When Gun failed and the table negotiation solved Mizoram’s 25 years old Insurgency Problem
By Madhu Chandra
The Arm Forces Special Power Act, 1958 (AFSPA) is termed as a draconian and xenophobia law. It is draconian law because section 4 (a) of the AFSPA gives power to armed forces personnel to shoot at anyone suspicious, section 4 (b) to destroy the shelter of the armed rebels and section 4 (c) to search and arrest without warrant. These mean that any army personnel can shoot at any one suspected that she/he would have a gun and fire at him. The section 6 of the AFSPA protects armed force personnel, who are operating under the act from prosecution, suit or legal proceeding except previous sanction by Central Government.
To get permission from the Central Government of India to prosecute any armed forces personnel, who involved in blunder like Thangjam Manoram case in 2004. Over 100 Manipuri women protested naked in front of Kangla Fort Assam Rifle camp. Thereafter, the Central Government of India granted permission to prosecute the army personnel involved in raping her and killed brutally. There is not even a single case where prosecution granted against any armed forces personnel under AFSPA without public outcry.
Secondly, AFSPA is xenophobia law because it is selectively imposed upon seven North East India states – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura and extended to Jammu and Kashmir, whose features, ethnicities and religious backgrounds are different from the rest of the country.
Need not to repeat the debate that AFSPA has failed to solve insurgency challenges rather it has caused increasing. Not much debated ideologically on why the youngsters take up arms. How can solve the problem without using arm forces power? It will be worth to focus on other alternative to solve the five decades old socio-political crisis of North East India region.
The nation observed the 27th death anniversary of India’s first lady Prime Minister – Indira Gandhi’s assassination on October 31. The Ministry of Development for North East Region (DoNER) had an advertisement on Times of India, conveyed a message of development initiated by Indira Gandhi in North East India!
First woman Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi initiated the table negotiation between Government of India with Mizoram’s separatist insurgents in 1971. Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984 before she could bring the solution. Thereafter, Rajiv Gandhi, who became Prime Minister carried on the negotiation and achieved the solution in 1986.
The chapter of insurgency in Mizoram finally came to an end with the signing of the Mizoram Peace Accord on June 30, 1986 between the underground government of the Mizo National Front and the Government of India. Under the terms of the peace accord, Mizoram was granted statehood in February 1987.
The continuous negotiation and honest initiative from the Central Government of India brought solution to the insurgencies in Mizoram, which operated for 25 years from 1961 to 1986.
Dealing the challenges of insurgency in North East India, perhaps, adopting the way Government of India initiated with the insurgents of Mizoram, could it be a means of solution to insurgency problems in North East India?
Mizoram’s Problem Solved, AFSPA NOT Lifted
The problem of insurgency in Mizoram came to the end after singing the Mizoram Peace Accord in 1986. Since then Mizoram is most peaceful state, not only in the region but also for whole of India. Mizoram has highest literacy rate in whole of India today and it would have never been possible without solving the insurgency problem. It was not by guns but by table negotiation that too was of honest initiative and intervention from the Central Government of India.
Interesting or not sure, whether there was any attempt from Government of India to remove AFSPA from Mizoram after the state has become an insurgency-freed state! Then, why the Central Government has not removed the AFSPA from the state? Having removing the act from the state, it might have conveyed a message to whole region that AFSPA is not a permanent law and it will move away once the states become normal.
Winning people confident is the need of hour. Perhaps, the best to begin could be by removing AFSPA from those states, which have returned to normal life.
My Personal Observation
What does it matter for the people of Mizoram, who live in peace and normal life, yet they still have this draconian law? I have recently travelled from Aizwal, the state capital, to Champhai a small town at Indo-Burma boarder. Truly and honestly, I did not see single armed force personnel except one or two police officers in their uniform at check gates. Peace and normal life has returned to Mizoram yet AFSPA still covers entire state. Why has not the AFSPA removed from Mizoram then?
The Mizoram State Assembly must pass a resolution to recommend the Union Government of India to lift up the AFSPA from entire territory of Mizoram. Once, remove AFSPA from Mizoram, it will send out a message to whole region that table negotiation by following the footpath of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, could be a step to begin in bringing permanent and long lasting solution.
Lastly, not the least, after the fake encounter killing at Imphal on July 23, 2009, Tehelka exposed the diktat nature of Manipur police commandos in the state of Manipur. The state kept burning for months and the Central Government got attention and gave strict order to law enforcing agencies to refrain from any forms of human rights violence. Since then, the killing has reduced in Manipur and removed AFSPA partially from Great Imphal areas. Union Home ministry must monitor the changes of the situation and consider listening to the aspiration of people.
Madhu Chandra is research scholar and social activist base based at New Delhi. He works as Spokesperson of North East Support Centre & Helpline (www.nehelpline.net).