan ISI, but were invariably detected and neutralised, when they returned.
There is a long history of attempts by the ISI to foment trouble in Kashmir. All of them failed and were broken up by Kashmiri Muslim Police officers. In this background, it is unfortunate that the problems in Kashmir were now created by repeated blunders from Delhi.
Sheikh Abdullah died. He designated his son Farooq Abdullah as his heir. He was a playboy and quite unsuitable to be the chief minister of a difficult state like Kashmir. He had one very good quality- he was truly secular, but running a complicated state like Kashmir also needed several qualities that he did not have. As far as Delhi was concerned, the main problem was that Indira Gandhi did not like him. Unfortunately Abdullah exacerbated the problem by befriending an opposition chief minister in Andhra Pradesh, N T Rama Rao who, after being a film actor had created a new political party in Andhra Pradesh and defeated the Congress. Indira Gandhi naturally did not like it when Abdullah befriended N T Rama Rao. She compounded matters by labeling N T Rama Rao as anti-national, which he was by no means so. When elections were announced in Kashmir, she campaigned in the valley openly stating that the National Conference was pro-Pakistan and had links with the ISI. This did not go well with the local Kashmiris. Farooq and the National Conference had no links whatsoever with the Pakistan ISI. When the election results came she found that the Congress lost in the Valley, but gained in Jammu. This was a bad sign. The seeds of the communal polarisation of Jammu and the Valley had been laid. It was at this stage that she committed a blunder that was to prove very costly. She tried to destabilise Farooq Abdullah. She told the governor of Jammu and Kashmir to destabilise the Abdullah government by bribing his brother-in-law who had hoped to take over as Chief Minister.
B K Nehru, the governor refused to do this and she transferred him to Gujarat and sent her emissary as the governor of Jammu and Kashmir. This emissary carried out her dirty work and destabilised Farooq Abdullah government and his brother-in-law became the Chief Minister. In 1984, Indira Gandhi was killed and her son who had no qualifications to be even an MLA became the prime minister. His advisors now guided him to get Farooq Abdullah to form an alliance with the Congress and go for polls in Jammu and Kashmir. Abdullah, out in the cold, only wanted to come back to power, agreed to this. When the people of Kashmir heard this they were aghast. Here was their Chief Minister, who had been stabbed in the back by the Congress now going back to them to fight an election together. At this stage, seeing the anger of the people Abdullah committed the blunder of his life. He blatantly rigged the elections with the help of the Kashmir Police. Candidates and their supporters were beaten up and ballots stuffed into ballot boxes. Foolishly and blindly knowing that Pakistan’s continual efforts to stir rebellion in Kashmir had failed time and time again, the leadership in Delhi and Abdullah gave everything to Pakistan on a platter. The dozens of attempts to start a rebellion in Kashmir that had been foiled by the Kashmir Police over the years now was given in a platter to Pakistan. Hundreds of young Kashmiri boys started streaming across the border into Pakistan. The bus conductors in Batmaloo bus stand were openly shouting to hundreds of passengers- all young boys- “Pattan, Baramulla, Kupwara, e-paar”.
In Pakistan the ISI was quite happy in the beginning, seeing the big response of hundreds of Kashmiri boys crossing the LoC and all wanting to be trained. They were disappointed when the ISI instructors told them that the majority of the boys who had crossed over for training were not good fighting material. Except for the boys of the Jamaat-e-Islami, who were organised into a Tanzeem called Hizbul Mujahideen and some other Tanzeems like Allah Tigers, the rest from the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), the Al Umar and the Al Jihad, turned out to be useless fighters, who capitulated at the first chance. The Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) cadres were good fighters and many preferred to die than surrender. The Pakistan ISI trained hundreds of fighters and they came back in droves across the Line of Control (LoC). Here, both the Kashmiri Muslims and the Central government’s forces committed a mistake, which probably brought about a strong reaction by the forces sent to Kashmir to control this sudden explosion of violence. Some of the local tanzeems started an ethnic cleansing of the Hindu Pandits. There were rapes of Pandit women and killings of targeted Pandit men. That this was allowed to happen has caused an irreversible divide between the Kashmiri Muslims and the Hindus of India. Amazingly, the JKLF made a base in the Sohra Institute of Medical Sciences, where a local leader of the JKLF was a leading doctor. This targeting of the Hindu community and the ethnic cleansing that followed induced a strong reaction by the forces deployed in Kashmir. No attempt was made to see that the standard legal procedures were adopted in the counter insurgency. The initial campaign of violence was so intense that the forces who were sent in hastily also reacted with the same intensity and the standard legal safeguards were bypassed. The judiciary also did not take control. The initial crossing over of trained militants was so high that the Army had to be deployed first to reinforce the deployment on the Line of Control (LoC) and the Border Security Force deployed in considerable numbers in a counter insurgency grid were functioning barely following the provisions of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Act (TADA). The biggest mistake made was in simply bypassing the state police.
When I joined as the Inspector General Border Security Force in Srinagar on 2nd June 1993, when the insurgency was more than 3 years old, I found that the BSF was not even observing the provisions of the TADA. They were picking up suspects in operations, keeping them in their interrogation centre, and if nothing incriminating was found, they were releasing them without handing them to the nearest police station as per the TADA. I had to request the advisor law and order, a retired Corps Commander of 15 Corps at Srinagar, to notify a police station in the BSF interrogation centre and set up a First Class Magistrates office in the same building so that we could bring an arrested militant suspect, produce him before the police and then get him in custody along with the police and forward him to the court after any discriminatory recovery. If he was innocent, get him released through the court, summoning his next of kin and hand him over to them. This lack of normal judicial controls led to many disappearances that became unaccountable and gave a very bad name to the BSF and Army. It took some time to reassure the people of Kashmir about the young men who were picked up. Earlier, there was a trend not to take prisoners. I am afraid that the earlier policy of the Army and the BSF of the best Red Indian is a dead Red Indian that was being applied did a lot of harm.
Meanwhile, Pakistan lSI adopted a wrong step in encouraging hardened Tanzeems to be created like the Harkat-e-Jihad ul-Islami (HUJI), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Ansar and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and finally the Taliban an even more extreme version of the HUA or HUM. When these fighters were let loose in the state, the level of ferocity went really high and the Army and the BSF had to reply with the same degree of ferocity with no room being asked or given. The LeT is the ultimate expression of the animal in man. In an encounter when the enemy ammunition is over, the LeT goes in and disembowels the soldiers with their knives. Something is wrong in the religion that teaches a human being to behave like an animal.
The soldiers of these Tanzeems are trained to fight asking and giving no space. My first encounter with a group of the HUA was just three months after I had joined in Kashmir. We had information of a group of three Afghan militants who had entered a bungalow in Ilahibagh, a locality on the outskirts of Srinagar. I went to the locality and found that the BSF unit had surrounded the bungalow and was exchanging fire. We were also firing rifle grenades through a window into the first floor of the bungalow. When we shouted through the loud hailer that we had the house surrounded and the militants should come out, the reply was that they had come to die as martyrs and if they did so they would go to paradise. What do you do if human beings are made to believe such nonsense except come to the conclusion that something is wrong with the religion of such fanatics? The only answer is to grant him his death wish. We fired rockets into the bungalow and the building caught fire and all the three militants of HUA died in a hail of bullets as they came out firing wildly after catching fire. We had many more encounters with the HUA, JEM and the LeT. When a militant of any of these extreme tanzeems falls sick, his leader sends him to the hospital alone. We had picked up such cases through source information. He is of course without a weapon and does not resist when arrested. I had interrogated several such persons. All these cadres of the LeT or HUA are invariably poorly-educated persons, studied in madrassas and completely brainwashed. All of them told me the same story when I asked them why they come out when surrounded and come out firing to die in a hail of bullets; they all parroted the same reply—“When we die as martyrs we go to Jannat and there dozens of houris will wait on us.” Jannat is heaven and houris are beautiful damsels. I can only conclude that we are sorry for these ignorant souls who believe this nonsense. As for us soldiers who have to fight them, it is a question of their lives or our lives and we have no choice but take them dead and in the process get brutalised.
This insurgency really started in 1946 in undivided India in North Bengal’s Rangpur, Dinajpur and 24 Parganas district after the Communist Party of India was born, learning Communism from Russia. India’s majority Hindu Community is steeped in caste. This pernicious social order was evolved over thousands of years by India’s majority religion Hinduism. The system is unique to India. Over thousands of years the Indian people are stratified in four main castes, the Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaisya, and the Shudra. The first interjects on behalf of the lower castes with the gods, the Kshatriya fights wars and polices the community, the Vaisya or Baniya does the commerce for all the other castes, while the Shudra does all the menial work for everyone. Below even this degraded group are the Adivasis who were pushed into the forests by the Aryans who gradually migrated into the subcontinent and evolved the stratification of caste. Over thousands of years as Aryans became an agricultural community, ownership of cultivable lands was kept with the upper castes and the lower castes were reduced to working on the lands of the upper castes generally for one fifth of the grain that they cultivated, four fifths going to the owners. The Adivasis did not figure in this equation. They remained in the forests living on Forest produce.
When Communism was established in Russia, all the nobles lost the vast estates that they had acquired over hundreds of years. The same happened in China. The Communist party of India was formed following the coming of Communism in Russia. The party organised two rebellions in India before independence in 1946, one in Rangpur, Dinajpur and 24 Parganas in Bengal and the other in Telengana. The British East India Company and later, the British government, when they directly ruled India, did not interfere with the land ownership system prevailing in India. This was basically feudal, with upper castes holding vast areas of prime irrigated land and millions of peasants of the lower castes forced to work in the fields of the land lords for as low as 1/5th of the crops that they grew as their wages, while 4/5th went into the granary of the upper caste landlords. In parts of the country, in addition to this the pernicious system of caste that had developed over thousands of years, the lower caste people were also treated as untouchables. In States like Bihar and the Telengana area of Hyderabad state, the landlords called Doras, besides forcing the lower caste men to farm their lands for a pittance of a wage of 1/5th of the grain that they produced, regularly raped their women and used them as sex slaves.
In 1946, the Communist Party of India organised two rebellions, one in North Bengal, called that Tebagha movement and another in Telengana of the princely state of Hyderabad, both in 1946. In both these places the Communist party workers organised the lower caste peasants to surround the rich farmers in the interior districts and after holding the rich farmer under duress with bows and arrows, forced him to produce his land records and would then burn all these records. They would then divide the land holdings among all the poor farmers who had taken part in this agrarian revolt. These actions were illegal as there were no laws on equitable distribution of land at that time. As the Communist cadres had carried out such illegal actions in the interior of the state, it took time for the state to react. Once reports reached the police station about such acts of forcible destruction of land records and illegal distribution of land owned by landlords among landless farmers, the police would react, arrest the leaders who organised and carried out such illegal acts and forward them to judicial custody. Such cases dragged on for years. The Tebhaga and Telengana agitations petered out as the police reacted, though belatedly, and arrested the farmers who had dared to attack their land owners.
When India became independent, the Congress party and others like the Communists and Socialists who were in the Constituent Assembly to draft India’s Constitution discussed two fundamental issues among many others and drew up two Schedules. The Fifth Schedule concerned the Adivasis or Forest dwellers. The Fifth Schedule stated that it was the governor who had to administer the Scheduled Areas of the country which are its reserved forests by appointing Tribes Advisory Councils for each state. This meant that in all states, the adivasis of that state living in its Reserved Forests were to be constituted into a Tribes Advisory Council who would administer the Reserved Forests of that state. This meant that the chief minister had no role in the administration of the forests of his state. Regrettably no governor in India has ever done this, except for the governor of Jharkhand who set up a Tribes Advisory Council for a brief period, before abandoning the experiment, leaving the chief ministers and their forest ministers to administer the Reserve Forests of the States in the country. Every lease that has been signed by the state governments with mining companies is illegal as per the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
Secondly as regards cultivable land, the Ninth Schedule stated that all agricultural land had to be distributed equally among the farmers of all states. In the run up to this Schedule it was stated that India lives in its villages and all agricultural land had to be equally divided among its farmers. Article 341 was passed giving powers to compulsorily acquire land and redistribute it to landless farmers. This was to be done by the State Legislatures.
Regrettably though all State Legislatures passed land ceiling laws as per the directions of the Ninth Schedule, only three States, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal and Kerala enforced such land ceiling laws—the latter two when Communist parties were ruling them. It is only in the state of Jammu and Kashmir that the land ceiling laws were correctly legislated and enforced on the ground. In West Bengal land ceiling laws were legislated by 1955, but were enforced on the ground by the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPIM) when they were part of a coalition government in the late 1960s. The Jotedars, as the landlords are called in West Bengal were very unhappy with the land ceiling laws and began fudging the land records with the help of the ministerial staff of the revenue offices in the districts. A tenant farmer or bargadar who had been allotted a plot in execution of the land ceiling laws, challenged the issue in the local court when he found that the plot was not being given to him. He won his case and went to the field to take possession from the Jotedar and was beaten up. This sparked off a rebellion of the tenant farmers and in several places in the district Jotedars were beaten up and lands forcibly occupied by the peasants. The CPM ministers had to go down to the fields to sort out the law and order problems. Soon the issue became violent. The sequel to this situation was that the CPI-M now split and a more extreme group came out the CPI Marxist-Leninist(CPI-ML). Incidentally, when this agrarian rebellion took place, the Communist Chinese government announced on Peking Radio that a Spring Thunder had flashed in India’s West Bengal.
With the creation of the CPI (ML), trouble spread to the other parts of the state and to nearby states- Bihar, Andhra Pradesh where despite land ceiling laws being legislated, the governments did not implement these laws.
I was posted in Hyderabad as DIG of CBI from 1986 to 1990. I made a study of the Naxal problem in Andhra Pradesh. Andhra Pradesh had the first exposure to the CPI movement of trying to forcibly take away land from the upper castes and distribute it to the landless lower castes- the Telengana movement in 1946. During the 1980s the CPI had evolved into the CPI (ML). There were several factions of this party. The one operating in Andhra Pradesh was the Peoples War Group and its writ ran in the area of North Andhra Pradesh, bordering Odisha and Madhya Pradesh all forested land. In Andhra, the upper castes were extremely arrogant and authoritarian. Land ceiling laws were legislated by 1955, but the upper castes treated this law with absolute contempt. Today in 2013, more than 22 years since 1986-90, the upper castes of the state still treat these laws with utter contempt. There was a history of abuse of the women of lower castes by the upper castes in Andhra Pradesh. In fact many upper caste landlords in Andhra Pradesh used to keep three or four tribal women in their households for their sexual pleasure as a matter of right. This even led to the tribals composing folk songs that their women were born to become prostitutes!
The People’s War Group had almost complete control of the area bordering Odisha and Madhya Pradesh for ten odd years. It is only after the Andhra Police raised a special Police Force called the Greyhounds that the sway of the PWG was curtailed. In fact, the Naxal cadres moved across to Madhya Pradesh and Odisha when the Greyhounds began operating in the Telengana area.
We come now to the crucial question. You have seen a cross section of the insurgencies that our forces have had to face in the Northeast and Kashmir. The first point that I wish to draw your attention to is that in the majority of the cases the insurgencies were unnecessary. The citizens of parts of the country took to the guns because of defective governance. Such is the case of the Naga, Mizo, Manipur and Assam insurgencies. I think if we had not committed the blunders pointed out, we could have solved the problems in Kashmir. Once we alienated the youths in Kashmir and sent them to Pakistan for training, we lost the game and we brought a percentage of them as diehard brainwashed insurgents. Actually except for some Kashmiris in the HM or the HUA, none of the Kashmiri youths have died as a result of a death wish. All the extreme cases that I have narrated were Punjabi Pakistanis from the LeT or Pashtuns from the NWFP or the FATA or from Afghanistan.
In this context I wish to share lessons I learnt from two classic works of counter-insurgency, which should be made compulsory reading for officers detailed on a counter-insurgency operation. The first is Robert Thompson’s Defeating Communist Insurgency, his lessons learnt from fighting the Malayan Insurgency in the 1950s. In this, he stated that in any insurgency, the force operating should be scrupulously legal. The second book Counter Insurgency Warfare Theory and Practice by David Galula postulates an even more important fact. He fought in Algeria in the 1950s and he stated that the main objective of the force deployed was to protect the people. The latter precept is a bit difficult to understand. You are deployed in a state or country to fight insurgents who are living among the people and who will protect them because they believe that the country’s leaders are not treating them justly. David Gualala’s concept is to first protect the people, even the people who are sheltering the insurgents. This is difficult to understand. All this means is that do not harm the people but protect them from the government as well as from the insurgents. There is a corollary to this second precept. When deployed in a counter insurgency, the role traces the causes for which the people of the area have taken to the guns and while hunting for the insurgents and also ensuring that you are not fighting the people, but ensuring their security informing the government of the ground realities and the failures of the government that led the people to take to the guns.
I believe that in all the insurgencies of the Northeast there was no need to get the Army. The BSF and the ITBP were well trained and could have handled the physical rigours and had the inbuilt qualities of leadership with them. I thought it was a mistake to give the task of counter-insurgency to the CRPF and I had advised Godbole when he recommended it in his board that was set up in 1999-2000. I advised so because I felt that the CRPF being raised basically for handling law and order situations may not be suitable for tough operations in the jungles. Generally the Officers of the CRPF hand over their companies to the SHO of the police station where they are sent to handle bad law and order situations. I have worked in CRPF and generally I saw that the force was deployed with an inspector leading. Generally the officer was missing. As SP in the districts, whenever the CRPF had been called, I used to take the commandant in my vehicle when moving round. The deputy commandant and the assistant commandants would then be on the ground. Handling law and Order in towns and cities and hunting for insurgents in a jungle are very different tasks.
As for calling out the Army for tackling insurgencies caused by bad governance, like the insurgency in Assam, the Centre had no business to change the cutoff date for people coming from Bangladesh from 26 January 1950 as per the Indian Citizenship Act of 1955 to 25 March 1971, the date of creation of the Government of Bangladesh in exile to cover up all the illegal immigrants who came into Assam between 26 January 1950 and 25 March 1971. This was illegal and sanctified the illegal migration of several lakh people of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. This was done to create a vote bank for the Congress party. Now when an insurgency is started, that you have caused, you call in the Army. This is patently wrong.
There is another factor. Generally I have seen that the Army covers up blunders that their officers commit, like for example the Malom killing. Their standard excuse is that harsh punishment affects the morale of their force. I think this is a very puerile excuse. Killing innocent people whose only fault is that their people have started an insurgency against the government for reasons that are invariably faults of the government, is a very serious misdemeanor. Shooting innocent civilians, two of them children as in Malom is cold-blooded murder and letting such defaulters off is an insult to your uniform, your force and your country. My feeling is that this is a leadership failure. I have made it clear wherever I had joined like in Kashmir, that I will register a murder case against anyone who shoots an unarmed man. This warning had a very salutary effect in Kashmir and in the BSF where in my seven years I had no case of extra-judicial killing. Such killing of innocent people has been done by CRPF several times. Not punishing such misdemeanors is criminal lack of leadership.
As for the Army, I feel that in Kashmir the Army has to be on the Line of Control and it is only the Army or the BSF that can take on the brainwashed brutal tanzeems like the HUM, HUA, LeT or JeM. It is advisable to use only the BSF in the cities, towns and villages of Jammu and Kashmir for counter insurgency. On the LoC and for a stretch of say ten kilometers, the Army has to be deployed. In towns like Poonch that are right on the border, it is better to keep only the BSF even on the border. It is not good to expose the Army for too long in populated areas.
As for the deployment of Army in anti-Naxalite operations, I think one should not even think of this step. The problem is of the government’s own making. If the laws of the land are enforced, the Naxal problem will simply disappear.
By E N Rammohan
(The author is a former DG, Border Security Force)
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