Home Contact Us  

India - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4192, 26 November 2013

Conflict Early Warning

Assam & Meghalaya: Threats of Violence in Garo Heartland
Rani P Das
Senior Research Associate, Centre for Development and Peace Studies (CDPS), Guwahati

Armed conflict in western Assam’s Goalpara district and the adjoining Garo Hills in Meghalaya is assuming new dimensions with dangerous ramifications. Rag-tag rebel groups with their continued subversive activities have taken the people of the area to ransom. The otherwise peaceful area where the Garos and Rabhas have been living side by side for centuries is now turning into a killing field, giving security forces a tough time, especially considering that the stretch in Garo Hills has open borders with Bangladesh.

Mayhem caused by little known rebel groups like United Achik Liberation Army (UALA) in Goalpara and adjoining Garo Hills matches the havoc created by the Black Widow or the Jewel Garlossa faction of the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD-J) militants in the NC Hills district of Assam before they called a ceasefire and subsequently signed a peace accord with the Government in October 2012. UALA is a breakaway group of the ANVC-B (Achik National Volunteer Council-Breakaway), formed in February 2013 and is led by Singbirth N Marak alias Norok. It is a small outfit with a cadre strength of about 30 and was conceptualised after the Garo-Rabha conflict in December 2010-January 2011.

On 3 November 2013, UALA rebels triggered a brutal attack on innocent Rabha people at the remote Gendamari village under Agia Police Station in Assam’s Goalpara district, killing seven and injuring six seriously. Suspected Rabha National Liberation Front (RNLF) militants retaliated by firing and lobbing bombs in a Garo village and by kidnapping one person. The possibility of another massive ethnic clash between the Garos and the Rabhas could be a bitter reality.

The mushrooming of militant groups in Garo Hills becomes a cause of worry. While the Achik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) and its splinter group, ANVC-B, are officially under ceasefire with the government, the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), the United Achik Liberation Army (UALA) and the Achik National Liberation Army (ANLA was formed in October 2013), are active in the interior areas of Garo Hills and in adjoining areas of Assam and West Khasi Hills. Again, there is the GNLA-F led by former GNLA militants Reading T Sangma, Jack Baichung and Savio R Marak. Meanwhile, ANVC suffered a further split in mid-November 2013 when seven members deserted the designated camp where they have been living since the truce and formed a new outfit, adding to the murky scene.

The idea of a Greater Garoland state consisting of the present Garo Hills in Meghalaya and a part of the Kamrup and the Goalpara districts in adjoining Assam, which came to forefront with the formation of ANVC in December 1995, and the demand for sharing administrative power by the Rabhas residing in the Garo Autonomous District Council area could well be the main factors for the sustained unrest, but most often, ambitious militants are seen taking advantage of the public causes. An area of rampant extortion, here traders prefer to buy peace instead of informing the police due to dearth of security.

The genesis behind the Garo-Rabha conflict, however, revolves around the issue of providing Scheduled Tribe status claimed by the Rabhas living in the Autonomous District of East Garo Hills area. Their counterparts living in Goalpara in Assam enjoy Scheduled Caste status. When the Garos were opposed to the claims made by the Rabhas, the latter started declaring bandhs to press their demand. Regarding the bandhs as an economic blockade, the Garos started to retaliate. The immediate cause of the conflict between the two tribes, however, was a bandh call by the Rabhas during Christmas in December 2010 and some Rabha groups beating up a pastor that led to violent clash among the Rabhas and Garos. Scores were killed and thousands displaced in the Assam-Meghalaya border areas.

The Goalpara district covers an area of 1,824 sq km and its southern part is bordered by the West and East Garo Hill districts of Meghalaya - a state that shares a 443 km international border with Bangladesh. The strategic location of the district, combined with the illegal arms trafficking through it, makes it extremely vulnerable to diverse troubles, including ethnic conflict. According to Home Department records of Assam, Goalpara topped the chart in the category of ‘arms recovered from extremists’ in the state in 2012.

On 6 November 2013, the Assam and Meghalaya Police, the CRPF and the Army, launched a joint counter-insurgency operation against two Garo outfits - the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) and the United Achik Liberation Army (UALA) - along a 68 km stretch of inter-state border in western Assam. The security establishment, alarmed by the impending danger triggered by the bloody clashes between the tribes in Assam and Meghalaya, have no doubt joined hands to fight the militants. But, what is needed is stringent vigilance across the area by the security forces. The involvement of community leaders, educationists, cultural personalities and civilians on the ground to cultivate communal harmony and spread the message of peaceful cohabitation is the need of the hour.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee

Related Articles
D Suba Chandran,
"Early Warning and Peace Alert: Transforming Rajouri & Poonch in J&K," 27 February 2013
Medha Chaturvedi,
"Early Warnings: Is Naxalism Expanding in Punjab?," 9 June 2011

Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Peace Talks in India’s Northeast: New Delhi’s Bodo Knot

Northeast 2013: A Year of Peace and Violence

Insurgent Politics & Dhaka's Role

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 January  February
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.