Insurgency in India – Wikipedia


Insurgency in India

Map of India



Supported by :

Separatist groups:


Northeast insurgency:

Commanders and leaders

Northeast insurgents
G Bidai
Arabinda Rajkhowa (POW)
Paresh Baruah
Anup Chetia (POW)
Kalalung Kamei
Arambam Samerendra
Angami Zapu Phizo 
I. K. Songbijit Surrendered
Biswamohan Debbarma (POW)
Durga Minz Surrendered
Xabrias Khakha Surrendered
Prem Brahma Surrendered
Milton Burman (POW)
Tom Adhikary (POW)
Men Sing Takbi 
Pradip Terang
Ranjit Debbarma (POW)


Ankit Pandey
Charu Majumdar
Kanu Sanyal
Jangal Santhal
Sabyasachi Panda (POW)
Prashant Bose (POW)
Yalavarthi Naveen Babu 
Narmada Akka 
Shamsher Singh Sheri 

India 200,000 in Nagaland (1995)[24]
Bangladesh 70,000 (1992)[24]
Bhutan 8634 (2008)[25]
Myanmar Unknown

10,000–20,000 members (2009–2010 estimate)[26][27]
10,000–40,000 regular members and 50,000–100,000 militia members (2010 estimate)[28][29]
6,500–9,500 insurgents (2013 estimate)[30]

Northeastern insurgents:

1,500 (2010)[31]
2,000 (2005)[32]
4,500 (2007)[33]
225 (2008)[34]
850 (2004)[35]
ACF: 350 (2005)[36]

Casualties and losses

Northeastern insurgents:
Since 1992: 2,762 killed[37]
13-36 killed, 43-68 injured[a][38][39][40][41]


Since 1997: 2,277–3,440 killed[42][43]

Northern insurgents:
Since 1992: 8,554 killed in India[37]
485-650 killed or captured in Bhutan[38][44]


Since 1997: 3,402–4,041 killed[42][43]

Since 1992: 10,302 civilians killed[37]
Since 1979: 40,000 killed overall[45]

Insurgency in India typically refers to state secession, which is the withdrawal of one or more states from the Republic of India. Whereas, some have wanted a separate state, union territory or an autonomous administrative division within India.

Many separatist movements exist with thousands of members, however some have low local support and high voter participation in democratic elections.

The Naxal-Maoist insurgency began in India with the Naxalbari uprsing in 1967 in West Bengal. Later it also spread to the southern states of India. Currently, it is lead by the Communist Party of India (Maoists) and are active in some areas of the states of Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The areas where Naxals operate is known as the Red Corridor. Their support mainly lies with the tribal population of India who have often been neglected by the elected government.

The Khalistani Insurgency in Punjab was active in the 1980s and early 1990s, but is now largely subdued within India.

Insurgency in Northeast India involves multiple armed separatist factions operating in India‘s northeastern states, which are connected to the rest of India by the Siliguri Corridor, a strip of land as narrow as 14.29 miles (23.00 km) wide. Northeastern India consists of seven states (also known as the Seven Sister States): Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, and Nagaland. Tensions existed between insurgents in these states and the central government as well as amongst their native indigenous people and migrants from other parts of India and illegal immigrants. Insurgency has seen rapid decline in recent years, with a 70 per cent reduction in insurgency incidents and an 80 per cent drop in civilian deaths in the Northeast in 2019 compared to 2013.[46] The 2014 Indian general election the Indian government claimed it had an 80% voter turnout in all northeastern states, the highest among all states of India. Indian authorities claim that this shows the faith of the northeastern people in Indian democracy.[47] As of 2020, the area of violence in the entire North East has shrunk primarily to an area which is the tri-junction between Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and north Nagaland.[48]

Jammu and Kashmir has long been a breeding ground of separatist ambitions,[49] has been wracked by the insurgency since 1989.[50][51] Although the failure of Indian governance and democracy lay at the root of the initial disaffection, Pakistan played an important role in converting the latter into a fully developed insurgency.[52][53] Some insurgent groups in Kashmir support the complete independence, whereas others seek accession to Pakistan.[54][53] More explicitly, the roots of the insurgency are tied to a dispute over local autonomy.[55] Democratic development was limited in Kashmir until the late 1970s and by 1988 many of the democratic reforms provided by the Indian government had been reversed and non-violent channels for expressing discontent were limited and caused a dramatic increase in support for insurgents advocating violent secession from India.[55] In 1987, a disputed State election [56] which is widely perceived to have been rigged[57][58][59], created a catalyst for the insurgency when it resulted in some of the state’s legislative assembly members forming armed insurgent groups.[60] In July 1988, a series of demonstrations, strikes and attacks on the Indian government began the Kashmir insurgency, which during the 1990s escalated into the most important internal security issue in India. In 2019, special status of Jammu and Kashmir was revoked. Since then, the Indian military has intensified its counter-insurgency operations. Clashes in the first half of 2020 left 229 dead, including 32 civilians. The 283 people killed in all of 2019 was the highest toll for a decade. [61] The 2019–2021 Jammu and Kashmir lockdown was a security lockdown and communications blackout that had been imposed throughout the Indian-administered union territory of Jammu and Kashmir following the revocation of Article 370 which lasted until February 2021,[62] with the goal of preemptively curbing unrest, violence and protests. Thousands of civilians, mostly young men, had and have been detained in the crackdown.[63][64][65] The Indian government had stated that the tough lockdown measures and substantially increased deployment of security forces had been aimed at curbing terrorism.[66] The revocation and subsequent lockdown drew condemnation from several countries, especially Pakistan.

India has introduced several laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Acts (AFSPA) to subdue insurgency in certain parts of the country. The law was first enforced in Manipur and later enforced in other insurgency-ridden north-eastern states. It was extended to most parts of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1990 after the outbreak of an armed insurgency in 1989. Each Act gives soldiers immunity in specified regions against prosecution under state government unless the Indian government gives prior sanction for such prosecution. The government maintains that the AFSPA is necessary to restore order in regions like Indian territories of Kashmir and Manipur.[67] The act has been criticized by Human Rights Watch as a “tool of state abuse, oppression and discrimination”.[68] On 31 March 2012, the UN asked India to revoke AFSPA saying it had no place in Indian democracy. [69]

Naxal-Maoist insurgency[edit]

The Naxalite–Maoist insurgency is an ongoing conflict[70] between Maoist groups known as Naxalites or Naxals, and the Indian government. It was armed uprising initiated in 1967 by a radical faction of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M) led by Charu Majumdar, Kanu Sanyal, and Jangal Santhal. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called it the, “biggest threat to internal security.”[71]


Phase 1 (1967-1973)[edit]

Mao Zedong provided ideological inspiration for the Naxalbari movement.[72][73] A large number of urban elites were also attracted to the ideology, which spread through Charu Majumdar’s writings, particularly the Historic Eight Documents.[74] These documents were essays formed from the opinions of many communist leaders.[75]

On 18 May 1967, the Siliguri Kishan Sabha, declared their support for the movement initiated by Kanu Sanyal, and their readiness to adopt armed struggle to redistribute land to the landless. The CPI(Marxist) who was then in power in West Bengal did not approve of an armed uprising. On 25 May 1967 in Naxalbari, Darjeeling district, a sharecropper of tribal background (Adivasi) who had been given land by the courts under the tenancy laws was attacked by the landlord’s men. In retaliation, tribals started forcefully capturing back their lands. When a police team arrived, they were ambushed by a group of tribals led by Jangal Santhal, and a police inspector was killed in a hail of arrows. This event encouraged many Santhal tribals and other poor people to join the movement and to start attacking local landlords.[76] Violent uprisings were organized in several parts of the country by the AICCCR.

On 22 April 1969 (Lenin‘s birthday), the AICCCR gave birth to the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) (CPI (ML)).The party was formed by the radicals of the CPI-M like Majumdar and Saroj Dutta. The first party congress was held in Calcutta 1970 where a Central Committee was elected. However due to infighting the party soon split. In 1971 Satyanarayan Singh revolted against the leadership and sectarianism of Majumdar. The result became that the party was split into two, one CPI (ML) led by Satyanarayan Singh and one CPI (ML) led by Majumdar. After Majmumdar died in police custody, the party split into pro- and anti-Majumdar factions. The pro-Majmumdar factions further split into pro- and anti-Lin Biao factions.[77][78]

The government also retaliated by several operatios notably Operation Steeplechase by Indira Gandhi. By 1973 the main cadres of the Naxalites had been eliminated and were dead or behind bars.[79] The movement fractured into more than 40 separate small groups.[80] As a result, instead of popular armed struggle in the countryside, individual terrorism in Calcutta became a principal method of struggle.

Phase 2 (1967–1973)[edit]

The early 1970s saw the spread of Naxalism to almost every state in India, barring Western India.[81] This time, the insurgency was done in South India particularly in the state of Andhra Pradesh.[82]

On April 22, 1980, the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People’s War was founded by Kondapalli Seetharamaia By 1978 Naxalite peasant revolts had spread to the Karimnagar District and Adilabad District.This new waves of insurgents kidnapped landlords and forced them to confess to crimes, apologize to villagers, and repay forced bribes. By the early 1980s insurgents had established a stronghold and sanctuary in the interlinked North Telangana village and Dandakaranya forests areas along the Andhra Pradesh and Orissa border.

The governments of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa managed to quell down the rebels with a variety of counterinsurgency measures. After the death of a police sub-inspector in Warangal IPS officer K. S. Vyas raised a special task force called the Greyhounds[83]. The states established special laws that enabled police to capture and detain Naxalite cadres, fighters and presumed supporters.[84] They also invited additional central paramilitary forces. The states also set up rehabilitation programs (like the Surrender and Rehabilitation package[85]), and established new informant networks. By 1994, nearly 9000 Naxalites surrendered. In 2003 following an attack on the then Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu[86], the state embarked on a rapid modernization of its police force while ramping up its technical and operational capabilities.[85][87] By the early 2000s, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have seen very minimal Naxal presence.

Phase 3 (2004-Current)[edit]

The Communist Party of India (Maoist) was founded on 21 September 2004, through the merger of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) People’s War (People’s War Group), and the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCCI) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Naxalbari merged into the CPI (Maoist).[88]

The CPI (Maoist) is active in the forest belt of Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha and some remote regions of Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

It has carried out several attacks (see Timeline of the Naxalite–Maoist insurgency) notably on 15 February 2010, several of the guerrilla commanders of CPI (Maoist), killed 24 personnel of the Eastern Frontier Rifles.[89] On 6 April 2010, the Maoists ambushed and killed 76 paramilitary personnel who felled out to the trap laid by the lurking Maoists.[90] On 25 May 2013, the CPI (Maoist) ambushed a convoy of the Indian National Congress at Bastar, and killed 27 people including Mahendra Karma, Nand Kumar Patel and Vidya Charan Shukla.[91] On 3 April, 2021, twenty-two soldiers were killed in a Maoist ambush on the border of Bijapur and Sukma districts in southern Chhattisgarh.[92]

In September 2009, a all-out offensive was launched by the Government of India‘s paramilitary forces and the state’s police forces against the CPI (Maoist) is termed by the Indian media as the “Operation Green Hunt“.[93] Since the start of the operation: 2,266 Maoist militants have been killed, 10,181 have been arrested and 9,714 have surrendered.[94]


The Naxals far-left radical communists who form many groups with varying ideologies. The CPI(ML) and People’s War Group (PWG) believed in Marxist-Leninism whereas the current CPI(Maoist) believe in Maoism. They believe that the Indian state is being “run by a collaboration of imperialists, the comprador bourgeoisie and feudal lords and wish to overthrow it through extreme violence as a means to secure organisational goals[95] The Naxals have support mainly in the tribal (Adivasi) community. This is due to the mismanagement of forests both in British and independent eras. The lack of development in rural areas by the government is usually filled by the Naxals.[96] The Naxalites receive most support from Dalits and Adivasis who among these groups persists low degree of employment and qualification, weak access to health care, education and power, political marginalization and suppression of protests.[97]

They usually earn money through: the mining industry where they tax about 3% of the profits from each mining company that operates in the areas under Naxal control. These firms also pay the Naxalites for “protection” services which allows miners to work without having to worry about Naxalite attacks.[98] The organization also funds itself through the drug trade, where it cultivates drugs in areas of Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Bihar.[99] Drugs such as marijuana and opium are distributed throughout the country by middlemen who work on behalf of the Naxalites. The drug trade is extremely profitable for the movement, as about 40% of Naxal funding comes through the cultivation and distribution of opium.

Jammu and Kashmir[edit]

Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh (1895–1961)

Maharaja Hari Singh became the ruler of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1925, and he was the reigning monarch at the conclusion of British rule in the subcontinent in 1947. With the impending independence of India, the British announced that the British Paramountcy over the princely states would end, and the states were free to choose between the new Dominions of India and Pakistan or to remain independent. It was emphasized that independence was only a `theoretical possibility’ because, during the long rule of the British in India, the states had come to depend on British Indian government for a variety of their needs including their internal and external security.

The rules of partition stated that Muslim majority regions of British India would become Pakistan, while the rest would become India. Jammu and Kashmir had a Muslim majority (77% Muslim by the previous census in 1941). Following the logic of Partition, many people in Pakistan expected that Kashmir would join Pakistan. The political parties were divided. The All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference supported accession to Pakistan. However, the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference was secular and was allied with the Indian National Congress since the 1930s. So many in India too had expectations that Kashmir would join India.[101][102] The Maharaja was faced with indecision.[note 1]

On 22 October 1947, Kashmiri citizens from the state’s western districts invited Pushtoon tribesmen from the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan to invade the State, backed by Pakistan.[103][104] The Maharaja initially fought back but appealed for assistance to India,[105][106] who agreed on the condition that the ruler accede to India.[107] Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession on 26 October 1947 in return for military aid and assistance,[108] which was accepted by the Governor General the next day.[109][110] While the Government of India accepted the accession, it added the proviso that it would be submitted to a “reference to the people” after the state is cleared of the invaders, since “only the people, not the Maharaja, could decide where Kashmiris wanted to live.” It was a provisional accession.[112][113][note 2]

Once the Instrument of Accession was signed, Indian soldiers entered Kashmir with orders to evict the raiders. The resulting Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 lasted till the end of 1948. At the beginning of 1948, India took the matter to the United Nations Security Council. The Security Council passed a resolution asking Pakistan to withdraw its forces as well as the Pakistani nationals from the territory of Jammu and Kashmir, and India to withdraw the majority of its forces leaving only a sufficient number to maintain law and order, following which a plebiscite would be held. A ceasefire was agreed on 1 January 1949, supervised by UN observers.[114]

A special United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) was set up to negotiate the withdrawal arrangements as per the Security Council resolution. The UNCIP made three visits to the subcontinent between 1948 and 1949, trying to find a solution agreeable to both India and Pakistan. It passed a resolution in August 1948 proposing a three-part process. It was accepted by India but effectively rejected by Pakistan.[note 3]
In the end, no withdrawal was ever carried out, India insisting that Pakistan had to withdraw first, and Pakistan contending that there was no guarantee that India would withdraw afterward. No agreement could be reached between the two countries on the process of demilitarization.

India and Pakistan fought two further wars in 1965 and 1971.[118] Following the latter war, the countries reached the Simla Agreement, agreeing on a Line of Control between their respective regions and committing to a peaceful resolution of the dispute through bilateral negotiations.

On 5 August 2019, the Government of India revoked the special status, or limited autonomy, granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir—a region administered by India as a state which consists of the larger part of Kashmir and has been the subject of dispute among India, Pakistan, and China since 1947. The state has been bifurcated into two union territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.


The Khalistan movement aims to create a homeland for Sikhs by establishing a sovereign state, called Khālistān (‘Land of the Khalsa‘), in the Punjab region. The territorial definition of the proposed Khalistan consists of state of Punjab, India (including parts of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh which were previously part of Punjab)[119] and sometimes also includes Punjab, Pakistan.[120][121]

The call for a separate Sikh state began in the wake of the fall of the British Empire.[122] In 1940, the first explicit call for Khalistan was made in a pamphlet titled “Khalistan”.[123][124] With financial and political support of the Sikh diaspora, the movement flourished in the Indian state of Punjab – which has a Sikh-majority population – continuing through the 1970s and 1980s, and reaching its zenith in the late 1980s.

In June 1984, the Indian Government ordered a military operation, Operation Blue Star to clear Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar of militant Sikhs led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.[125] The military action in the temple complex was criticized by Sikhs worldwide, who interpreted it as an assault on the Sikh religion.[126] Five months after the operation, on 31 October 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated in an act of revenge by her two Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh.[125] Public outcry over Gandhi’s death led to the killings of more than 3,000 Sikhs in Delhi alone, in the ensuing 1984 anti-Sikh riots.[127] In the 1990s, the insurgency petered out,[128] and the movement failed to reach its objective due to multiple reasons including a heavy police crackdown on separatists, factional infighting, and disillusionment from the Sikh population.


Mizoram‘s tensions were largely due to the simmering Assamese domination and the neglect of the Mizo people. Many Mizo organizations, like the Mizo Union, had long complained of discrimination at the hands of the Assam Government, and demanded a separate state for the Mizos. Currently the insurgency is due to autonomy demands by the Bru (also known as Reang) people.

Mizo National Front (1966-1986)[edit]


Mizo organizations, including the Mizo Union, had long complained of step-motherly treatment at the hands of the Assam Government. This included the poor handling of the Mautam famine and when the state government made Assamese the official language without any consideration for the Mizo language.

The Mizo National Famine Front, which was originally formed to help ease the help the people during the Mautam Famine was converted into Mizo National Front (MNF) on 22 October 1961. Unlike the Mizo Union which demanded a separate state for the Mizos within India, the MNF aimed at establishing a sovereign Christian nation for the Mizos.

Insurgency and reaction[edit]

The MNF formed a special armed wing called the Mizo National Army (MNA) consisting of eight battalions organized on the pattern of the Indian army. MNA consisted of around 2000 men, supported by another group called the Mizo National Volunteers (MNV), which comprised an equal number of irregulars. In the early 1960s, the MNF leaders including Pu Laldenga visited East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), where the Government of Pakistan offered them supply of military hardware and training. Laldenga and his lieutenant Pu Lalnunmawia was arrested by Assam but then later released.[129] The MNF members forcibly collected donations from the Mizo people, recruited volunteers and trained them with arms supplied by Pakistan. By the end of 1965, the MNF weapon cache consisted of the plastic explosives stolen from the Border Roads Organization, rifles and ammunition obtained from the 1st Battalion, Assam Rifles, crude bombs and Sten guns.

On 1 March 1966 , the Mizo National Front (MNF) declared independence after launching coordinated attacks on Government offices and security forces post in different parts of the Mizo district in Assam. The government retaliated by various airstrikes and ground operatives by recapturing all the places seized by the MNF by 25 March 1966.

Aizawl airstrikes[edit]

On the afternoon of 4 March 1966, the IAF jet fighters strafed the MNF targets in Aizawl using machine guns, allegedly causing few civilian casualties. The next day, a more extensive airstrike was carried out for about five hours. According to some Mizos, the planes used incendiary bombs, resulting in fires that destroyed several houses in the Dawrpui and Chhinga Veng areas. According to some other accounts, the houses were destroyed in the fires started by the prisoners released from the Aizawl jail by the insurgents. Apart from Aizawl, the neighboring villages of Tualbung and Hnahlan were also bombarded. Most of the civilian population fled Aizawl, and took refuge in the villages in the adjacent hills.

In the history of independent India, this remains the only instance of the Government of India resorting to air strikes in its own territory.[130][131]

Post 1966 and end of the secessionist movement[edit]

After 1966, the MNF resorted to low intensity attacks. The Mizo Union’s negotiations with the Union Government resulted in the Mizo district gaining the status of a Union Territory as “Mizoram” on 21 January 1972. MNF’s secessionist movement came to an end in 1986, when it signed the Mizo accord with the Government of India. The Government agreed to create a separate state for the Mizos. MNF, in return, decided to give up its secessionist demand and the use of violence. MNF is currently a political party.

Bru National Liberation Front[edit]

Currently, the insurgency status is classified as partially active, due to secessionist/autonomy demands made by the Chakmas and Reangs. The Chakma and Reang tribes complain of religious and ethnic persecution, and complain that the dominant Mizo ethnic group, almost entirely Christian, wants to convert them to Christianity.[132] Following an ethnic riot with the Mizos in 1997, tens of thousands of Reangs are living as refugees in Tripura and Assam.[133]

In 1997, the Bru National Union (BNU) (formed in 1994)[134] passed a resolution in 1997 demanding an Autonomous District Council (ADC) in the western areas of Mizoram[135] (via the 6th Schedule of the Constitution) which the Mizoram government and the Young Mizos Association rejected. Some Mizo organizations reacted by demanding that the Brus be left out of the State’s electoral rolls as they “are not indigenous to Mizoram”.[136] Clashes between the two communities in Mamit district led to the creation of the Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) in 1996. In October 1997, members of the BNLF kidnapped and murdered a Mizo forest guard in Dampa Tiger Reserve. In reactions to this, ethnic riots took place, between 35,000 to 40,000 Bru villagers were forced to flee Mizoram and seek shelter in camps in Tripura[137] The BNU claimed that 1,391 Bru houses in 41 villages were burnt down and several people were raped and killed whereas the Mizoram police put the number of homes torched at 325 in 16 villages but did not confirm any rape or murder.[136]

The outfit is involved in ransom mostly targeting non-Brus and Mizo Christians, which is a major source of finance for the terrorist group. In Besides, the BNLF is also involved in violent attacks against security force personnel. The outfit was also engaged in internecine clashes with other terrorist outfits in the Northeast, like the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT).[134] In 2001, the BNLF and the government of Mizoram opened dialogue for the first time. By 2005, both parties arrived at an agreement which included the BNLF surrendering its arms and repatriation. However, in 2009, the deal fell through after Bru armed groups killed a Mizo youth.[137]

Currently there has been talks between of reparation between the Central Government, Government of Mizoram, Government of Tripura and various Bru organizations. Reparation includes a one-time assistance of ₹4 lakh as fixed deposit within a month of repatriation, monthly cash assistance of ₹5,000 through DBT, free rations for two years, ₹1.5 lakh in three instalments as house-building assistance, certificates for Eklavya residential schools, permanent residential and ST certificates and also funds to the Mizoram government for improving security in the resettlement areas. However attempts of repartitions have largely failed due to the demand of autonomous councils and the fear of being attacked. Many tribals protested against reparations in favour of permanent settlement in Tripura demanding that the Centre restore their food and cash benefits.[138][139].


The Hmar People’s Convention-Democracy (HPC-D) is an armed insurgency group formed in 1995 to create an independent Hmar State in North East India. It is the offspring of the Hmar People’s Convention (HPC), which entered into an agreement with the Government of Mizoram in 1994 resulting in the formation of the Sinlung Hills Development Council (SHDC) in North Mizoram. Their recruited cadres are from the States where the Hmar people are spread – Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya. The HPC(D) is demanding a separate administrative unit under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India.[citation needed]

Assam has been a refuge for militants for a number of years, due to its porous borders with Bangladesh and Bhutan and also due to its very close proximity to Burma. The main causes of the friction include anti-foreigner agitation in the 1980s, and the simmering indigenous-migrant tensions. The insurgency status in Assam is classified as “very active”.[citation needed] The government of Bangladesh has arrested and extradited senior leaders of the ULFA.[140]

United Liberation Front of Asom (1979-present)[edit]

The United Liberation Front of Asom was formed in April 1979 to establish a sovereign state of Assam for the indigenous people of Assam through an armed struggle. The Government of India had banned the ULFA in 1990 and has officially labelled it as a terrorist group, whereas the US State Department lists it under “Other groups of concern”.[141] Military operations against it by the Indian Army that began in 1990 continue to the present. In the past two decades, some 10,000 people have died in the clash between the rebels and the government.[142] The Assamese secessionist groups have protested against the illegal migration from the neighboring regions. In the mid-20th century, people from present-day Bangladesh (then known as East Pakistan) migrated to Assam. In 1961, the Government of Assam passed legislation making use of Assamese language compulsory which had to be withdrawn later under pressure from Bengali speaking people of the Barak Valley. In the 1980s the Brahmaputra valley saw six years of Assam agitation[143] triggered by the discovery of a sudden rise in registered voters on electoral rolls. In recent times the organisation has lost its middle rung leaders after most of them were arrested.[144]

Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (1996-present)[edit]

The Muslim United Liberation Tigers of Assam (MULTA), established in 1996, advocates a separate country for the Muslims of the region.[145]

Karbi Sepratism (1999-2021)[edit]

United People’s Democratic Solidarity (1999-2014)[edit]

The United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) demands a sovereign nation for the Karbi people. It was formed in March 1999 with the merger of two militant outfits in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district, the Karbi National Volunteers (KNV) and Karbi People’s Front (KPF).[146] The UPDS signed a cease-fire agreement for one year with the Indian Government on 23 May 2002. However, this led to a split in the UPDS with one faction deciding to continue with its subversive activities (the KLNCHLF) while the other commenced negotiations with the Government.[147] As of 14 December 2014, The UPDS has formally disbanded following the mass surrender of all it’s cadres and leaders.[148]

Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front (2002-2021)[edit]

KLNLF emerged from the United People’s Democratic Solidarity, being against the peace talks between the UDPS and the government. After the split, there has been turf wars between the two groups.[149] In July 2008, the Assam government estimated that KLNLF had a membership of 225.[150] KLNLF is closely linked to the United Liberation Front of Asom.[151][152] 6 December is the foundation day of KLNLF.[153] On 23 February 2021, KLNLF was disbanded. All its members surrendered to state government.[154]

*Kamtapur Liberation Organization (1995-present)[edit]

The objective of the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) is to carve out a separate Kamtapur Nation. The proposed state is to comprise six districts in West Bengal and four contiguous districts of Assam which are Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, North and South Dinajpur and Malda of West Bengal and four contiguous districts of Assam – Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Dhubri and Goalpara. The KLO in the beginning was an over-ground[clarification needed] organisation which was formed to address problems of the Koch Rajbongshi people such as large-scale unemployment, land alienation, perceived neglect of Kamtapuri language, identity, and grievances of economic deprivation.[155]


Bodo Liberation Tigers Force (1996-2003)[edit]

The Bodo Liberation Tigers Force fought for autonomy of Bodoland under Prem Singh Brahma. It surrendered with the establishment of Bodoland Territorial Council.

National Democratic Front of Bodoland (1986-2020)[edit]

The National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) was formed in 1986 as the Bodo Security Force, and aims to set up an independent nation of Bodoland.[156] In January 2020, two Bodo separatist groups in Assam, the NDFB and the All Bodo Student’s Union (ABSD), signed a peace accord with the Indian government in which they dissolved their organizations in exchange for political and economic demands and legal protections for Bodo language and culture.[157]

Dimaraji (1990s-2009)[edit]

The United Liberation Front of Asom and National Socialist Council of Nagaland helped create the Dimasa National Security Force (DNSF) in the early 1990s. But most DNSF members surrendered in 1995. However Commander-in-Chief Jewel Gorlosa, refused to surrender and launched the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) an extremist group that functioned in Assam and Nagaland and seeked to create a Dimaland or Dimaraji for the Dimasa people.

After the peace agreement between the DHD and the central government in the year 2003, the group further broke out and Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel) (DHD(J)) also known as Black Widow was born which was led by Jewel Gorlosa.[158] The Black Widow’s declared objective is to create Dimaraji nation for the Dimasa people in Dima Hasao only. However the objective of DHD (Nunisa faction) is to include parts of Cachar, Karbi Anglong, and Nagaon districts in Assam, and sections of Dimapur district in Nagaland.

In 2009 the group surrendered en masse to the CRPF and local police, 193 cadres surrendering on 2009-09-12 and another 171 on the 13th.[159]


Nagalim is a proposed independent country for the Naga people. In the 1950s, the Naga National Council led a violent unsuccessful insurgency against the Government of India, demanding a separate country for the Nagas. The secessionist violence decreased considerably after the formation of the Naga-majority Nagaland state, and more militants surrendered after the Shillong Accord of 1975. However, some Nagas operating under the various factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, continue to demand a separate country.

2014 General Elections of India recorded a voter turnout of more than 87% in Nagaland, which was the highest in India.[160][161]

Nagaland was created in 1963 as the 16th state of the Indian Union, before which it was a district of Assam. Active Naga-Kuki insurgent groups mainly demand full independence. The Naga National Council led by Phizo was the first group to dissent in 1947 and in 1956 they went underground.[citation needed]

NSCN insurgency (1980-present)[edit]

The National Socialist Council of Nagaland was formed in 1980 to establish a Greater Nagaland, encompassing parts of Manipur, Nagaland, and the north Cachar hills (Assam). The NSCN split in 1988 to form two groups, NSCN(IM) and NSCN(K). As of 2015, both groups have observed a ceasefire truce with the Indian government.[162]

The National Socialist Council of Nagaland—Khaplang is the second faction with the same aim of a Greater Nagaland and was formed in 1988.[163][164][165][166]


Manipur’s long tradition of independence can be traced to the foundation of the Kangleipak State in 1110. The Kingdom of Manipur was conquered by Great Britain following the brief Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891, becoming a British protectorate.[167]

Manipur became part of the Indian Union on 15 October 1949. Manipur’s incorporation into the Indian state soon led to the formation of a number of insurgent organisations, seeking the creation of an independent state within the borders of Manipur, and dismissing the merger with India as involuntary.[168]

Despite the fact that Manipur became a separate state of the Indian Union on 21 January 1972, the insurgency continued.[167]
On 8 September 1980, Manipur was declared an area of disturbance, when the Indian government imposed the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 on the region; the act currently remains in force.[168]

The parallel rise of Naga nationalism in neighboring Nagaland led to the emergence of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) activities in Manipur. Clashes between the Isak-Muivah and Khaplang factions of the NSCN further aggravated tensions, as Kuki tribals began creating their own guerrilla groups in order to protect their interests from alleged Naga violations. Skirmishes between the two ethnic groups took place during the 1990s. Other ethnic groups such as the Paite, Vaiphei, Pangals and Hmars followed suit establishing militant groups.[168]

The Kuki National Army also maintains one armed wing in Manipur.

UNLF (1964-present)[edit]

The first separatist faction known as the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) was founded on 24 November 1964.

Marxist & Maoist groups (1977-present)[edit]

Between 1977 and 1980, the People’s Liberation Army of Manipur (PLA), the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) and the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), were formed, immediately joining the war.[168]

Coordination Committee[edit]

In Manipur the following militant groups have come together as the CorCOM[169][170] which is a short name for Coordination Committee.[171]

CorCom is on the extremist organisations list of the Government of India, and is responsible for many bombings usually associated with Indian holidays and elections.[172]

*Tripura (1978-2009)[edit]

The insurgent groups in Tripura emerged at the end of the 1970s, as ethnic tensions between the Bangladeshi infiltration and the tribal native population who were outnumbered by the former, hailing from other parts of India and nearby Bangladesh, which resulted in their being reduced to minority status even threatening them economically, socially, culturally; this resulted in a clarion call for safeguarding tribal rights and cultures. Such being the extent of desperation, this naturally resulted in hatred and suspicion and their status is classified as active.

The first militant outfit to form was Tripura National Volunteers (TNV), which was active until 1988.

The National Liberation Front of Tripura was formed in March 1989. During the period 1992 to 2001, a total of 764 civilians and 184 members of the security forces were killed in NLFT attacks. In 2019, it signed the Tripura Peace Accord to end the insurgency.

The All Tripura Tiger Force was formed by local aboriginal tribes in 1990, who were gradually outnumbered both directly and indirectly, even at the cost of being threatened for their survival
economically and culturally, not to speak of their being reduced to minority population-wise; their sole aim is the expulsion of all Bangladeshi infiltration nearby Bangladesh.


The state of Meghalaya was separated from the state of Assam in 1971, in order to satisfy the Khasi, Synteng and Garo for a separate state. The decision was initially praised as an example of successful national integration into the wider Indian state.[173]

This, however, failed to prevent the rise of national consciousness among the local tribal populations, later leading to a direct confrontation between Indian nationalism and the newly created Garo and Khasi nationalisms. A parallel rise of nationalism in the other members of the Seven Sister States further complicated the situation, resulting in occasional clashes between rebel groups.[173]

The state wealth distribution system further fueled the rising separatist movements, as funding is practised through per-capita transfers, which largely benefits the leading ethnic group.[173]

The first militant outfit to emerge in the region was the Hynniewtrep Achik Liberation Council (HALC). It was formed in 1992, aiming to protect the interests of Meghalaya’s indigenous population from the rise of non-tribal (“Dkhar”) immigration.[174]

A conflict of interest soon led to a split of the HALC. The Garo members formed the Achik Matgrik Liberation Army (AMLA) while the joint Jaintia-Khasi alliance of Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) was formed in 1993. The HNLC claims to represent the KhasiJaintia people, and its aim is to free Meghalaya from the alleged domination of the Garos and the outsiders (the “Dkhars”).

The AMLA passed into obscurity, while the Achik National Volunteers Council (ANVC) took its place. The Garo-Khasi drift persisted as the HNLC had set up the goal of turning Meghalaya into an exclusively Khasi region; the ANVC, on the other hand, sought the creation of an independent state in the Garo Hills.[174]

A number of non-Meghalayan separatist groups have also operated in the region, including the United Liberation Front of Assam and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland among others.[175]

GNLA insurgency (2010-present)[edit]

The most active outfit in the state is the Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA), which was formed in 2009.[176]

Arunachal Pradesh[edit]


The National Liberation Council of Taniland (NLCT) was active along the Assam – Arunachal Pradesh border, and its members belong to the Tani groups of people which are demanding Taniland. The group enjoys no support from the local population of Arunachal Pradesh who are fiercely pro-India and the group is all but defunct now.[177][178] The Tani groups are one of the ethnic groups of northeast India (variously known as Mising in Assam and Adi, Nyishi, Galo, Apatani, Tagin, in Arunachal Pradesh) in India as well as the Lhoba in China who live along the frontier of India.[179]

Alliances of Northeast insurgent groups[edit]


In Manipur the following militant groups have come together as the CorCOM[180][181] which is a short name for Coordination Committee.[182]

CorCom is on the extremist organisations list of the Government of India, and is responsible for many bombings usually associated with Indian holidays and elections.[183]

WESEA Forum[edit]

Some of the above-mentioned militant groups have formed an alliance to fight against the governments of India, Bhutan and Myanmar. They use the term “Western Southeast Asia” (WESEA)[184][185] to describe the region in which they operate: Northeast India, Bhutan, North Bengal and Myanmar. These groups include:[186][187]

United National Liberation Front of WESEA[edit]

Nine militant groups of the northeast, including the NSCN (Khaplang) and the ULFA faction led by Paresh Baruah, have come together to form a new unified front known as UNLFW during a meeting held in Myanmar in early 2015.[188][189] Besides the NSCN (K) and ULFA-Independent, other groups that participated in the meeting held at Taga in Sagaing division of Myanmar earlier this month were the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), Kanglei Yawol Kunna Lup (KYKL), the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit faction) (NDFB).

All Muslim United Liberation Forum of Assam[edit]

The MULTA is said to be part of the AMULFA, an organization that rejects separatism in favor of sharia law.[190]

Spillover to other countries[edit]

Spillover in Bhutan[edit]

Following the 1990 Operations Rhino and Bajrang, Assamese separatist groups relocated their camps to Bhutan.[191] In 1996 the Bhutan government became aware of a large number of camps on its southern border with India. The camps were set up by four Assamese separatist movements: the ULFA, NDFB, Bodo Liberation Tigers Force (BLTF) and Kamtapur Liberation Organization (KLO). The camps also harboured separatists belonging to the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) and the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF).[192]

India then exerted diplomatic pressure on Bhutan, offering support in removing the rebel organisations from its soil. The government of Bhutan initially pursued a peaceful solution, opening dialogue with the militant groups on 1998. Five rounds of talks were held with ULFA, three rounds with DNFB, with KLO ignoring all invitations sent by the government. In June 2001 ULFA agreed to close down four of its camps; however, the Bhutanese government soon realized that the camps had simply been relocated.[191]

By 2003 the talks had failed to produce any significant result. On 14 July 2003, military intervention was approved by the National Assembly.[191] On 13 December 2003, the Bhutanese government issued a two-day ultimatum to the rebels. On 15 December 2003, after the ultimatum had expired, Operation All Clear – the first operation ever conducted by the Royal Bhutan Army – was launched.[193]

By 3 January 2004, the Royal Bhutan Army had killed about 120 militants. They managed to capture several senior ULFA commanders. Large numbers of rebels fled to Bangladesh and India. Militants also were dislodged from all 30 camps and 35 observation posts, with the camps burned and razed to the ground.[192][194]

Between 2008 and 2011, Royal Bhutan Police and Royal Bhutan Army personnel undertook numerous actions against alleged north Indian militants. Several firefights occurred while Bhutan military personnel were required to dispose of several explosive devices and destroyed a number of guerrilla camps.[195]

Spillover in Myanmar[edit]

The Indo-Burmese border was drawn over the homeland of many ethnic groups, such as the Mizos/Chins and the Nagas, with communities with strong ethnic ties living on both sides of the border. Several separatist groups have operated out of Myanmar, crossing into India via the porous border. [196]

India-Myanmar military cooperation dates back to the 1960s when the Tatmadaw intercepted Naga and Mizo rebels heading to China for training. Indian support for the pro-democracy movement in the 1980s had caused the Tatmadaw to stop their operations against the northeastern rebel groups. [197]

After the 2015 Manipur ambush, India conducted surgical strikes against NSCN-K camps inside Myanmar, and inflicted significant casualties.[198]

In February and June 2019, Indian army and the Burmese Tatmadaw carried out joint operations Sunrise and Sunrise II, targeting in co-ordination several militant groups along the Indo-Burma border including the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), the NSCN-K, the United Liberation Front of Assam (I) and the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB).[199] In February, Burmese troops stormed the NSCN-K headquarters at Taga. The Indian army reciprocated by starting a major operation against the Arakan Army in south Mizoram. [197]

Further reading and viewing[edit]

  • Racine, Jean-Luc (2013). Secessionism in independent India: Failed attempts, irredentism, and accommodations. Secessionism and Separatism in Europe and Asia: To have a state of one’s own. Routledge. pp. 147–163.
  • Youtuber Soch by Mohak Mangal explaining the Nagaland insurgency: Nagaland’s insurgency, explained ft. @But Why. Provides a brief explainer for the movement.
  • A. Lanunungsang Ao; From Phizo to Muivah: The Naga National Question; New Delhi 2002
  • Blisters on their feet: tales of internally displaced persons in India’s North East; Los Angeles [u.a.] 2008; ISBN 978-81-7829-819-1
  • Dutta, Anuradha; Assam in the Freedom Movement; Calcutta 1991
  • Hazarika, Sanjoy; Strangers of the Mist: Tales of War and Peace from India’s Northeast; New Delhi u.a. 1994
  • Horam, M.; Naga insurgency: the last thirty years; New Delhi 1988
  • International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (Hrsg.); The Naga nation and its struggle against genocide; Kopenhagen 1986
  • Nibedom, Nirmal; The Night of the Guerillas; Delhi 1978
  • Srikanth, H.; Thomas, C. J.; Naga Resistance Movement and the Peace Process in Northeast India; in: Peace and Democracy in South Asia, Vol. I (2005)
  • Terrorism and separatism in North-East India; Delhi 2004; ISBN 81-7835-261-3
  • The Other Burma: Conflict, counter-insurgency and human rights in Northeast India”
  • Sinlung
  • Insurgencies in Northeast India:Conflict, Co-option, and Change
  • Journal of North East India Studies


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Works cited[edit]

  • Rashid, Ahmed (2013) [1st pub. 2012]. Pakistan on the Brink. The future of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the West (Penguin Paperback ed.). London: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-241-96007-3.
  1. ^ Schofield (2003, p. 54): In his letter to Lord Mountbatten on 26 October 1947, the Maharaja wrote, “I wanted to take time to decide which Dominion I should accede… whether it is not in the best interests of both the Dominions and my State to stay independent, of course with cordial relations with both.
  2. ^ Kashmiri leader Sheikh Abdullah noted in the UN Security Council in 1948: “”the (plebiscite) offer (was) made by the Prime Minister of India when, I think, he had not the slightest need for making it, for Kashmir was in distress… The Government of India could have easily accepted the accession and said, “All right, we accept your accession and we shall render this help.” There was no necessity for the Prime Minister of India to add the proviso while accepting the accession that “India does not want to take advantage of the difficult situation in Kashmir.”(Varshney 1992, p. 195)
  3. ^
    Korbel (1953, p. 502): “Though India accepted the resolution, Pakistan attached to its acceptance so many reservations, qualifications, and assumptions as to make its answer `tantamount to rejection’.

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