Army : In A New Avatar

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Original Source: The Imphal Free Press

B B Sharma

It is always fascinating to look back in the past events. No doubt, Manipur’s insurgency story has been quit repulsive, though 2010 proves to be the twilight zone for a better future. The level of violence has decidedly come down in 2010 as compared with the past. The Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreements with Kuki militant outfits were signed and since effectively monitored. Consequently, violence level has considerably gone down in Kuki-dominated areas of the state. Also a large number of militants surrendered after a long spell and continuing in 2011. No complaint of human rights violation against security forces was noticed during the year. Agitations against the Army and the Central paramilitary forces were hard to come by. The scenario is aptly described by top brass of the security forces as “…the clouds of insurgency are being blown away by winds of change, a perceptible shift in the mindsets of the common man whose yearning for peace and development is becoming increasingly palpable as there are very clear and visible manifestations of sign of return to normalcy”.

Also in the changed scenario, the security forces engaged in the counter insurgency operations have now indicated their strategy for a ‘civic face’. This was evident from the speech of the GOC-57 Mountain Division, Major General D.S.Hooda in his address to the one-day seminar on “Fostering Civil-Military Relations” jointly organized by Manipur University and Red Shield Division of the Army (7-1-2011) at Manipur University, Imphal. According to him, the Army have been called to protect ‘the rights and freedom of the common man’, challenged by ‘terrorist organizations’. The Major General said, “the rationale of counter-insurgency operations is to protect the human right and democracy”. Therefore, what the GOC meant was that human right should not be violated in any counter insurgency operation as its purpose is to restore human rights. In that light he said during 1990-2009, as many as 1500 cases of human rights violations have been filed against the Army. Of these, 53 cases were established while in 17 cases the Army took suo muto cognizance. Altogether, 104 personnel including 39 officers have been punished for human right violations.

Almost all the speakers in the seminar expressed concern over human right violation with reference to the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958. Thus, the discussion lay centred around the issue of human right violations by both state and non-state actors. Prof. Gangmumei Kamei, a national fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla, in his key note address supported the demand for a more human face to the AFSPA while referring to Kautilya’s dictum, “Army is an important limb of the State”. He said, the main role of the Army would be to fight against external threat.
The other speakers also aired almost similar views on the AFSPA vis-à-vis human right violation by security forces. Irom Chanu Sharmila, who is still continuing her fast-unto-death since 2nd November 2001 demanding repeal of the AFSPA, has built up a strong public opinion in Manipur against the Act. Against this backdrop, Major General, D.S.Hooda laid bare a security stance that “we also attempt to the best of our ability to make a clear distinction between the civilian and underground. Let an underground escape, it does not matter, we can catch him another day but try to make sure that no innocent life is lost. I know mistakes are made, I know mistakes happen in the heat of the moment but principally the approach is that no innocent civilian should be killed”.

Having heard people’s expectation, the Major General on his part did some plain speaking. He said, young soldiers who come to Manipur from other parts of the country never witnessed insurgency situation and find themselves at odds for not knowing the local language.

It is common place knowledge that security forces are only helping state administration in counter insurgency operation since 1958 and continued use of army may not be solution to the problem. The long term solution therefore lies in streamlining and modernizing the state police force.

Much to the surprise of the general public, security forces have effectively controlled militancy in the state, among others, by bringing Kuki militant outfits to the negotiating table in the hills. It has also effected similar arrangement with at least one militant outfit Kangleipak Communist Party (Lallumba Group) in the valley. Consequently, the level of violence has considerably gone down in the state. The people of the trouble torn state are now seen yearning for a ‘positive peace’ through a negotiated settlement of the vexed insurgency problem of the state. Now, it is for the political leadership to take over and bring it to its logical conclusion.

The viewpoints of the academia and other elite participants in the seminar will accelerate the peace process, so long hard to achieve. Ultimately, failure is crowned by success if one persists.

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