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The guns of Sangai

IFP Editorial: The establishment claims that law and order in the Northeast region has improved, but the security apparatus in Manipur, especially during this Sangai festival, seems to tell a different story. Read on.

ByIFP Bureau

Updated 25 Nov 2022, 11:48 am

(PHOTO: Facebook)
(PHOTO: Facebook)

 
The other day, a photo of specially trained women police commandos equipped with the latest models of automatic guns assigned for duty during the Sangai Festival 2022 was posted on social media. Their basic assignment is to assist and guide tourists at various venues of the festival.
 
For the first time, police tourist booths with police personnel wearing fluorescent jackets were being arranged at various festival venues to assist tourists, especially foreigners and tourists from outside Manipur during the festival, according to a top police official.
 
Of course, they are there to see that nothing untoward incident happens during the festival and keep the peace besides projecting the image of a tourist friendly police. That must be why security and police personnel armed to the teeth are lining the highways and roads leading to the festival venues and huge deployment at the venues itself. And then, the VVIPs coming to grace the festival are again accompanied by not less than two/three vehicles full of escort personnel, uniformed and plainclothes.
 
For the locals, the sight of gun-toting police and security personnel is kind of normal and they feel no different. Decades of being exposed to police and armed forces brutality enabled by the overarching Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and its resultant aura had conditioned the attitude and outlook of the local populace.
 
Although they do not feel a sense of safe and secure environment in the presence of police and security personnel around them, they have begun to feel that it is a part of the necessary evil package in Manipur.

Well, the establishment continues to claim that law and order has improved in the Northeast region in the past few years and it was precisely why the Centre has ordered the operational jurisdiction of AFSPA in several areas.

Earlier, the government had removed AFSPA entirely from Meghalaya and partially from Arunachal Pradesh. In March, 2018, the MHA ordered removal of AFSPA from Meghalaya completely and from eight police station areas bordering Assam in Arunachal Pradesh. A year later, this was further reduced to just four police stations.

Arunachal currently has three districts with AFSPA apart from these four police stations and it was withdrawn from 60 pc of Assam. In the case of Manipur, AFSPA had been lifted from only 15 police stations, including the six within the Greater Imphal area and it was withdrawn in the previous Congress regime.

Now, nine more police stations in the valley districts have been excluded from AFSPA operations.

The Act remains in force in all the hill districts irrespective of whether it adjoins the international boundary. Although there is an ongoing ceasefire with NSCN (I-M) and Suspension of Operation (SoO) with the Kuki militant groups, things are not that smooth it seems.

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Well then, why should the government be so worrisome if the law and order situation has improved and insurgency activities have come down drastically?

There is also no indication of a threat perception with regard to outstation or foreign tourists coming to participate in the Sangai festival, this time. So far, no threats had been issued by the underground outfits.

The reason perhaps is that, the security apparatus here in Manipur is yet to come out of the security cocoon that it had imprisoned itself in the previous decades of unrest and insecurity.

Foreign visitors to the state had in the past questioned the presence of uniformed police and security personnel everywhere they go, while journalists from outside the state had written about it numerous times.

And here, during the Sangai festival the state is endeavouring to attract more tourist footfall by showcasing varied facets of the state and its communities at various venues.

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What kind of message are we sending out to the probable tourists with the outright display of armed police and security personnel and detailing them to guide the tourists?

If the state tourism directorate lacks in staff strength, including professional guides, it must be brought to the notice of the government or the job of tourist guides could be outsourced during such festivals.

The state certainly needs to revisit its attitude and priorities in this regard. 

 - EDITORIAL

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First published:

Tags:

afspamanipur tourismmanipur law and ordersangai festivalsangai festival tourisrspolice tourist booth

IFP Bureau

IFP Bureau

IMPHAL, Manipur

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