FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Meeting India’s most wanted men
Updated:Sep 15, 2015
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Atul K Thakur
 
 
Rendezvous with Rebels: Journey to Meet India’s Most Wanted Men
Author: Rajeev Bhattacharyya
Publishers: Harper Collins
Price: Rs 399 (Indian)
Pgs: 311
 
More than Pakistan and China, India seems to be waging a greater battle in its own backyard in the northeast consisting of eight states that are racially and culturally different from the mainland. It became a hotspot of conflict within years after independence when the Naga National Council began its campaign for an independent Nagaland. The conflict dragged and engulfed other states and, by 1980, as many as five states were burning. Faulty assessment of the situation led to erroneous policies with the result that the fire of insurgency assumed uncontrolled proportion. By the early 2000s, more than 100 armed organisations were on the warpath with a bewildering range of ideologies from extortion to separatism. Manipur alone had more than 40 groups.
 
Truly, India’s northeast has been a hotspot of conflict that will undoubtedly range among the top not only in South Asia but in the world. On many occasions, groups have surrendered but there were others to wage the armed struggle demanding redressal of their grievances. But gone are the days when all the rebels in this region were fighting for independence. Now, most of them are demanding autonomy within the Constitution. Of the 50 odd insurgent outfits active in the northeast, around nine are demanding independence. These separatist groups have camps deep in the jungles of Myanmar’s Sagaing Division in a region that is still beyond the control of Naypyidaw. And they have joined hands with a local Naga organisation called the Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-K). Nothing much is known about this region, which is why it is often called no man’s land.
 
Viewed from this perspective, Rajeev Bhattacharyya’s Rendezvous With Rebels: Journey To Meet India’s Most Wanted Men is a special contribution to reportage on conflict. He stayed covertly in the region for nearly four months, braving the hostile terrain and the danger of being sniped by the Myanmar army, and interviewed top rebel leaders spearheading the campaign in India’s northeast. Editions such as this are hard to find in Indian journalism. There is no other instance of any journalist from India sneaking stealthily into a neighbouring country for reporting on rebel bases. It is for this reason that the book will be regarded as extraordinary for all times to come. Moreover, there are not very many books on this region that can truly be regarded as one of the last unknown places on earth.
 
Accompanied by a journalist colleague, the duo were escorted in the hilly terrain by a squad of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), a banned insurgent outfit in Assam that has been demanding the independence of the northeast. What Bhattacharyya observed and assessed are astonishing about the region. He mentions that headhunting, the customary practice of decapitating heads from the bodies of villagers from neighbouring villages, was practiced as late as the early 1980s among the Nagas in Myanmar. Money is a new concept as a mode of transaction and clothes have become easily available only since the last three decades or so.
 
The chapter ‘Blood, sweat and tears’ gives an account of the bloody wars that engulfed the Naga region when sometimes entire villages were wiped out by rival forces. There are eight pages of photographs as well that help the reader connect to the situation in the region.
 
The journalists were able to interview the ULFA chief of staff, Paresh Baruah, many weeks after they reached the camp of the outfit. Subsequently, they were witness to many interesting events like the football matches that were played among all the separatist groups to celebrate their decision of forming an alliance. Incidentally, the alliance was formed last April and named the United National Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFWSEA) with the objective of forming a government-in-exile as well. Another interesting episode was the interview by the author of the Naga rebel chief, S S Khaplang, who had no qualms about admitting that he had a very friendly relationship with the Myanmar army. No wonder that the repeated requests by New Delhi to the Myanmar government to eliminate the camps have not produced any effect so far.
 
This book should generate interest among enthusiasts of the South Asian region.
 
 
(The reviewer is a New Delhi based journalist and writer. He can be reached at summertickets@gmail.com)
 
The Daily Times, September 15, 2015
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
The first India-China strategic dialogue is to be held on February 22, 2017. This dialogue was proposed during the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in August last year and it was propagated as a new mechanism for a more comprehensive dialogue between the two countries. 
 
read-more
The Islamic State (IS)  and its ideological affiliates  in Pakistan have claimed responsibility for this attack and threatened that this is only the beginning of such an anti-Sufi /Shia  campaign to exterminate the apostate – or ‘non-believer’ writes C Uday Bhaskar for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
spotlight image India has vital interests in the Middle East and going by the spurt in political engagements since May 2014, the region is a top priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi writes Md. Muddassir Quamar for South Asia Monitor
 
read-more
The recent violence that took place in Nagaland against the 33 per cent reservation given to women is not only sad, but it would certainly hurt the holistic development of the entire State. The recent violence that took place in Nagaland against the 33 per cent reservation given to women is not only sad, but it would certainly
 
read-more
Society for Policy Studies in association with India Habitat Centre invites you to a lecture in the Changing Asia Series by Dr.Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President and Chief Executive, Centre for Policy Research on Asia: Hope for the Future or Prisoner of the Past?    ...
 
read-more
spotlight image Earlier this week, just after United States President Donald Trump’s top adviser on national security resigned in controversy, a European intelligence official asked a reporter the question on everyone’s mind: “I was hoping you could tell me what’s going on over there [in the US].”
 
read-more
It is high time that Taiwan differentiated its position from Beijing’s claim on South China Sea, writes Namrata Hasija for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
At the moment, Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari is able to stop the violence by pushing the Islamists to the vast Sambisa forests of the Borno State At the moment, Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari is able to stop the violence by pushing the Islamists to the vast Sambisa forests of the Borno State
 
read-more
Every year during the budget, many defence and strategic experts start clamouring for a higher budgetary allocation for the defence sector and this year was no different. The allocation of Rs 2.74 lakh crore (excluding defence pensions) is being perceived as “too less”. Every year during the budget, many defence and
 
read-more
Column-image

India remians the inflexible bête-noir for Pakistan, yet there are few books by Indian authors that have sought to interpret the prodigal neighbour in a holistic, informed and empathetic manner.

 
Column-image

The line that Mortimer Durand drew across a small map in 1893 has bled the Pashtun heart ever since. More than a century later both sides of that line remain restless. But the mystery behind what actually happened on 12 November 1893 has never ...

 
Column-image

What went wrong for the West in Afghanistan? Why couldn't a global coalition led by the world's preeminent military and economic power defeat "a bunch of farmers in plastic sandals on dirt bikes" in a conflict that outlasted b...

 
Column-image

What will be Pakistan's fate? Acts of commission or omission by itself, in/by neighbours, and superpowers far and near have led the nuclear-armed country at a strategic Asian crossroads to emerge as a serious regional and global concern whi...

 
Column-image

Some South African generals, allied with the British forces, sought segregation from the enlisted men, all blacks, after being taken prisoners of war. The surprised German commander told them firmly that they would have to share the same quarte...

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive