The bigger issue is the politician-armed groups' nexus. If this menace is not checked effectively, the 'integration' issue will remain a challenge in the northeast.
New Delhi: An impression has been created in the last 48-72 hours that the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) and the Indian army are the root causes of all problems in states such as Nagaland and other northeastern provinces. Dec 4, 2021, certainly is a Black Day. But in Nagaland itself, another such 'Black Day' was March 5, 1995.
The incident had claimed eight lives when Rashtriya Rifles, returning from election duty in the neighbouring state of Manipur, went berserk in the southern part of Kohima, mistaking a 'tyre burst' to an ambush. This journalist was inside AIR, Kohima newsroom, and made a miraculous escape that fateful day.
It was a Sunday, and the stillness of a leisurely afternoon when most Christian Nagas had returned home from the church service was disturbed.
Veteran Naga leader S C Jamir was the Chief Minister then. As is happening now, the tension was palpable, and there were usual statements from national political leaders.
Two national agency journalists had to flee Kohima permanently, and DC, Kohima L V Reddy, was killed a few days later. But nothing much has changed since then apparently. Again, it was a case of 'mistaken identity', and the entire attack is directed against the AFSPA. One is aware of a Manipur politician who had insisted on the withdrawal of AFSPA but was clueless when he was told that without AFSPA on the ground, all army units would have to be withdrawn. His apprehension was what would happen to law and order.
In this context, it is relevant to quote former army chief, Gen V P Malik. "During the run-up to the Manipur Assembly elections (1990), a political party leader, in order to garner students' support and votes, made the removal of the AFSPA a major electoral issue. When he won the elections and became the Chief Minister, …. I said I will pull out troops from the 60-odd posts, concentrate them outside Manipur. "But you cannot do that! What will happen to the law and order situation?" the politician had said. This is the paradox.
The bigger issue in states like Nagaland or other northeastern states – as perhaps also in Kashmir is the politician-armed groups' nexus.
The same thing should be 'looked into carefully and in some details' by the central government and various agencies. There were suggestions a few months back that the NIA would be preparing a detailed report on armed guerrilla groups and their notorious nexus with the political class.
Is Nagaland 'exempted' from this just because the so-called peace talks are on? Congress leader in the state Kewekape Therie would differ.
In the mid-nineties, Lt Gen S S Grewal was GOC Nagaland. Grewal, who later became Adjutant General in the army headquarters in Delhi, had told this writer – "The spinal cord or the real oxygen to continue insurgency problem in northeast is the local support." This backbone could be crushed easily if the politico-insurgents nexus is broken. He complained that many unscrupulous netas have been dishonest and manipulative, indulging in gross double standards.
In 1995, Congress chief minister S C Jamir faced a no-confidence motion when he promulgated provisions of the Disturbed Areas Act in certain areas. During the debate in the assembly, his response was of a nationalist, a point which was appreciated by the then Home Minister S B Chavan. Jamir had said: "Often villagers are used as human shields in clash between army and the militants."
True, insurgency, too, is a cottage industry for some unscrupulous elements. The Modi government needs to identify them.