Last updated: 7 march, 2011 - 10:34 GMT


The Silent War

The world's biggest democracy is also home to the Asia's longest running insurgency – dating back to the 1950s.

This conflict, in the seven states of India's north-east, has cost the lives of thousands of people.

For the BBC, Rupa Jha travels to Manipur to investigates why the insurgency has lasted so long and if there is any hope of a peaceful resolution.

The rebellious movement is made up of various armed groups. They are united by the demand for far greater autonomy for the region – with some factions insisting on complete independence.

Outside India the rebellion has received little media coverage. But in India itself it has become highly politicized.

Most contentious of all are the special powers given to the military in the region, under the Special Powers Act. Armed personnel can arrest suspects without a warrant, and enter and search any premise they wish to make arrests.

Irom Sharmila

Irom Sharmila is an iconic figure in Manipur's politics

For 10 years a young woman from Manipur, Irom Sharmila, has been on hunger strike in protest at these powers. She is being forcibly fed through her nose.

Three years ago Rupa met Irom Sharmila, in the first and only broadcast interview made to international media.

She attempts again to interview Irom Sharmila, whose personal story symbolizes the struggle in the region as a whole.

Rupa also speaks to the underground insurgent groups in the north-east, and to representatives of both local and national government.

Has the Special Powers Act helped the Indian government in its attempt to combat the insurgency – or rather prolonged it, by alienating so many local people?

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First broadcast on 7 March, 2011

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