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A healing touch

IFP Editorial: The general public had long been a mute spectator to the daily killings, owing to the overbearing attitude of the state and the air of impunity created by the prolonged imposition of the AFSPA as compared to a series of unpopular activities of some insurgent groups.

ByIFP Bureau

Updated 16 Aug 2022, 7:00 pm

(PHOTO: IFP)
(PHOTO: IFP)

While observing that the state is yet to put serious effort to bring major insurgent groups of Manipur to the negotiating table, the Manipur Human Rights Commission (MHRC) recommended the constitution of a “Peace and Reconciliation Commission” which is indeed noteworthy of praise.

It said, the Peace and Reconciliation Commission should have a clear mandate to facilitate free and fair involvement of all the stakeholders, including insurgents and women representatives, including those of Extra Judicial Execution Victims’ Families Association, Manipur (EEVFAM) who have been in the forefront of peace and human rights of citizens of Manipur. 

We have been talking of such a commission, although from a different perspective. In conflict resolution, confidence building measures and steps aimed at unwinding the trauma faced by the victims and their families as well as the collective trauma of the general population should precede any peace initiative. 

As a first step, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be more appropriate. For decades, Manipur had been facing the brunt of counter-insurgency operations with enforced disappearances, fake encounters, arrests on suspicion and torture from both security forces and state forces. 

ALSO READ: Constitute commission for settling insurgency issues politically: MHRC

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The general public had long been a mute spectator to the daily killings, owing to the overbearing attitude of the state and the air of impunity created by the prolonged imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act as compared to a series of unpopular activities of some insurgent groups. The long drawn conflict and repressive policies of the state had brought its share of rag-tag bands and faction ridden groups. 

Their brand of revolution based on extortion, kidnapping for ransom, kangaroo courts and summary executions, bomb blasts and terror tactics led to increase of discontentment among the general public against the non-state actors also. On the other hand, the civil society organizations were also immobilized with charges of siding with the banned organisations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given an assurance that the Centre is working towards complete removal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the entire Northeast region. Recently in Assam, AFSPA was withdrawn from 60 per cent of Assam last month.

In the case of Manipur, AFSPA had been lifted from only 15 police stations including the six within the Greater Imphal area as withdrawn during the previous Congress regime. Now, nine more police stations including Sekmai, Lamsang, Bishnupur, Patsoi, Lamlai, Irilbung, Thoubal, Kakching and Jiribam all in the valley districts have been excluded from AFSPA operations. 

ALSO READ: MHRC takes suo moto case against medical officers, staff nurses

However, the Act remains in force in all the hill districts. The December massacre of innocent villagers by elite Army commandos in Nagaland’s Oting area in fact became a trigger for renewed upheaval in the NE region for total recall of the controversial Act.

In Nagaland, Chief Minister Neiphio Rio was unhappy with the partial removal and called for total removal while the CSOs in Manipur are still demanding repeal of the Act. We had also opined that, partial withdrawal of AFSPA and leaving out the hill districts is discriminatory. 

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Having said that, we must also say that it is a big step forward for the Narendra Modi led government from the security perspective and a promise before elections partially fulfilled. The defence lobby had all along been objecting to its withdrawal citing operational difficulties without the Act.

Prime Minister Modi had said on Thursday that, the government had been able to take such a step in view of the peace which had prevailed in the last eight years. In fact, the recent move could also be seen as a confidence building measure (CBM) on the part of the Modi government. 

ALSO READ: Centre blocking justice in fake encounter cases: EEVFAM

Before the Manipur assembly elections, Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah were talking about holding deliberations with all rebel groups and bringing peace to the hills. However, the valley based groups are not on their radar as these groups have consistently rejected the peace offer in the past.

At one point, the government at the Centre was fixated on bringing NSCN (I-M) the negotiating table as the group was considered as the ‘mother of all insurgencies’ in the Northeast and top ranking intelligence officials believed that once NSCN (I-M) is brought into the loop of negotiations, the other groups would fall in line. This is simply not true.

- EDITORIAL

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MHRCNSCN IMAFSPAinsurgent groups

IFP Bureau

IFP Bureau

IMPHAL, Manipur

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