NEW DELHI: News from the border states of India is not good. Violence seems to be creeping back in, in ways that is worrying the locals and those who have followed the developments in the North East and Jammu and Kashmir closely. And there is a clear difference in the new build up, if it can be called that, with shifts that should be worrying New Delhi immensely.

However, it does seem that once again those determining policy at the centre have been unable to sift the wheat from the chaff, and are hell bent on taking a course that is likely to compound the situation, rather than resolve it. Hot pursuit into Myanmar behind supposed Naga insurgents, might have got Prime Minister Narendra Modi the media eyeballs but will intensely complicate the situation in the North East.

The Army claims that it was acting on specific information, and in the special operations has annihilated two camps of the insurgents in Myanmar killing an unconfirmed 50 persons. It is not known if civilians have been killed in this surgical attack by the Indian army. The camps, according to government sources quoted in the media, were occupied by the cadres of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL). Union Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said that PM Modi had made it clear to all that such attacks---30 soldiers had been killed in separate attacks by insurgents in Manipur in recent days---will not be tolerated and the government will act at a time and place of its choosing.

Perhaps, but it remains to be seen if the attack on the camps will act as a deterrent, or will bring the currently diverse insurgent groups in the North East together. Reports of the revival of China’s interest in the region are making the rounds, as defence specialist Rahul Bedi has written in The Citizen, this is taking the form of hardware supply as well. This is certainly a bigger challenge than a few camps of insurgents and their impoverished families living in the jungles of Myanmar, and as New Delhi might well find, impossible to tackle with the same ‘hot pursuit’ tactics. It will require a larger, more effective plan that will have to be based on dialogue, and not the use of force that can be counterproductive in a region that has numerous insurgent groups operating with impunity.

A hard militaristic approach can at best be short-lived, and resulting in large scale alienation that can be devastating in its impact insofar as the North East is concerned. A long term solution lies in a political approach , as Tripura has demonstrated more effectively than any of the other states in the North East. More so, as the region is volatile, shares a border with China, and is not just neglected but feels neglected and isolated from the rest of India. This becomes a heady brew for local support for insurgency, and hot pursuit tactics if over used can push the populace to the brink, from where even return will prove very costly.

New challenges are facing Jammu and Kashmir, with the old not having been resolved. Anger and alienation remains, but has expanded to cover other sections including now the Sikhs living in the border state. The recent protest, in which a young Sikh youth was killed and the Army had to be called out was in support of slain Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the face of Khalistan and Sikh separatism. Posters observing his anniversary had come up in Jammu, these were removed by the authorities, and within hours the Sikhs were on the streets in protest. Finally the governments---both at the centre and the state---backed off, and the Sikh youth killed was cremated amidst pro-Khalistan slogans.

The Bharatiya Janata party that is ruling at the centre, and the state in coalition has fallen silent. But silence again will complicate the issue, that is clearly gathering support. Unemployment along with drugs and a huge infusion of weapons in the western states of India becomes potent brew, with the government’s insensitivity only adding to the anger and alienation. But instead of working out strategies to handle this politically and economically, the government has retreated like the proverbial ostrich burying its head deep into the sand. The visible anger in Jammu, and the support the young men got on the social media, should have raised flags of concern but with solutions lying in ‘hot pursuit’ and militaristic options, the government clearly is out of its depth already.

Kashmir is most worrying, as the people are feeling hemmed in and this always creates its own concentric circles that have erupted any number of times in violence, countered by violence, and largescale rights violations in the process. It becomes more complicated because of Pakistan and its interest in the state, allowing governments in New Delhi to adopt the usual short visioned macho-istic options that have pushed the people of Jammu and Kashmir further away.

But the two assassinations in two days, one of a government employee and another of an active Hurriyat leader in Sopore signal a shift in violence to perhaps targeted killings that will plunge the volatile Valley into violence and chaos if action is not taken on a war footing by the authorities to check this. Kashmiri separatists have already started blaming the ‘Indian agencies’ for the second killing in particular, and as every single Kashmir hand in government knows in both Srinagar and New Delhi, the battle in the Valley is based more on perceptions than realities, the last being plagued by a legitimate deficit of trust.

There is a growing desperation in the Valley, particularly after the last elections and this is not conducive for sustained peace.

All is not well with the border states of India, there is a certain smell that does not brew well for the people. Of course New Delhi can subdue the worst with the military, but as history has demonstrated time and time again, the collateral damage initially felt by the targeted people spreads to cover entire nations.