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Rajat Dubey asked: Do you think India has succeeded in bringing peace to the northeast in the last few years? What should be India’s future strategy?

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  • Pushpita Das replies: Yes, there is no doubt that today the Northeast is more peaceful than before. The violence levels in the last few years have come down considerably. In fact, the number of violent incidents has steadily come down since 2008. Till November 2011, the region as a whole witnessed 537 violent incidents as compared to 1561 incidents in 2008, 1297 in 2009, and 773 in 2010. Correspondingly, the number of security forces and civilians killed has also reduced drastically from 466 in 2008 to 61 in 2011 (till October).

    The prevalence of relative peace in the region is mainly because most insurgent groups, such as the ULFA, National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB- anti-talk faction), Dima Halam Daogah- Joel (DHD-J), United National Liberation Front (UNLF), and the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), have been rendered ineffective with the arrest of their top leaders. These arrests also eventually forced these rebel groups to announce ceasefires and initiate talks with the government. In few instances, these talks have resulted in the signing of memorandum of settlements between the government and the insurgent groups.

    In the future, the government should continue to engage the insurgent groups in dialogue as well as encourage other groups to shun violence and come to the negotiating table. Simultaneously, it should take steps to address genuine grievances of various ethnic groups residing in the region so as to prevent potential ethnic clashes. In recent months, reports abound that the Maoist have been making inroads in the region by forging ties with insurgent groups. The government should be mindful of this emerging trend and enhance the capacity of the police force to effectively deal with the left wing extremism in the region. Most importantly, the government should improve governance and expedite developmental activities in the Northeast.