A Tribune Special
New Delhi, August 18
Authoritative sources told The Tribune that Sidhu in particular had said “even to maintain a semblance of law and order the nexus between the underground and the overground had to be broken before tackling the vexed question of the Armed Forces Disturbed Areas Act.’’
The Cabinet Committee on Security is clearly placed in a piquant position as a Congress government is involved in Manipur. The IB chief in his briefing to the CCS had not minced his words. He pointed to the thriving drug trade with Myanmar as one of the reasons the numerous underground groups were reluctant to even enter negotiations with the government. The volume of narcotics coming into Manipur from Myanmar is huge and all the various parties involved in the current agitation get a cut from the trade.
The sources said while the AFDA imposed in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir had clearly outlived its utility. Its repeal would be a long drawn out process. The priority at the moment would be to force the state government to improve the law and order situation.
Intelligence reports indicate that at the moment the state government is a mute spectator to complete anarchy. Around five instances where the state government has acted in connivance with one particular underground have also been pointed out to the CCS.
Says a Home Ministry official: “Manipur is on fire and the fuel is being provided by the state government. The Act is draconian no doubt but at the moment the government is in a bind.’’
The Act is a carbon copy of a 1942 Act promulgated by the British and despite the fact that it has been in force for more than 25 years it has done little to improve the situation.
An incident involving indiscriminate Army firing is which 10 persons died some years ago in Kohima is a case in point. Before a judicial inquiry the Army claimed it had resorted to firing since it was “suddenly attacked’’. The inquiry established that a tyre of an Army truck had burst and the panicked soldiers started firing. Cases such as this abound.
As a first step to placate the Manipuris, the Assam Rifles will be directed to vacate a historic spot of local significance, the Kalini Fort, and go back to the barracks. This has been a long-pending local demand.
Despite, the Act the Army has always maintained that stamping out insurgency is not its job and it will only provide a semblance of law and order so that the administration can be carried out. The IB has also asked the CCS to carry out a “purge’’ of the politicians who are involved in the thriving drug trade and who provide external support to the underground groups.
At the moment the Assembly is likely to be suspended, a step already recommended by Sidhu.