After the ghastly attack on an army convoy in Manipur last week, militants from the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) fired at an Assam Rifles camp in a remote district of Arunachal Pradesh on Sunday. Unlike the ambush the Army suffered in Manipur, the attack in Arunachal Pradesh saw no casualties. This is the second suspected attack by insurgents from the NSCN (K). Observers on the ground in Manipur have suggested that Thursday’s ambush was also carried out by the newly formed United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia, comprising a number of insurgent groups from the North-East, under SS Khaplang, the head of the NSCN (K).
It has been 57 years since the Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Act was put in place to help the armed forces crack down on the violent ethnic insurgencies taking root in the State. Despite the massive military presence, areas under the Manipur state and the larger North-Eastern region continue to wallow in an endless orgy of violence. Over the past two decades, states like Manipur have seen several insurgent groups, which have taken to extortion rackets as a means of funding their nefarious activities, with members of the political class encouraging the same.
Experts on the ground have observed that the police administration in Manipur is virtually non-existent. With over 7000 vacancies, the state police force is massively undermanned. In addition, the process of postings and recruitment has always been under the scanner, with corruption rampant in the State police force. In his book, AFSPA –The Biggest Impediment to Peace, RN Ravi, a former special director at the Intelligence Bureau, claims, “Against the all India average of police filing charge-sheet in 88% of reported heinous crimes after investigation, Manipur’s record is 4%.” Without a functional state police, it is the army that has to take stock of the law and order situation. However, the excessive involvement of the Army is detrimental for the maintenance of internal security since its personnel are not trained to handle matters of law and order.
In an environment, where an army officer has the power to open fire at any individual, without having to undergo the due process of law, one is witness to a culture of impunity, which seeps through all levels of government, including the state police. Time and again, history has taught us that brute force cannot ensure peace and stability for an extended period of time. Strong institutions of law and order, allied with checks and balances, have to be put in place to ensure long-term stability. The example of Manipur is a case in point.
There is a perception among large segments of the mainland populace that measures like AFSPA are required to maintain the sovereignty of India. This thought process is encouraged by state governments in the North East, especially in areas they cannot control. The solution to the problem, however, presents itself in front of the state authorities. It is another matter that they are unwilling to go the extra <g data-gr-id="30">mile,</g> since the political establishment in such states have grown comfortable with the complete authority they unleash on their people. It is another matter that the institution of the state government is the primary engine of economic activity in the region. With no clear access to markets in both mainland India and the world, the region will remain deprived, clearing the ground for insurgents to recruit young and unemployed men.