The former Union Home Secretary, G.K. Pillai, on Monday urged political parties and NGOs in Assam to counter Maoist propaganda at the grassroots level.
Mr. Pillai also said the Army's role in counter-insurgency operations in the northeast could be reduced provided the State governments were willing to upgrade their police forces.
“The subtle campaign of the Maoists to portray themselves as champions of the underdog and protector of the deprived is but a part of their larger campaign to seize political power through an armed struggle. And Assam needs to learn from the experiences of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha and nip it in the bud,” he said, while delivering the keynote address at a two-day seminar organised by the Centre for Development and Peace Studies (CDPS) here.
Describing Manipur as “perhaps the most problematic state in the North East as no genuine dialogue has yet taken place with the insurgent groups,” he said the disconnect between the State government and the Government of India on how to tackle the security situation and the consequent social and economic fallout “is more worrying.”
Presently a Distinguished Fellow of the Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), Mr. Pillai alleged that the State police force in Manipur had become “politicised” and “highly dysfunctional.”
“The contours of peace in Manipur are still not clear. At present, this is hostage to the ongoing peace process with the Nagas. The government and the people of Manipur will have to be consulted and made a party to in the final settlement, which as Government of India has repeatedly stressed, respects the territorial integrity of Manipur and of other States in the northeast,” he said.
On the Naga peace talks, Mr. Pillai said both the Centre and the NSCN(I-M) had shown understanding and pragmatism and he was hopeful that by the end of 2012 the contours of a settlement would emerge.
“The talks have made significant progress. Both sides also appreciate the fact that any settlement/agreement arrived at will need to be accepted by all stakeholders including the State government, the NSCN(K), the village councils and the civil society groups and that all of them have to be a signatory/part of the peace settlement,” he added.
He alleged that armed cadres of Naga rebel groups continue to move freely in Nagaland and “coerce, intimidate and extort at will while the State government and the State police are at best helpless spectators.”
About the spurt in activities of the two Naga insurgent groups, the NSCN(I-M) and the NSCN(Khaplang) in Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh, he charged the State government with “significant indifference” to the situation in these two districts which has the two militant groups vying for supremacy in influence, extortion, kidnappings and killings.
The Government of India had to intervene in these sensitive border districts with a special Rs. 240 crore plan for augmenting law and order by sanctioning additional police stations and manpower and equipment to strengthen the local police force, including sanctioning 2000 posts for recruitment of police constables from unemployed youth.
Describing Tripura as “far more stable and improving,” Mr. Pillai said “a stable, sensitive and responsible government” was mainly responsible for improvement in the security situation.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said proper utilisation of natural resources and generating employment opportunities were the keys to sustaining peace in Assam and the other north-eastern States. He, however, asserted that the Maoists would never be successful in Assam. Mr. Gogoi also said that he saw no difference beween the Maoists and various insurgent groups of the region.
British Deputy High Commissioner to Eastern India, Sanjay Wadvani, said that the North East had tremendous economic potential and, in the current climate with many radical groups preferring dialogue to settle disputes, the moment seems opportune to build peace in the region and give a new vigour to development.
Keywords: Maoist issue