Disgruntled foot soldiers
WHILE it would be outright presumptuous to foretell fresh strategies which the military action schemers of the Indian army might be adopting to sustain the counter-insurgency operation in the North East, it would not be totally out of context to speculate that the new tactics will be a blend of crackdowns marked by military precision and taking extreme precautions to avoid causing harm to civilians or immobilised members of outlawed armed organisations. It is understandable that field soldiers of the Indian army are not at all amused with the Supreme Court unrelenting from its stand that all those found guilty of stage-managed killings should stand trial. The soldiers’ disenchantment may also on the premise that the apex court’s directive to the CBI for probing fake encounter cases in Manipur is unlikely to touch those officers who gave them orders not to show any leniency whenever there is an air of hostility. Another reason for disgruntlement among the foot soldiers of the Indian army might due to the Supreme Court literally hounding Central as well as state forces for both the guardians of the nation and the law enforcers must have been made to believe that enforcement of the AFSPA 1958 in the state is enough to shield all their field actions. They must be a shocked and confused lot for the simple fact that framers of law gave them unrestrained power to tackle insurgency situation but the apex court is equally determined to ensure that there should be no exemptions when it comes to law of the land, particular when harm is caused to law abiding citizens. The court’s stand is very clear that military personnel who are trained with tax-payers money cannot pull the trigger without solid proof that the target does not deserve to live among sane people.
That the Army headquarters was ‘deeply worried’ over the rising casualty figures on the part of the Army in Manipur as well as marked slowdown in the intensity of its operations against insurgents in the state in comparison to tell-tale signs of insurgency-related incidents deescalating, will hopefully make the policy makers realise that there is no justification in persisting with a law that makes even innocent civilians in a disturbed state like Manipur feel vulnerable and miserably helpless. Regardless of around 700 Army officers and soldiers recently approaching the Supreme Court against the reported move to dilute some provisions of the AFSPA, that protects the forces from prosecution without the Centre’s approval, Army chief General Bipin Rawat disapproving the move by the serving officers and soldiers to approach the top court in their personal capacity suggests that there is no specific instructions given to the field officers and soldiers to defy principle of humanity. The Supreme Court directing the CBI to thoroughly investigate allegations of extra-judicial killings and fake encounters by the Army, Assam Rifles and police in Manipur might be based on the basic principle of upholding human rights. But to many families who lost their fathers, sons and husbands, the court’s directive, consequent strict adherence to its decree and ultimately nailing the rogue elements within the security establishments will only serve as a symbolic and cosmetic relief from their emotional distress and wretched existence. The army authorities should be well aware that when insurgents were slain in genuine encounters there were no public outcries as people of Manipur are not so naïve to ignore the fact that any uprising against the establishment is bound to be a bloody affair. However, when armless/harmless persons, be they insurgent members or civilians, get killed under dubious circumstances or involuntarily disappeared then there is no need to remind anybody about ferocity of people of the once combative kingdom.