After the devastation of the June 4 insurgent ambush on a 6-Dogra convoy which left 18 soldiers dead, news emanating from press conferences in New Delhi today say the Indian Army has struck back killing an unspecified number of insurgent fighters in the Indo-Myanmar border area along Manipur and Nagaland. It is not certain if the troops entered Myanmar in these operations. We do hope there has been no collateral damage caused. Even if there were none, and all killed were combatants, and even if these combatants were Myanmar domiciles, we would still be sad. Just as we cannot rejoice when Army soldiers are killed, we cannot do so when insurgent combatants are the casualties too. We have no doubt that all wars are evil, and the sooner they come to an end the better. But the sad thing is, this is unlikely to happen so soon, precisely because there are still too many war mongers left in the civil society all around. Leave aside the perpetually screaming talking heads on the TV channels, for they do no analysis except raise the decibel of public hysteria. A more meaningful way to assess this postulate is to do a scan of the opinion pages of sober mainstream newspapers. Such an exercise too would testify the existence of these war mongers.
Perhaps the term war monger is a little too blunt, for the approaches of these analysts are a lot more nuanced. They are war mongers all right, but their war mongering is disguised in intellectual sophistry. Those who have been closely following analyses on the June 4 bloody ambush and its aftermath will have noticed two broad and differing ways of looking at the carnage. One group looks at where the government policies have failed, both in the immediate as well as the longer terms in dealing with this conflict theatre. As for instance, they see with a sense of foreboding that the sudden shift in the insurgency undercurrents was triggered by the government allowing, or encouraging the conclusion of the 14 year old ceasefire it held with the Khaplang faction of the NSCN. True the government may not have done this out of any cynical intent, but so as to facilitate its peace negotiations with the other faction of the NSCN, which because their bases are chiefly on the Indian side of the border, is more important for India. Without pointing any accusative finger at the government of sinister game plans, these analysts do point out the obvious failure of judgment on the part of the government, and their alibi is the current escalation of violence and tension in this conflict theatre.
The other camp sees things quite differently. They see the solution in elimination of all resistance through military means. They coldly analyse ebbs and flows of insurgent morale by doing body counts of soldiers killed every year. They want to see a Bhutan type joint operation to exterminate the militants, both Khaplang`™s own fighters as well as the other NE militants he is giving shelter on his soil. There are however two oversights in this approach. One, in the case of the Bhutan operation against Indian militants, Bhutan`™s only stake was it also wanted to free its territory of what are India`™s war against itself, to use a phrase from Sanjib Baruah`™s book `India Against Itself`. Obviously, this camp does not see this as an `India Against Itself` situation. Unlike in Bhutan, Myanmar has been fighting its own wars against itself on many fronts, and it must be having its own strategies to resolve its problems. Indeed, the country is on ceasefire agreements with almost all its own ethnic insurgencies, although its truce with the powerful Kachins has been barely holding with violent confrontations breaking out every now and then. In any case, experience of the past half a century is proof enough that this extermination approach only complicates the problems.
Meanwhile, our prayers go out to the villagers of the affected areas of Chandel and beyond. We wish them safety. We understand how they would have been helpless even if insurgent fighters came and sought shelter in their villages, as much as they would now be helpless when Army trooper barge into their homes in their search operations. There is nothing to rejoice in this war, as so many war mongers seem to be doing. There is on the other hand, only sorrow at every single news of children, wherever they are, losing their fathers, wives their husbands, mothers their sons, sisters their brothers, in this mindless conflict.
Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam