At a time when the state is taking on Left-Wing Extremism, armed insurgency as well as terrorism, experts say a robust policing mechanism is the key
With an aim to promote the notion of ‘Development with Peace’, participants at a roundtable conference organised by the Delhi Forum for Strategic Studies in the Capital recently advocated an approach premised on ending corruption in conflict zones as a first step to help ensure mass acceptability of robust policing and bona fide action on the ground.
Lt General Vinod Bhatia (Retd), Director, Centre for Joint Warfare Studies (CENJOWS), said that it was time to look at the North-east beyond the prism of geo-economics and geopolitics. He said that social harmony has assumed a larger role in bringing about peace in the region, adding that development with peace and stability in the North-East, sans corrupt practices, would help India secure its eastern borders. “We are just focused on the security aspect; however, society is more important,” said the Army veteran who served as the Director General of Military Operations and GOC, 33 Corps, HQ (Eastern Command), in context of Chinese postures on the Doklam plateau.
Highlighting insurgencies in the North-East, Gen Bhatia added: “Insurgency has become an industry here.” In a discussion about the implementation of the Armed Force Special Power Act, Bhatia pointed out that the number of casualties during operations have come down appreciably. In these States, law and order is a bigger problem than militancy. CPOs, Assam Rifles and the State Administration should take charge now, he added. The Naga Peace Accord of August 2015, Gen Bhatia opined, has had an adverse impact on Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. “Naga separatists have been in their camps for the past 20 years, and with help from locals, they run their business of extortion.” Talking about the 46,000 square kilometer border fencing in Myanmar, he said that tribes do not recognise the border, hence, fencing is not a good idea although illegal immigration is an issue Assam. Other factors pertaining to internal security came up for discussion, including Left-Wing extremism. Analysts and officers who have served in the Maoist belt from Maharashtra through Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand felt these were the areas where Maoists get refuge from locals because police presence on the ground is minuscule. Shekhar Dutt, Former Governor, Chhattisgarh and Praveen Mahendru, senior IPS officer, shared their assessment of on-ground situation in Maoism-affected areas.
Mahendru, who served in Morena, Gwalior, and other conflict zones, said, “Active Maoists have decreased and the chances are if the current action by security forces is maintained, we will be able to build on this achievement. Also, there are certain myths about the Maoists I want to dispel, such as that they are fighting for the rights of the tribal population and the poor. We should be aware that 40 per cent of the Maoists victims belong to the SC/ST communities after branding them police informers.” We must learn from the past, they are not fighting for the marginalised but have a different agenda; why is it that they have a presence in Haryana, Punjab and Delhi when 73.5 per cent of the tribal population lives in Banswada, Durgapur, and other tribal belts,” he asked.
The other issue which came up for discussion and brainstorming was the situation in Jammu & Kashmir. Dr Ajay Sahani, Executive Director, Institute for Conflict Management, felt New Delhi does not have a coherent strategy to deal with Pakistan. “We need to understand, for India, Kashmir is not the problem, Pakistan is a problem,” said Sahani, adding, “perception management, long-term strategic communication with Pakistan without stopping of BAT operations at the border combined with a political discourse with stakeholders can help resolve the problem. Cautioning against ad-hoc or stop-start policies, he asked: Why did we stop security operations during Ramzan when the forces were doing their job?” said Sahani. He also pointed out that only five tehsils in Kashmir can be considered worst-affected by stone-pelting and other such actions in support of separatists.
“The number of casualties will be high this year too. In 2012, 117 casualties were reported; 181 in 2013, 193 in 2014; and in 2015 and 2016 the figure was 174 and 297 respectively. In 2017, there was a steep increase in casualties with 358 reported. This year, around 200 fatalities have already been recorded.” Dr Sahani said that the “way forward is to stop going back” which is what we constantly do at tremendous cost to our security forces. The politics of polarisation and radicalisation are problems in the Kashmir Valley, he added. “Military has not failed but policing, resources, the flow of weapons and monies through Pakistani channels and rampant corruption/bribery in the administration needs to be addressed urgently,” he said.
Concluding the debate, Lieutenant General Kamal Davar (retd), said politicians of varying ideological views playing to their local vote-bank indulge in communal mobilisation by provoking imaginary divides and stoking the fire of regionalism/or separatism for temporary electoral gains in Kashmir. In India we have sound federal structure enshrined in the Constitution but and the political reality is that the growth of fissiparous regional forces at the expense of national political parties will have an impact on the internal security of the nation.
(The writer is Principal Correspondent, The Pioneer)