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Does military SoP often come to the aid of ultras?

Nagaland News

“India being a democratic country …the rule of law must prevail”

Nirendra Dev
NEW DELHI, APRIL 27: Yet another Naxal strike in Chhattisgarh has left the security apparatus anguished.
The track record of the Indian Army in the Northeast including Nagaland and also in Jammu and Kashmir where it has been deployed as an aid the State’s apparatus for internal security tasks, has been guided by “Dos and Don’ts”.
Sources say these have been endorsed by the Supreme Court.
The controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Acts (AFSPA), of course accompanied with the Disturbed Area Act, empowers the Forces to act in difficult situations. However, the Central Government says there is also a “robust mechanism” in place for course correction during operations and conflicts.
Thus, while admitting the need for the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the onus lies squarely on the Armed Forces to ensure that these special provisions are not put to any “misuse”.
The Government has in the past “did not hesitate” in taking stern action against the guilty, in case of any misuse/abuse of powers, it was claimed in a paper tabled in Parliament.
However, it ought to be remembered that the anti-India elements in Kashmir or militants in the Northeastern region have an advantage of the surprise element. This ‘surprise’ actually means near fatal roadmaps for soldiers.
It is in this context, a source in Delhi said in Nyasa, 4 km from Mon, two Assam Rifles personnel sustained injuries in 2022 August because the unit was more than careful and was too focused on adhering to the Standard Operating Procedures.
The incident happened on August 15, 2022 when the NSCN-K Y faction comprising 17 ultras tried to take over the Assam Rifles post.
“Inputs suggested the presence of 17 NSCN-KY cadres in Zankham and accordingly an ambush was laid by the Forces on Nyasa-Zankham stretch. On the wee hours of August 15 (2022), soldiers observed suspicious movement. The weather was bad weather with heavy rains hence bad visibility”, a source told Nagaland Page.
The soldier following his ‘Rule of Engagements’ challenged the strangers and to the bad luck of the Forces, the undergrounds immediately opened fire from a nearby hut and tried to flee the spot. In retrospect, the soldiers would recall that their seniors applauded “exemplary restraints” that led to avoidance of collateral damage.
But the other side of the story is that the two soldiers suffered splinter injuries and they were quickly evacuated by local villagers only, first to the district town of Mon and later airlifted to Jorhat in Assam.
Later a statement was issued stating that ~ “this compassion and restraint shown by the forces on the fateful day were greatly appreciated by the villagers.”
As it is, serving and retired military personnel would often say that the SOP is “generally friendly to the suspects and militants”. However, the Government line is also emphatic. India being a democratic country…the principle of respect of rule of law must be adhered to and the killing or injuring someone is never a priority either for the forces or the Government of India.
Experts know the human mindsets ~ both at the level of the soldiers and the ultras ~ and hence they will not rule out the “revenge angle” in what they also describe as a “vicious cycle” of armed insurgency and counter military operations.
There is perhaps a thin line between a successful operation and a bungled military action. Truth is only for the post mortem ~ the next day!! Media commentaries are much easier.
“You cannot pin point to all terror attacks”, says former RAW chief Vikram Sood.
“We are family men ourselves….we respect Indian ethos and as disciplined soldiers respect human rights but SoPs are often friendly to militants”, an armed force personnel would say effortlessly.
About 9 months after the Supreme Court stayed further proceedings in a botched operation that resulted in the death of Naga coal miners in Nagaland, the Indian army has announced that amended Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will have to be adhered to for any military operation. The announcement was made by General Officer-Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command, Lt Gen RP Kalita in Guwahati. The fact of the matter is there is nothing drastically new in the statement.
The botched up operation by 21 Paratroopers on December 4, 2021 in Oting had resulted in a series of critical statements against the forces.
Sources in the know of things say the SoP being followed over the years are “always good enough and were tailored such that no soldier can get away easily if he indulges in any violation” of the Rules of Engagement.
The crux of the issues is things are judged in retrospective effect. One major incident takes place, everyone would say intelligence failures or security lapse but in the event of a mistake and bungled operation, soldiers face court martial and a very unfriendly media.
Some years back, a statement was tabled by the Defence Ministry on the floor of both Houses of Parliament wherein it was asserted that the forces must adopt the policy of ‘Zero Tolerance’ in letter and spirit, towards any instance of human rights violation.
Moral of the story: the Armed Forces should never let the nation down on this count. But successes are forgotten quickly and failures get known with all its implications.

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