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chapter 12 Insurgencies, Interventions, and High Altitude Warfare The 1971 war with Pakistan was the Indian armed forces’ last major conventional war. Prior to and after that conflict the armed forces and the army in particular have seen almost constant action in a variety of low intensity, primarily internal conflicts. India’s northeast has been and continues to be a hotbed of ethnic, religious, linguistic, and economic tensions. In recent times the burgeoning population growth in South Asia has meant that these previously isolated tribal regions have come under severe migratory pressure from people moving out of Bangladesh and West Bengal in India. These new pressures have exacerbated the preexisting tensions mentioned above, resulting in many tribal insurgencies with objectives ranging from local autonomy to outright independence. Insurgency in Northeast India Tribal insurgency in Northeast India arose almost on the heels of independence . In 1947 the Naga National Conference, under the leadership of Zaphur Phizo, demanded Naga independence and dispatched many telegrams to the Indian government and the un secretary general.The Indian government responded initially with mediatory efforts but quickly switched to a military solution. Between 1956 and 1958 intense combat took place between Indian soldiers and Naga rebels. In 1955 Phizo began to attack Assam Rifles posts in the remote Tuensang Division. The rebels followed up these attacks by massacring villagers who did not support theircause. In response, the Indian government dispatched an army battalion into the area. The move succeeded in dislocating Phizo’s operations for the time being. He responded byestablishing the Naga Federal Army, later the Naga Home Guard. The rebels tried to organize along conventional lines with companies, battalions, and brigades and at their peak had a strength of 10,000. Initially, their equipment was quite primitive and included bows and arrows, morungs,orclubs, and dahs,or 231 Insurgencies, Interventions, and High Altitude Warfare large hacking knives. Abandoned Japanese weapons and equipment that the British and Americans supplied to the Nagas supplemented these weapons. Later, as Pakistan and China began to support the rebels, they began to get modern small arms.The rebels also supplemented their stocks with weapons and ammunition seized from Indian security forces and from police and Assam Rifles armories that they raided. The Nagas also established strong defensive and ambush positions in the jungle and in fortified hilltop villages using sharpened punji (bamboo) sticks embedded in camouflaged ditches. Phizo utilized murder and intimidation to obtain recruits, logistical support , supplies, and intelligence from the local population.The heavy-handed tactics of the security forces and, in particular, the Assam police undoubtedly aided his cause. By 1956 Nagaland was almost ungovernable. The rebels derailed trains, ambushed convoys, and murdered government and security personnel. In April that year the government finally committed an army brigade , the 181st Independent Infantry Brigade, to full-time counterinsurgency operations in the area.1 The government gave the general officer commanding Assam, whose headquarters was at Shillong, about 400 miles from Kohima (later the capital of Nagaland), responsibility for counterinsurgency operations.2 Although the army had to wait for the monsoon season to abate at the end of the year before it could begin operations, it conducted an intensive counterinsurgency campaign in the winter. During these operations the armyarrested 1,000 rebels,while 3,000 surrendered voluntarily.The army suffered 300 casualties.3 The successful operations of the Indian army resulted in some moderate Naga leaders opening negotiations for local autonomy with the government. In August 1957 moderate Naga leaders held a Naga people’s convention in Kohima and demanded further autonomy in return for giving up the demand for independence. The Indian government accepted the majority ruling of the 1957 convention and set up the Naga Hills–Tuensang Division.The government followed this decision by granting a general amnesty to all Nagas in government detention. Phizo and the other hard-liners reacted with predictable violence, targeting any Naga suspected of government sympathies. To enhance security, the Indian government began to group the population into large ‘‘supervillages.’’ It provided these centers with water, medical facilities, provisions, a double stockade, and armed guards. The government apparently borrowed this idea from the massive British relocation scheme in Malaysia. However, it applied the conditions only to one area in the Naga Hills, and the rebels simply moved to another area. Furthermore, the villagers preferred to stick to their cultivable fields rather than relocate to the security of the stockade.4 Further negotiations...


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