5 January 2019


Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

Two school going children, Ritu Raj Moran and Mantu Moran, hailing from Pensheri area of Tinsukia District, who had gone missing since December 4, 2018, are reported to have joined United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I).

In November 2018, a 16-years-old girl, Karishma Mech, hailing from the Lekhapani area in Tinsukia District reportedly joined ULFA-I.

In the same month, 24-years-old Munna Baruah, a nephew of ULFA-I ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Baruah, originally hailing from Dibrugarh District, reportedly joined the insurgent formation. Baruah went missing from the Digboi town of Tinsukia District where he was working as an apprentice at the Digboi Oil Refinery.

In November, 27-year-old Abhijit Gogoi, originally hailing from Tinsukia District, reportedly joined ULFA-I to “save the Assamese community”.

In October 2018, two persons, Chandra Buragohain and Pabitra Gogoi, hailing from Tinsukia District, is believed to have joined ULFA-I. News reports, however, claim that Pabitra Gogoi has returned. 

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 11 persons have joined ULFA-I in 2018 (data till December 30, 2018). The exact number of such recruits, both in the District and the State, however, remain unknown. Assam Director General of Police (DGP) Kuladhar Saikia stated, in November 2018, “There are various numbers doing the rounds. Some say it is 30, while others claim it is 100. Whom to believe? We have asked our officers and the special branch to conduct an enquiry.” According to a December 10, 2018, report, State Police had identified 18 confirmed recruits from Tinsukia District over the last three years, of which eight had subsequently deserted the outfit. Another eight were arrested in November 2018 before they could leave for the rebel camps in Myanmar to join ULFA-I.

Nevertheless, Tinsukia District Superintendent of Police, Mugdhajyoti Dev Mahanta, observed, in November 2018,

A pro-ULFA sentiment is building up on the social media. We are keeping an eye on it. There were one or two cases where vulnerable youth were directly contacted (by ULFA-I) to join the group. We do identify such youth and give them counseling. We are also trying to engage the youth in games and sports to keep their minds away (sic).

These developments indicate that ULFA-I has gained some traction in recent months in the District, substantially due to the polarizing discourse on the ongoing project to update the National Register for Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. The ULFA-I has successfully raked up the ‘Assamese nationalist’ sentiment to regain some influence and to mobilize small numbers of youth in upper Assam [the core Assamese speaking areas], comprising the Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Dhemaji, Golaghat, Charaideo, Lakhimpur, Majuli, Sivasagar, and Tinsukia Districts.

Tinsukia covers an area of 3,790 square kilometers in the eastern part of Assam. It shares borders with the last remaining hubs of militancy in the Northeast – five Districts of Arunachal Pradesh (East Siang, Lower Dibang valley, Lohit, Changlang and Tirap) and two Districts of Assam (Dibrugarh and Dhemaji). Two of these – Changlang and Tirap – share borders with Myanmar, which has for long served as a safe haven for major insurgent groups operating in the Northeastern region. The District is important in the insurgents’ schemes of things due to its strategic location. DGP Kuladhar Saikia, while visiting Tinsukia District on May 5, 2018, had observed, “Militants use Arunachal Pradesh to enter Assam and very often are flushed back into Arunachal Pradesh during the operations here ".

The demography of the District adds to its vulnerabilities. Apart from Assamese and Bengali speakers, Tinsukia is home to around 15,000 Hindi-speaking families spread across 300 of the District’s 1,100 villages, originally hailing from what are now the States of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. About 4,000 Marwari families, principally a business community originally hailing from the Marwar-Shekhawati region of Rajasthan, are also present in the District. There is a perception of these ‘outsiders’ dominate the local economy and marginalize the ‘indigenous’ inhabitants. With ULFA-I’s polarizing efforts and warnings of attacks in the future, the District seems particularly susceptible.

ULFA-I’s ‘commander-in-chief’ Paresh Baruah had warned,

We own up responsibility for the blast [in Guwahati on October 13]. We triggered it as a mark of protest against the Government of India’s attempt to settle the Bengali immigrants in Assam. The attack is also against the conspiracy against the National Register of Citizens (NRC). We will continue such protests in the coming days. We are sad that the hegemony of the locals is increasingly getting hurt.

On October 13, 2018, ULFA-I militants detonated a low-intensity bomb in Guwahati in protest against the Union Government’s bid to pass the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, in Parliament. The blast left four persons injured. The proposed Bill is unpopular in the Assamese speaking areas of the State and also with the Tribals, as these groups fear that their political and economic rights will be hugely undermined if this Bill is passed. The Bill is intended to provide citizenship to illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are of Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Parsi or Christian. The groups representing the interests of the indigenous communities claim that the Bill, once passed, would legitimize the present lot of illegal Hindu ‘Bangladeshis’ and also encourage future immigrants. ULFA-I’s uncompromising posture caters to this sentiment in order to increase its presence and regain its support amongst the locals in the State.

According to partial data compiled by SATP, Tinsukia District accounted for seven fatalities (five civilians, one trooper and one militant] in three incidents out of the total 20 fatalities (eight civilians, one trooper, and 11 militants] in 13 incidents recorded in the State in the current year (data till December 30, 2018). All the three incidents in the District were attributed to ULFA-I. The lone major incident (involving three or more killings) in the State, also took place in Tinsukia. On November 1, 2018, five Hindu Bengali daily-wage workers, including three of a family, were killed by suspected ULFA-I militants in Bisonimukh village, in Tinsukia District. ULFA-I was also responsible for two civilian fatalities in Charaideo District, the only other fatality linked to ULFA-I outside Tinsukia.

Much of the violence and threat of violence is tied up to extortion. A much weakened ULFA-I has intensified efforts to raise revenues to sustain the ‘movement’ and abductions have also been on the rise in the District, where ULFA-I retains a relatively stronger presence. On December 15, 2018, three suspected ULFA-I militants abducted the owner of a cattle farm, Khem Bahadur Chetri (50), from Bagkhuli Chapori under Saikhowaghat Police Station in Tinsukia District. The abductors had demanded a ransom of INR 1.1 million for Chetri’s release. He was, however, rescued by Security Forces (SF) on December 19. Again, on November 19, 2018, ULFA-I cadres had abducted the caretaker of a stone-crushing plant, Apurba Kakoti, from Jagun in Tinsukia District. He was later released on November 27, 2018. On June 8, 2018, ULFA-I militants abducted the supervisor of a private tea estate at Jagun in Tinsukia District. He was subsequently released on June 25, 2018. In 2017, only one abduction incident had been recorded in the District, when a tea estate supervisor, identified as Sailyo Dahotia (40), was abducted by a six-member armed group, suspected to be ULFA-I militants, from Dihingia tea estate in the Kathalguri area in Tinsukia District on September 28, 2017. He was released on October 5, 2017. [Abduction and extortion are grossly under-reported, with individuals and families preferring to comply, often to reduced demands, of the rebel group].

Meanwhile, SFs have continued to crack down through 2018 and have arrested at least 30 militants, including 14 ULFA-I cadre, in the District. SF pressure also led to the surrender of six ULFA-I militants in the District through 2018. One surrender incident had been reported in 2017, in which one ULFA-I militant gave up arms before the Police.

The vulnerabilities of the Assam-Nagaland-Arunachal Pradesh borders and a rising volume of extremist content on social media are two principal areas that need urgent attention in Assam, and particularly in Tinsukia, if the ULFA-I’s efforts to restore a measure of its dominance are to be effectively countered.

On December 22, 2018, a Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) cadre was killed in an encounter between CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Maoists near Kolji Ghat in the Giddheshwar-Bariarpur Forest under the Khaira Police Station limits in Jamui District of Bihar. One AK-47 rifle and one self-loading rifle (SLR), along with a large number of live cartridges, were recovered from the encounter spot. The identity of the slain Maoist is yet to be ascertained.

On September 17, 2018, a Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) trooper, identified as Sikandar Yadav, was shot dead outside his home by the Maoists in Pondeythika village under Barhat Police Station limits in Jamui District. Sikandar was dragged out of his house and shot dead.

On August 13, 2018, CPI-Maoist cadres killed Chhotu Kumar (35), a street vendor by profession, slitting his throat, and threw his body strapped to two live bombs at the Chandra Mandi village under the Chandra Mandi Police Station limits in Jamui District. Chandra Mandi, Station House Officer (SHO), Hemant Kumar, and Sub-Inspector (SI), Narayan Thakur, along with four Policemen, received minor splinter injuries when one of the bombs went off while removing the body. Jamui Superintendent of Police (SP) J. Reddy disclosed, "The bomb-squad reached the site and successfully defused a live bomb wrapped on Chhotu's body. But a second bomb went off while they were removing Chhotu's body to send it to Jamui Sadar Hospital for post-mortem.”

According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least eight fatalities, including five civilians, one trooper and two Maoists, were recorded in Jamui District in Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-linked violence in 2018 (data till December 30, 2018). Significantly, out of four Districts across Bihar from where LWE-linked fatalities have been recorded in the current year, Jamui has the dubious distinction of being the front-runner, with Gaya standing second with three fatalities (one civilian and two troopers), while Aurangabad, Lakhisarai and West Champaran recorded one such fatality each. The total number of such fatalities in such violence across Bihar in the current year stands at 14, including nine civilians, three Security Force personnel and two Maoists.

An overview of fatalities since the formation of the CPI-Maoist on September 21, 2004, shows that Jamui District has registered at least 98 Maoist-linked fatalities, including 62 civilians, 22 SF personnel, and 14 Maoists, roughly 14.24 per cent of the total of 688 fatalities, including 309 civilians, 191 SF personnel and 188Maoists, recorded in the State during this period (data till December 30, 2018). It is significant that Bihar, which was at one time the hotbed of Maoist insurgency, contributed just 8.53 per cent of total Maoist-linked fatalities across the country over the period (data till December 30, 2018). Total fatalities across India during this period was 8,062 (3,166 civilians, 1,999 SF personnel and 2,897 Maoists), with Bihar accounting for 688 (309 civilians, 191 SF personnel and 188 Maoists). In the current year, with 14 fatalities (nine civilians, three SF personnel and two Maoists), 3.38 per cent of the total of 413 fatalities (109 civilians, 73 SF personnel and 231 Maoists) across the country in 2018, the State is grappling with the remnants of the insurgency, especially in Jamui.

Out of 45 Districts across eight States from where Maoist-linked fatalities have been recorded in the current year, Jamui was the 11thworst, with eight fatalities; preceded by Sukma (Chhattisgarh) with 89; Bijapur (Chhattisgarh) with 70; Gadchiroli (Maharashtra) with 58; Dantewada (Chhattisgarh) with 34; Narayanpur and Rajnandgaon (Chhattisgarh) with 15 each; Kanker (Chhattisgarh) and Latehar (Jharkhand) with 11 each; Malkangiri (Odisha) with 10; and Palamu (Jharkhand) with nine fatalities.

Worryingly, civilians have borne the maximum brunt of LWE violence in Jamui. According to SATP data, five civilians have already been killed in the current year [data till December 30], with the August 13 incident (above) the latest such atrocity. The number of civilian fatalities in the District in 2017 totalled seven. Since the formation of CPI-Maoist, 62 civilians have been killed in the Jamui District, 20.06 per cent of the 309 civilian deaths in the State over this period.

Significantly, the District has recorded a lone SF fatality thus far in 2018. There was no SF killing through 2017. The last SF killing was reported on July 4, 2014, when a CRPF official, Hira Kumar Jha, the second-in-command of the CRPF base in Jamui, and a CPI-Maoist cadre, were killed in an exchange of fire around the Lakharia Forest region. Since the formation of the CPI-Maoist, a total of 22 SF personnel have died in Jamui District, 11.51 per cent of the 322 SF fatalities in Bihar over this period.

Since the formation of CPI-Maoist, the overall kill ratio has been favour significantly adverse for the SFs, at 1.57:1 (data till December 30, 2018). However, the ratio favours the SFs in the current year at 1:2.

The Maoists have also orchestrated a range of violent incidents in Jamui, other than killings, to make their presence felt. Since the formation of CPI-Maoist, the Jamui District has recorded at least 13 incidents of attack on railways, resulting in the killing of seven SF personnel (all data till December 30, 2018). The Maoists have also carried out at least 24 incidents of abduction in which at least 90 persons were abducted, of whom 15 were killed and others subsequently released after ‘warnings’; 11 incidents of arson targeting road construction activities; 22 incidents of explosion, which resulted in the killing of two civilians.

Jamui District, carved out from the erstwhile Munger District on February 21, 1991, covers a geographical area of 3,122.80 square kilometres, of which 21.28 per cent, around 664.53square kilometres, is under forest cover. The District shares its borders with Munger and Lakhisarai Districts towards the north, the Giridih District of Jharkhand to the south, Deoghar District of Jharkhand and Banka of Bihar towards the east, and Nawada District of Bihar to the west. All these Districts, with the exception of Deogarh in Jharkhand, are Left Wing Extremism-affected. Jamui is also listed among the 30 worst Naxal (LWE)-affected Districts, along with another three in Bihar (Aurangabad, Gaya, and Lakhisarai), identified by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) in 2018.

According to a December 23, 2018report, Inspector General (Operations) Kundan Krishnan, who heads anti-Maoist operations in Bihar, stated,

Maoist-hit Districts have come down to 16 from 23. Earlier, Bihar was third in Maoist violence. Now it ranks fifth in the country. Gaya, Aurangabad, Jamui and Lakhisarai are the only Districts from where Maoist violence is reported now.

There is widespread under-development, poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy in the District. Predictably, Jamui ranks towards the bottom – 587th among the 599 Districts across India, according to the “District Development and Diversity Index Report for India and Major States,” a joint survey conducted by the US-India Policy Institute (USIPI) and the Centre for Research and Debates in Development Policy (CRDDP), New Delhi. The report of the survey, which took composite development — measured in terms of economic development and the indices of health, education and material well-being – into consideration, was released on January 29, 2015. Further, Parliament was informed on August 2, 2018, that Jamui was among 116 Districts in the country identified by NITI Aayog as ‘Aspirational Districts’, selected on the basis of a composite index which includes published data on deprivation enumerated under the Socio-Economic Caste Census, Health & Nutrition, Education and Basic Infrastructure, with the aim of promoting access, equity and quality, as well as central assistance to States. This includes assistance for the creation of one Model Degree College each in 60 Educationally Backward Districts (EBDs). Earlier, on April 2, 2018, NITI Aayog had released a list of 117 ‘Backward’ Districts across India, which includes Jamui.

In order to boost development in Jamui and other Maoist-affected Districts of the State, according to a June 20, 2018, report, the State Cabinet approved INR 12.29 billion for acquisition of land, utility shifting, environmental clearance and other work related to construction of 865 Kilometers of roads and small bridges in five Maoist hit Districts of Aurangabad, Gaya, Jamui, Banka and Muzaffarpur. Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Upendra Nath Pandey disclosed,

The Cabinet decision on construction of roads in Maoist affected areas has been taken under the 'road connectivity project for the left wing extremism affected areas' as a vertical under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana [Prime Minister’s Village Roads Plan].

Clearly, the Maoist threat lingers on in Jamui, but has seen a significant waning. Continued SF pressure, combined with sustained development initiatives, particularly in the sphere of improved connectivity, will help address the residual problem.


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