India’s open border with Myanmar has been a major problem for Arunachal Pradesh because of militants from the other side, says Chief Minister Pema Khandu. “The entire region of Tirap, Changlang and Longding [border districts] is adversely affected by NSCN insurgency. Cadres of various NSCN factions — IM, K, U, R — are very active in the entire region… The situation has been exacerbated by the recent declaration of the NSCN(K) as an unlawful organisation,” Khandu told Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Aizawl Monday, at a meeting of the CMs of the four states bordering Myanmar.
Khandu said Arunachal’s woes stem from “imported” insurgency. “Though there is no home-grown militancy in Arunachal, activities of underground groups from Assam and Nagaland and from across the border with Myanmar have adversely affected the security situation in the state,” he said. Though the NSCN(IM) is on a ceasefire with the Centre, this is limited only to Nagaland, while the NSCN(K) was recently declared a terrorist group. “On the factual axis, there is nothing particular to distinguish between NSCN(IM) and NSCN(K),” Khandu said. “These groups have been extorting money from businessmen, government officials and politicians, and are involved in heinous crimes such as murders, kidnapping, abduction for ransom, robbery, forceful recruitment, etc.”
Stressing that local people are the worst victims, Khandu said: “The local villagers are made to facilitate movement of militant cadres either out of fear or for petty sums of money. There are various taxes like India tax, house tax, annual tax etc which the underground groups impose on the local people. Further, villagers are forced to help them by providing foodgrains, pigs, spying on movement of security forces, and carrying weapons from one village to the other. In the event of a successful operation by security forces, the entire village has to pay a hefty fine whose amount increases if weapons are also seized,” the chief minister said.
This has hampered operations by security forces because villagers are not being very forthcoming in providing actionable intelligence inputs, he said. The region comprising Tirap, Changlang and Longding, incidentally, is part of the area claimed by NSCN factions as part of “Greater Nagalim”. “Thus, the area is being used by them as a transit as well as operational ground,” he said.
While the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has been in force in these districts since 1991, the Centre had only on May 15 extended it for three more months. Khandu wants AFSPA to remain longer. He wants a border fence, at least on vulnerable stretches. “The international boundary has not crystallised on the ground as a line separating the countries. It is an artificial line superimposed on the socio-cultural landscape of the borderland, often cutting across houses and villages, thus dividing various tribes.”
While Mizoram CM Lal Thanhawla has called for India taking advantage of the Free Movement Regime, Khandu described it as a concern. “Taking advantage of it, militant groups have been crossing over to Myanmar to receive arms training, set up safe havens and reenter India to carry out subversive activities,” he said.