NATIONALISM and ETHNIC CONFLICT page
September 17, 1998
INDIAN EXPLORES ASSAM
Intelligence officials in India have flown 60 leaders
of an Assamese rebel group to Delhi for exploratory talks on starting a
full dialogue aimed at a peace settlement in the north-eastern state.
Indian officials said the rebels - the United
Liberation Front of Assam, or ULFA - are trying to find out whether they
can agree an agenda for negotiations.
The delegation is led by Swadhinata Phukan, an
influential member of the ULFA's central executive council.
Sources in the ULFA said they had been promised
safe passage, although it is unclear whether the chief of ULFA's military
wing, Paresh Parua, has approved the visit.
If talks finally begin, the ULFA would be the
second powerful rebel group in north-east India to start negotiations with
the Indian government.
The national socialist council of Nagaland, or
the NSCN, has already started talks with with the government in Delhi.
The BBC's Subir Bhaumik says that until recently,
the ULFA had refused any talks unless the Indian government agreed to discuss
However, he says that for the first time since
it was formed 20 years ago, the ULFA has come intense pressure from the
Indian army, losing many of its military commanders in action.
In addition, its general secretary, Golap Barua,
alias Anup Chetia, is facing trial in Bangladesh, and some other top leaders
of the organisation are undergoing medical treatment in foreign countries.
Assam - which has considerable economic resources
- has been gripped by violent conflict over the last two decades between
various ethnic groups in the state.
Bodo tribal groups are demanding a separate homeland
- and the removal of non-Bodo groups from areas where they are in the majority.
More than 600 people have died in violence since
July 24, 1998
REBELS THREATEN INDEPENDENCE DAY
The BBC's Subir Bhaumik reports from Calcutta
FIVE SEPARATIST REBEL GROUPS IN NORTH-EAST INDIA
have jointly called for a collective boycott of the Indian Independence
Day celebrations on 15 August.
In a joint statement late on Friday the groups
said that they will do everything possible to disrupt ceremonies throughout
the north-eastern region.
The groups have been waging guerrilla warfare
against Indian security forces for more than two decades and intelligence
officials say they expect large scale violence on Independence Day.
For the last two months the rebels have been trying
to create a united political and military front to fight Indian control
over the north-eastern region, which is linked to the Indian mainland by
a thin 21km wide corridor.
It is not yet known how much success the guerrillas
have had in forging the proposed front but their declaration late on Friday
shows they are ready for some collective military action.
In a press statement jointly issued from somewhere
in north-east India, the five groups said they would disrupt official ceremonies
on Independence Day, if necessary by force.
The statement accused India of pursuing a ruthless
campaign of suppression against the movements for self-determination in
It blamed successive Indian governments for undermining
the demographic structure of the region by encouraging population transfers
from the main states of India.
Negotiations turned down
The rebels made it clear they have no interest
in offers of negotiations put across by Delhi after the new Hindu nationalist
government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party took office earlier this
The five signatories to the statement are the
UNITED LIBERATION FRONT OF ASSAM, THE UNITED NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT
AND THE REVOLUTIONARY PEOPLE'S FRONT OF MANIPUR, ALL TRIPURA TIGER FORCE
AND A BREAKAWAY FACTION OF THE NATIONAL SOCIALIST COUNCIL OF NAGALAND,
led by the Burmese Naga leader, S S Khablang.
Observers say their attempt to form a united front
was motivated by the decision by the strongest rebel group - the main faction
of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland - to start negotiations with
June 26, 1998
INDIAN OFFICIALS MEET
NAGA REBELS FOR TALKS IN BANGKOK
Indian officials say they have met Naga separatist
rebel leaders in a new round of negotiations aimed at settling the FORTY-YEAR-OLD
INSURRECTION IN NORTH-EAST INDIA, bordering Burma.
The talks involved the National Socialist Council
of Nagaland -- the NSCN -- and an Indian delegation led by the former governor
of the state of Mizoram, Swaraj Kaushal, who helped negotiate a settlement
with Naga rebels twelve years ago.
The NSCN leader, Thuingaleng Muivah, told the
BBC that the talks, in Bangkok, were held in a cordial atmosphere but that
the positions of the two sides were widely conflicting.
SPAIN - BASQUE SEPARATISTS
September 17, 1998
CAUTIOUS REACTION TO ETA CEASEFIRE
ETA leaders making their ceasefire announcement
The Spanish Government has reacted cautiously
to a CEASEFIRE DECLARED BY THE BASQUE SEPARATIST
ORGANISATION ETA, EXPRESSING A MIXTURE OF HOPE AND SCEPTICISM AT THE CHANCES
FOR ENDING 30 YEARS OF VIOLENCE.
"When a criminal stops committing crimes,
it is positive," said Justice Minister Margarita Mariscal de Gante, just
hours after ETA had declared an indefinite ceasefire to take effect on
But she added that ETA's announcement
must be carefully analysed before drawing any firm conclusions.
Foreign Minister Abel Matutes gave a cautious
welcome to the ETA announcement, but pointed out that it does not include
the abandonment of weapons.
Mr Matutes also dismissed comparisons
between the situations in Northern Ireland and the Basque Country.
Before ETA's announcement, the Popular
Party government dismissed any possible ceasefire as a ploy by ETA to buy
time in order to regroup.
Demand for Basque independence
ETA said in an eight-point communique
that it would cease all armed attacks from September 18.
But the communique also says the organisation
will continue to resupply itself, will maintain its structures, and will
defend itself if attacked.
ETA also reasserts its demand for independence
for the Basque country, but suggests that it is willing to enter peace
The BBC Southern Europe Correspondent,
Orla Guerin, says the announcement is likely to be widely welcomed by the
local community, which is weary of war.
Socialist opposition in Spain says the ceasefire is a hopeful development
and the government should not waste the opportunity provided by the announcement.
"I insist that people need peace and it
is our duty to try to arrange it," a Socialist spokesman Juan Alberto Belloch
Northern Ireland example
There has been growing pressure from a
broad range of interests in the Basque country - including nationalist
parties, trade unions, social groups and peace campaigners - for a peace
process like the one in Northern Ireland.
ETA has been blamed for more than 800
deaths in its 30-year fight for independence.
The organisation was still killing people
as recently as three months ago. The latest casualty was a councillor from
Spain's ruling Popular Party.
The prime minister himself avoided an
assassination attempt by ETA in 1995.
Our correspondent says ETA is understood
to have been heavily influenced by the Northern Ireland peace process.
Its political wing has been schooled by Sinn Fein on strategy for negotiation.
Peace campaigners say an ETA ceasefire
would be a breakthrough and one which could kick-start a Basque peace process.
September 17, 1998
ETA'S BLOODY PAST
ETA has reasserted its demand for independence
By Jo Episcopo
The Basque separatist group ETA first emerged
in the late 1950s as a clandestine resistance movement opposed to the military
dictatorship of Spain's General Franco.
Under the Franco regime the Basque people were
bitterly persecuted, their unique language was banned and their distinctive
As a result many Basques went into exile abroad,
others joined ETA's fight.
When General Franco died in 1976 and democracy
was restored in Spain many exiles returned. Spain's new democratic government
granted considerable autonomy to the country's regions.
The northern Basque region of 2.5 million people
was given it's own parliament, it was granted control over areas like education
and the distinctive Basque language and culture was promoted in schools
Many people felt autonomy had gone far enough
and that with their own political representation (ETA's legal political
wing Herri Batasuna was founded in 1978) - ETA no longer had a purpose.
But a minority still believed the Basques should
have full independence from Spain.
Against the wishes of the majority of those in
the Basque region, a much smaller ETA focussed its struggle on fighting
for full independence.
ETA's violence intensified with the security forces
and politicians becoming the group's main targets.
The former Socialist government of Felipe Gonzalez
attempted to combat ETA's violence by setting up the GAL - illegal so-called
anti-terrorist liberation groups who were responsible for the deaths of
28 suspected ETA members.
At least 10 of those killed had no connection
with the armed group. Senior members of Felipe Gonzalez's then government
have now been jailed for their role in setting up the GAL.
In 1992 secret talks between ETA members and the
then Socialist government took place in Algeria but they failed to end
Spain's current centre-right Popular Party government
- elected in 1996 - has adopted a hardline approach with ETA and its supporters.
Last December the entire 23 member leadership
of ETA's political wing Herri Batasuna were sentenced to seven years each
in jail for collaborating
with the armed group.
The Ireland effect
The ruling Popular Party has consistently maintained
there will be no talks with ETA until it calls an indefinite ceasefire
to show it is serious about finding peace. There has been mounting public
pressure for ETA to end the conflict.
In July 1997 an estimated 6 million Spanish people
took to the streets to condemn ETA following the brutal kidnapping and
murder of a young Basque politician.
The recent events in Northern Ireland have greatly
influenced public opinion in Spain.
Moderate Basque nationalist parties have repeatedly
called for peace talks citing Northern Ireland as the model to follow.
In addition leading
members involved in the peace process in northern Ireland have been working
closely with Basque politicians.
It is still early days but ETA's offer of an indefinite
ceasefire marks the first real step in finding a solution to the 30-year