India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Sept. 3 announced a Rs 7 lakh (approx. $10,500) bounty on Naga insurgent leader SS Khaplang in connection with an attack on an army convoy in Manipur three months ago that killed 18 soldiers. The 75-year-old rebel heads the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), that has long waged an armed struggle for an independent Naga homeland uniting parts of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam states along with areas of Burma. In early August, India's central government signed a peace agreement with the rival NSCN-IM (Isak-Muivah, named for leaders Isak Chisi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah). But the Khaplang faction is not yet recognizing the accord, and the bounty appears to signal Delhi's impatience—or a strategy to keep the Naga struggle divided.
National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) militants shot dead at least 50 adivasis, or tribal people, at five different places in India's northeast state of Assam Dec. 23. Many women and children are among the dead. The attacks took place at remote rural villages, where residents were pulled out of their huts and summarily shot. The death toll is expected to rise. The coordinated attacks followed the killing of two Bodo rebels in a skirmish with Assam police troops earlier in the week. Authorities blamed the Songbijit faction of the NDFB, which is seeking statehood for the Bodoland region of Assam. (Times of India, Al Jazeera, BBC World Service, Dec. 24)
In a new video release, al-Qaeda boss Ayman al-Zawahri announced a new wing of the militant network to "raise the flag of jihad" across the "Indian subcontinent." Zawahri pledged that "al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent" (AQIS) will "break all borders created by Britain in India," and called on "our brothers" to "unite under the credo of the one god...in Burma, Bangladesh, Assam, Gujarat, Ahmedabad, and Kashmir." The statement made two references to Gujarat, the home state of India's new Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Gujarat was the scene of communal riots on his watch as chief minister of the state in 2002. More than 1,000 people, overwhelmingly Muslims, died in the wave of attacks. In the 55-minute video, delivered in a mixture of Arabic and Urdu, Zawahiri also pledged renewed loyalty to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar. India has thus far had no recorded al-Qaeda presence, although it has suffered numerous attacks from groups including Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Indian Mujahedeen. (Long War Journal, Sept. 5; Today's Zaman, Turkey, BBC News, Indian Express, Sept. 4)
A 48-hour bandh, or civil strike, called by the United Naga Council (UNC) has shut down the ethnic Naga areas of India's northeastern Manipur state, with roads blocked and most businesses closed. The UNC called the bandh to press demands for a "separate administrative set-up" for Manipur's Nagas. Amid the strike, the Kuki State Demand Committee (KSDC) announced it would launch its own 48-hour bandh in the ethnic Kuki areas of Manipur to press demands for creation of a new "Kukiland" state, to be carved out of Manipur. (PTI, Aug. 12) Meanwhile, the All Assam Adivasi Students Association (AAASA) is blocking the road linking Assam and Nagaland states to demand autonomy for the tribal peoples or adivasis whose lands straddle the border. The decision to launch the blockade came after an advasi man was killed in an armed confrontation with Nagas in June. (NNN, June 6)
Following a series of raids on the strongholds of Naxalite rebels and the slaying of top commanders, authorities say the guerillas' leaders have taken refuge in India's northeastern hinterlands, seeking to regroup and resupply—through control of opium production in their traditional strongholds. Home Ministry Joint Secretary MA Ganapathy said that Naxalites in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh are producing opium in their jungle territories. "Intelligence reports say that the Maoists have joined hands with drug cartels to cultivate opium, which is subsequently delivered to the mafia, who convert raw opium into heroin and smuggle the drug outside the country," he said. The proceeds are reportedly used to purchase weapons in the northeast that come across the border from Burma.
Authorities in Bangladesh say Muslim rioters over the weekend torched at least a dozen Buddhist temples and some 50 homes, in Cox's Bazar district near the Burmese border (Chittagong division, see map). Authorities said the attacks were prompted by a photo posted on Facebook that showed a local Buddhist trampling on a Koran. (Mizzima, Oct. 2; ANI, Sept. 30) After the rioting, more than 100 Buddhist monks protested at the Bangladeshi embassy in Rangoon, Burma, where a banner read "No Terrorist Muslim War on Religions." Hundreds of Buddhist monks also demonstrated in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP, Oct. 5; VOA, Oct. 4)
Much of India was shut down Sept. 20 in a Bharat Bandh—an all-India general strike—called by opposition parties to protest new neoliberal economic measures by the center-left United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. The bandh was most widely observed in Calcutta and Bangalore, which were virtually paralyzed. The Confederation of Indian Industry estimated losses of over $2 billion to the national economy. At issue was the UPA government's decision to hike fuel prices and allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector—which the opposition charges will allow foreign-owend box-store chains to squeeze out local businesses. WalMart, reacting swiftly to the government announcement, has already announced plans to open outlets in India in the coming months.