The perspectives of an armyman
"I wish one day I can freely go alone to the roadside 'rice hotel' and eat"
Courtesy: The Imphal Free Press
IMPHAL, November 21: Maj. Gen. AK Chaudhary, IGAR (South) in an interaction with the media today at the IGAR(South) headquarters at Mantripukhri, said security forces have been successful in its mission of keeping insurgency under control while admitting that this is all that can be expected from the military.
Gen. Chaudhary said it is not possible for the military to resolve an insurgency, and that once it has managed to keep it a level within the control of the civil administration, it is for the government to take over and do its bit.
This would involve, good governance, improving the economy, political dialogues etc, which only the political establishment can do, he said.
He said the last aspect is important, for whatever else insurgency has become, the very fact that it exist is the indication that there was a something wrong thus giving the reason for insurgency to sprout in the first place. This original problem needs to also be addressed with earnest, he said.
As far as the military is concerned, it has done its job. Today no insurgent organisation, except those holding truce with the government can open a permanent camp within the soil of Manipur. The insurgents are put on the run, and if at all they establish camps, they are temporary ones and in stealth.
Gen. Chaudhary however said if there has been something the security forces have not been able to do, it is to check extortion.
But this is expected, for this too happens under cover. The military would not allow open armed challenges to the establishment but it is not meant to deal with civilian situation in which the insurgents are also disguised as civilians and conduct their anti-establishment activities, Gen. Chaudhary said.
Recounting some of his experiences in Manipur, he said his saddest moments have been at witnessing dead bodies after an encounter. "It does not matter who the bodies belong to, but it is always a depressing sight" he said.
By contrast, he said his happiest moments were when villagers near whose villages Assam Rifles posts were opened coming in the quiet and asking him not to shift away the posts after their terms were over. "Although there are visible and loud protest against the security forces, I can vouch there are more people who for obvious reasons do not come open, but nonetheless feel secure in the presence of the forces," Gen. Chaudhary said.
He said Manipur has a rich intellectual life, with so many intellectuals of immense worth, however, they have not been for whatever their reason, quiet most of the time on matters that affect the quality of life and politics of the land. This he said is unfortunate.
When queried, he said the Manipur police, if lead capably can become the best in the country. "They are good fighters, and they can conduct operations extremely well.
Given the proper direction, they can become matchless in the entire country," the General said. They also face obvious hurdles working in their home environment. They have local stakes and are burdened by local pulls and pressures. This tells on their performance on the field, but if not for this, they have good fighting instinct, he praised.
In this sense, Central security forces and paramilitary forces are much better off, he said.
Commenting on the Suspension of Operation and the hiccups it has been having occasionally, he said the SoO although initially was signed between Kuki militant groups and the Army, this is no more so. The truce has been effectively transferred to exist between the governments (Central as well as state) and the militant groups. The military only execute government policies now.
He said the militants who have come under SoO are under the bind of the government's rule of law, and a good example was the manner in which money to the tune of over Rs. 4 crore extorted from the UBI Churachandpur by militant groups under the SoO was eventually returned to the bank acting on pressure from the military.
The General this is an indication of how successful the SoO has been, and he believes ultimately a political resolution would be reached between the government and the militants under the SoO agreement.
He said it is hopeful that a similar SoO arrangement with a valley based militant organisation may also see good outcome.
Eventually he said there would not be a better end to the story than all militant organisations coming to the negotiating table and settling their differences with the government, reiterating that they would obviously have genuine grievances and that there is nothing in politics which cannot accommodate or resolve any grievance.
My one wish is that I can one day return to Manipur and go to the roadside "rice hotel" without security cover, and eat my fill freely, the General said half-jokingly.
Asked about Irom Sharmila's epic fast, he said somebody who can undergo such as protest would have to have grit, but the issue is complex and needs to be seen from different angles and not from just one as many do, he said implying Sharmila is also guilty of a similar myopia.
On the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, he said not Act is good or bad, it is just a matter of what is appropriate for every different situation. In an extraordinary situation, extraordinary Acts may be called for he said. However, as to the decision of what situation is extraordinary is for the political establishment to decide, he said.