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Sustaining Peace in NE India: Changing Dimensions

Former Union Home Secretary Mr GK Pillai said that the Maoist rebellion in the country needs a wake-up call for the Indian democracy. “Not enough action has been undertaken to improve the lot of the poorer segment and it is this gap that the Maoists are trying to capitalise on, rather than ideology”, Pillai said. He was chairing a session here today at a two-day national seminar on February 13 and 14 titled “Sustaining Peace in Northeast India: Changing Dimensions” organised by the Guwahati based Centre for Development and Peace Studies (CDPS) in collaboration with the British Deputy High Commission, Kolkata.

Mr Pillai said that the presence of Maoist in the region has to be monitored closely and it is the time for all the democratic civil society groups to wake up and act accordingly. “A series of action plans have to be taken up. The main difficulty is that such groups have justified by some intellectuals who stay underground. Therefore the civil society needs to be proactive”, he added.

Presenting his paper titled “Maoism, the new threat in Northeast India: An Overview”, Mr Wasbir Hussain, Director of CDPS said, “Now, it is official that Maoists or Naxalites have managed to extend the 'red corridor' to Northeast India and have linked up with a number of insurgent groups in the region, adding an entirely new dimension to the area's security situation, besides forcing the authorities to take a re-look at their counter-terror strategies.”

In his paper titled “The Pull Factor for a Maoist Rebellion in the Northeast”, Dr Samir Das, Prof and Chair, Dept of Political Science, Calcutta University he stated mainly two pull factors: one is tactical alliance, ie, alliance of the PLA (People's Liberation Army) with the other leading insurgent groups of the region; and the other is strategic alliance, ie, penetration of Maoist to the civil society.

Dr Alka Acharya, Prof of Chinese Studies, JNU, Delhi in her paper on “India's Look East Policy and China: Can a Trade or Business Initiative succeed in reducing conflict in Northeast India?” said that neighbouring Southeast Asia has been dramatically changed with China's role specially in the context of the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

Dr Monirul Hussain, Head, Dept of Political Science and Sociology, in his presentation on “India's Approach to Reaching Peace with Insurgents: Is a Moratorium on Peace Talks Needed?” said “Despite a few successful accords, we don't need moratorium. We have to be very careful in ensuring accountability, whether democracy has been deepen or sqeezed, whether accord is squeezed or deepen representation, enhancing quality of citizenship or not and must ensure justice to all, not just to one group.”

Dr John Sema from Nagaland University said that peace talks should be unconditional. When the govt say that the issue of sovereignty will not be discussed this does will not satisfy the insurgent groups, so peace talks get constrained.

In his paper titled “Shifting Terrain: Conflict Dynamics in Northeast India” Dr NG Mahanta, Peace and Conflict Studies Centre, GU said that the nature of conflict and the issues involved are shifting from ethnicity to land, water and forest.

“Development: A key for Sustaining Peace in Northeast India” was the title of the paper by Gaurav Gogoi, co-founder of Youth Forum on Foreign Policy. He said that development must precede peace and stressed on rural development, connectivity, health and education.

In his paper “Elusive Peace in Northeast: the Manipur Case” Dr Rajen Singh from Manipur University suggested that there should be a kind of central institutional body for sustainable peace and dialogues should be unconditional between the insurgent groups and the govt.

The seminar was summed up by Mr Wasbir Hussain commenting that though dialogues are taking place, sustaining peace has become a challenge. Brainstorming discussions and interactions followed each of the sessions of the seminar participated by experts and delegates as well as college and university students. February 2012