This month, separatist rebels in northeastern India attacked Muslim villagers, killing 22 people in two days. In an email interview, Paul Staniland, assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago and author of “Networks of Rebellion: Explaining Insurgent Cohesion and Collapse,” discussed India’s efforts to contain domestic security threats.
WPR: Where do India's major militant groups operate, and what are their objectives?
Paul Staniland: There are four broad contexts in which militant groups operate in India. In Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, several armed groups, manned by a mix of Kashmiris and Pakistanis, are fighting for the accession of Kashmir to Pakistan. In central and eastern India, a revolutionary Maoist movement is fighting to overthrow the Indian state. In India’s northeast, especially the states of Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Meghalaya, a large number of armed groups are fighting for goals ranging from independence to greater local autonomy. Assam is the state where the recent attack on Muslim civilians by the Songbijit faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) occurred. Finally, there are terrorist cells that have attacked major Indian cities; they have radical goals and have targeted civilians.