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India's Hidden Conflict

The gunmen, nearly a dozen of them, some in black commando fatigues and bandannas, others in ordinary clothes, came in the early hours of the morning. They opened fire while the villagers of Jorai were still sleeping. Pabitra Lankhasa, 50, remembers shouting over the din of confusion to his wife and children, telling them to run for their lives as the village was set ablaze behind them. Days later, the family returned to find a blackened divot where their house once stood. Everything they owned had been destroyed.
The remote North Cachar Hills in Assam, home to 18 separate tribal groups, are engulfed in a vicious cycle of ethnic violence. Clashes between the Dimasa and Zeme Naga, the two largest ethnic groups, have left scores of people dead and tens of thousands homeless. Jorai, a Dimasa village that is believed to have been targeted by Zeme Naga militants, is one of 30 villages razed in a three-month period.

In parallel with this outbreak of violence, the Indian army is hunting the Black Widow, a local insurgent group that is fighting for a separate state for the Dimasa. (Black Widow is also known by the names Dima Halam Daogah and Jewel.) The government's aggressive stance against this group is symptomatic of a seismic shift in the country's policy of tackling terrorism. India is the most attacked nation on earth after war-torn Iraq, according to the Worldwide Incidents Tracking System. Many of these attacks are carried out by the country's myriad home-grown insurgent groups. While the government will not disclose its strategy, a troop surge in the North Cachar Hills is indicative of its new zero-tolerance approach towards insurgents.

Writer Anuj Chopra and photographer Sanjit Das travelled to this insane
theatre of war in June 2009. They uncovered disturbing evidence that suggests the Indian army is using other rival rebel groups (equally notorious and accused of brutal killings, extortion and gun-running) as
proxies in its war against the Black Widow.

A full text by Anuj Chopra is available.
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