Withdraw Army from Manipur if AFSPA is to go: Indian Army Senior officers

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Highlights:

  • The Army’s role in the northeastern states is not limited to counter-insurgency operations alone.
  • According to an officer, the Army is called in only after the state runs out of options.
  • Manipur, with its border with Myanmar, is a major transit route for several terror outfits.

KOLKATA: On Friday, even when deliberations were underway in the Supreme Court on whether the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) should be done away with in Manipur, a column of the Army’s 21SF was rescuing villagers in Malughat, 12 km northwest of Jorhat, Assam. By evening, nearly 80 villagers and their livestock had been rescued.

The Army’s role in the northeastern states is not limited to counter-insurgency operations alone. Entire populations depend heavily on the men in olive for rescue and relief during natural calamities. This will become more evident in Assam in the days to come when the Brahmaputra breaches its banks. With the Apex court now deliberating on whether AFSPA should continue in insurgency-affected parts of Manipur, senior officers in the Eastern Command say that the Army should be withdrawn unless soldiers receive adequate protection.

“The Army does not opt for CI Ops. Rather, this is not a role our personnel are originally trained for. We would be only too happy to withdraw troops and upgrade their training for their original role that is to fight wars. When speaking in favour or against AFSPA, people need to understand the ground reality in insurgency-hit areas. The people we fight do not believe in playing fair and have no qualms about killing people, both civilians and security personnel. Supposing an Army patrol comes across a hideout. What does the officer or JCO do? Run to a magistrate to fetch a search warrant? Manipur is the longest running militancy in the country and there has not been a single incident where the Army has not tried to limit colateral damage, sometimes at the cost of their own lives,” an officer said.

According to another officer, the Army is called in only after the state runs out of options and even central paramilitary forces are unable to contain the situation. AFSPA offers some immunity and additional powers to soldiers during actual operations.

“Manipur is plagued by extortions and murders now. Over the years, security forces including the Army have had major successes against militant outfits that abound in the state. Most insurgents are petty criminals and extortionists. They use a banner to intimidate people. In 1993, the number of civilians killed by militants in Manipur was 266. In 2008, 131 civilians were killed. In 2014, this number was 20 and a year later, only 17 civilians were killed. This shows the kind of success we have had. We have also paid a price. In 2014, only 10 security forces personnel were killed in Manipur. In 2015, this figure went up to 24,” he said.

Manipur, with its border with Myanmar, is a major transit route for several terror outfits. The Army has been a target as it has proved to be a major deterrent. In a single ambush, 17 personnel of the Dogra Regiment were killed in Manipur in 2015. Exactly a year later, seven soldiers were killed nearly at the same spot. With such kinds of losses, the Army is in no mood to take things lightly.

Source: Times of India

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