Guns and Roses for Naga peace process
KOHIMA, DECEMBER 16: The Central Government has not only recognized Naga issue as a political problem but has also ruled out resolution of the issue through the barrel of the gun. But on the other side of the Union Government’s declaration of non-violent resolution of the problem, the ground reality is different.
The talks are in progress with the Naga groups but people still live under the fear of gun, enveloped by the draconian law Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. On the talking table there is a rose, but on the ground guns rules, which has claimed several innocent lives since 1997, when truce was signed with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN).
Guns were almost silenced in Nagaland, except sporadic incidents between militant groups, but the Centre does not want to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, and every year the Disturbed Area Act (DAA) is extended in Nagaland. This gives leeway to the security forces to swoop on people at the drop of a hat, or under mere suspicion. The DAA is extended, regardless of strong opposition by the State Government and several Naga organizations, on the pretext of existence of armed outfits.
The recent failed operation has also, by some means, sabotaged the attempt of Government agencies to bring home the remnants of some Nagas from India, who are still in the NSCN (K) camp in Myanmar. In the recent past, the Government had succeeded in bringing back home several cadres from Myanmar.
But several constitutional experts, ex-army commanders and retired bureaucrats have spoken that AFSPA should not prevail in Nagaland when there is relatively peaceful environment because of the peace talks.
Even after the December 4 botched operation that claimed 14 innocent lives at Oting village in
Mon District, many people, including ex-army officers and retired bureaucrat from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) have not only condemned the incident, but opined that AFSPA should be revoked from Nagaland, as the situation does not warrant such harsh Act to exist in the State.
Aftermath of Oting-Tiru incident there has been incessant protests throughout, not only in Naga inhabited areas, but in the Northeast. Other than that, so far no one has come out with a formula and mechanism to rein in the militant outfits without enforcing AFSPA.
In the midst of protests, people are impatiently waiting for December 20 when a special session of Nagaland Assembly will discuss AFSPA and Naga peace process. It remains to be seen whether the Assembly will suggest mechanisms to tackle the insurgents and repeal the AFSPA, or again merely request the Central Government to rescind the Act.
Apart from AFSPA, the Security Forces still operate under other Acts and laws such as the National Security Act of 1980. But even these Acts and laws are being criticized for alleged misuse by the security forces. The National Security Act of 1980 is an act of the Indian Parliament promulgated on September 23, 1980 whose purpose is “to provide for preventive detention in certain cases and for matters connected therewith”. The Act extends to the whole of India. It Contains 18 Sections.
This act empowers the Central Government and State Governments to detain a person to prevent him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of India, the relations of India with foreign countries, the maintenance of public order, or the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community it is necessary so to do. The Act also empowers Governments to detain a foreigner with a view to regulate his presence or expulsion from the country.
The NSA is not the first law of its kind to be enacted in India. The Defense of India Act of 1915 was amended at the time of the First World War to enable the State to detain a citizen preventively. The Rowlatt Committee, approved after the First World War, recommended that the harsh and repressive provisions of the Defense of India Act be retained permanently on the statute books. The interesting feature of the Rowlatt Bills was that they empowered the State to detain a citizen without giving the detainee any right to move the law courts, and even the assistance of lawyers was denied to a detainee.
The Jallianwalla Bagh tragedy was a direct result of the protest against these Rowlatt Bills.
The Government of India Act, 1935 gave the powers of preventive detention to the State for reasons connected with defense, external affairs or discharge of functions of the Crown in its relations with the Indian States. The provincial legislatures had the power to formulate laws for reasons connected with the Maintenance of Public Order. When the Constitution of India was enacted, Article 21 guaranteed to every person the right of life and liberty which could not be denied to him without honoring the due procedure established by law.
Article 22 of the Constitution laid down the scheme under which a preventive detention law could be enacted. The PD Act 1950 was enacted and it continued to be on the statute book until the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) was enacted in 1971. The MISA was repealed in 1977. And the only period in the Indian “republic without any preventive detention law was the three year period, beginning with the repeal of MISA in 1977 to the promulgation of the NSA in 1980”.
“ASFPA isn’t an empowering Act, but an enabling provision, as it provides a legal framework under which the Armed Forces can operate”, said an Army Officer who was in the Northeast, now posted in Jammu & Kashmir. He said in Jammu & Kashmir, as in every State, it provides the legal framework, under which Army can operate in counter insurgency environment.
Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR), Secretary General, Niengulo Krome said: “Every Nation has its own security measures and have been functioning accordingly which is more than sufficient in itself to deal with any unlawful issues”. But he added that AFSPA is an extraordinary law which transforms the Indian military personnel from “being a human being into a monster”.
A senior Advocate opined that ASFPA is an extreme Act, though NSA and National Security Regulation (NSR) are tolerable. “Some extreme conditions are in those Acts too, but manageable as it will be adjucated before the Court”, she added.
Naga Hoho President, HK Zhimomi said as long as there is ceasefire, the Government of India should allow the State Government to tackle law and order issues adding that AFSPA can be impose only when situation demands, under strict instructions to fix responsibility on Army personnel who misuse the Act. “This Act should not be imposed but may apply only whenever situation demands”, he said. However he demanded that this Act be repealed as the situation does not demand and above all there is a peace process underway with the Naga groups.
Another important aspect, to avoid December 4 like incidents, there has to be better coordination between the administration, police and Security Forces ~ such as sharing of intelligence, logistical support and coordinated operations. A senior retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer said there has been no coordination to rein in insurgents in Nagaland. He said the menace of militant can be largely checked if the State Government and public support the police. He said Government should not act under pressure from any NGO.
But a top cop in the Police Department claimed that there has been “generally very good” coordination between the police, para-military forces and the Army in sharing intelligence and operations against unlawful elements.
“The coordination between Army, Civil Administration, Police and CAPF in Jammu & Kashmir is extremely seamless and synergic, which is evident from the large number of successful joint operations”, the Army Officer from Srinagar claimed. He said operations are conducted mostly on intelligence inputs being provided by the Jammu & Kashmir police.
(Page News Service)