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Manipur Elections – why they are important this year
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 01 Mar , 2017

The elections in Manipur next month have special significance not since this is year 2017 or because: the Naga bandh has been called off; Manipur is the main conduit for two-way drug trade with well oiled arrangements having political patronage; and, that the People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) contesting assembly elections has made removal of AFSPA an election issue. It is well known that Chanu Sharmila who floated the PRJA fasted for 16 years demanding repealing of AFSPA.

Chinese scholars are openly saying that because of Indian actions in J&K, Muslim Terrorist organization in northeast (which are mainly in Manipur) will not sit quiet – the threat is clear.

Not very many know that the amount of illegal narcotics trade along the Indo-Myanmar border almost equals that along the Indo-Pak border. In fact, the former may be much more with ‘cold pills’ flowing from India into secret laboratories in Myanmar, for churning into methamphetamine to meet most of mainland Southeast Asia’s demands.

Manipur is a strategically important state through which the road communications connect India with Myanmar and beyond. The India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral al Highway is important to our ‘Act East Policy’. But Manipur Elections 2017 are important because of the following:

  • The China-Pakistan combined hybrid threat is enlarging at rapid pace;  China is using Pakistan to stoke instability in India, particularly in J&K.
  • In May 2015, Chinese intelligence established the United Liberation Front of West, South, East Asia (ULFWSEA) bringing together nine northeast insurgent groups including the NSCN (K) and ULFA.
  • Establishment of ULFWSEA was concurrent to Prime Minister Modi’s call to galvanize our ‘Act East’ policy.
  • Earlier, Chinese nationals with fake Indian documents were apprehended, on mission to meet Naga rebels. It was no coincidence that few months after that the NSCN (K) abrogated its 14-year old ceasefire with Government of India.
  • Not only has China been arming Indian Maoists and northeast insurgents, intelligence reports have indicated joint training organized between Maoists and PLA of Manipur.

Because of the situation in Myanmar, Rohingya Muslims have / are flooding India; some 4000 of them have colonized the Jammu region despite Article 370.

  • The ceasefire agreement between the NSCN (IM) and Government of India is on thin ice with Naga’s of this faction going violent.
  • China has declared that from the second quarter of the 21st Century, she will move to claim her territories; China claims Arunachal Pradesh calling it ‘South Tibet’.
  • Because of the situation in Myanmar, Rohingya Muslims have / are flooding India; some 4000 of them have colonized the Jammu region despite Article 370. Pakistan’s ISI and Pakistani national Asim Umar who heads Al Qaida’s South Asia branch (AQIS) has called upon Rohingya Muslims to take up arms.  
  • Chinese scholars are openly saying that because of Indian actions in J&K, Muslim Terrorist organization in northeast (which are mainly in Manipur) will not sit quiet – the threat is clear.

Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and its removal come up periodically. The Act, which provides extraordinary powers of force to army soldiers deployed in disturbed areas, has long been a bone of contention between human rights activists and those favouring requisite response to terror and insurgency.

Last year a bench of the Supreme Court ruled that indefinite deployment of armed forces in ‘disturbed areas’ under AFSPA “mocks at our democratic process” and symbolizes a failure of the state. The bench questioned on the deployment of security forces in Manipur under AFSPA since 1958,  pointing out that the purpose behind deployment of armed forces was to ensure normalcy would be restored within a reasonable period and that “normalcy not being restored cannot be a fig leaf for prolonged, permanent or indefinite deployment of the armed forces”.

…any dilution of AFSPA would mean diluted effectiveness of the army in CI-CT and personnel getting involved in litigation consistently.

The apex court also ordered a probe into 1,528 cases of alleged fake encounters in Manipur in the last 20 years. Taking first the human rights violations, the SC could have asked for details of the National Human Rights Commission, which examines each individual allegation and finds that some 96% of allegations are false (terrorist-insurgent propaganda and even politically motivated) while the Army ensures strict punishment to individuals found guilty.

In the same contests, it is the Manipur State Government that should have been asked what have they done about these 1,528 alleged fake encounters. Ironically, every time there are protests for removal of AFSPA, the finger is pointed at the Army, the Army is asked why they need AFSPA, Army veterans are summoned for TV debates, there are shouts to ‘tone’ down AFSPA and the like. All this shows that the very background and basis of AFSPA are not understood.

First, the army deployment in the hinterland under AFSPA is only after the said area is declared as ‘disturbed’ under the ‘Disturbed Area Act’. A Disturbed Area Act passed on September 11, 1958 was applied to the seven northeast states. A similar act passed in 1983 was applied to Punjab and Chandigarh, which was withdrawn in 1997. A similar act was applied to J&K in 1990 and has been in force since. So the SC bench could have asked the Manipur State Government why the Disturbed Area Act has not been removed from Manipur after so many years and why have they not asked the Centre to do so. Also, the insurgents could have learnt from the development and progress from neighbouring Tripura after transition from violence to peace.

Second, an area is declared ‘disturbed’ when the state machinery is unable to function and calls in the Army for support.

Third, neither the Army called for AFSPA nor drafted the Act; this was discussed and debated by various Parliaments and passed to ensure that the army can function effectively in the designated disturbed area, when deployed. Therefore, any dilution of AFSPA would mean diluted effectiveness of the army in CI-CT and personnel getting involved in litigation consistently.

…the insurgents and NGO’s are being funded by China and Pakistan to agitate against the army and AFSPA is reality…

Fourth, army can only keep violence levels at manageable levels whereas the balance must be taken on by the state administration; the problems being more of politico-socio-economic nature. The failure of the state to provide adequate governance has been the bane of continuing insurgencies – mostly due to endemic corruption and inefficiency.

Fifth, neither does the army ask for such deployment nor does it enjoy when forced to act against its own brethren when deployed in disturbed areas – its primary task is against the enemy and defending the borders.

The above issues need to be understood notwithstanding the fact that some foreign funded NGOs, paid media and anti-national so-called activists would continue with their demands to remove or dilute AFSPA. The State should create the necessary environment and repeal the ‘Disturbed Area Act’.

Simply removing the Disturbed Area Act without creating conditions for it would be disastrous, and more importantly playing into the hands of the China-Pakistan anti-India nexus. Once the ‘Disturbed Area Act’ is removed, AFSPA and army deployment in hinterland will go automatically. That the insurgents and NGO’s are being funded by China and Pakistan to agitate against the army and AFSPA is reality and plenty foreign funds would be provisioned for forthcoming elections, reasons for which are obvious.

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Manipur Elections – why they are important this year, 4.3 out of 5 based on 6 ratings
The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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