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Friday, July 12, 2024

Assam Rifles jawan killed in Manipur blasts, another injured, as left-liberals push for AFSPA revocation

An Assam Rifles jawan was killed and another was injured after two powerful IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were detonated at Lilong Usoipokpi Sangomsang in Manipurs Thoubal district on Wednesday, the police said.

The police said that the blasts took place when the troops of the 16th Battalion of Assam Rifles were patrolling the hilly area of the state, while few other paramilitary jawans were taking rest near a water supply pump.

While Assam Rifles jawan L. Wangshu, 30, of Arunachal Pradesh, died on the spot after the blasts, his injured colleague, Pingku Das, 25, of Tripura, has been shifted to a nearby hospital. Local MLA of Lilong Yumkhaibam Antas Khan and a police team led by senior officers have rushed to the spot.

Further details of the incident are awaited.

Wednesday’s incident is the fourth such detonation in the last 50 days in Manipur, though none has been arrested so far in connection with these explosions. Also, no militant outfit or any inimical group has claimed responsibility for the blasts yet.

The earlier three incidents on November 18, December 15 and December 29 also occurred in the wee hours, though none was injured in these explosions, which damaged properties.

Security forces, including the army and Assam Rifles, are on high alert after the series of incidents, especially after the deadliest terror attack in the region on November 13 in which Assam Rifles Colonel Viplav Tripathi, his wife and son, and four jawans of the paramilitary force were gunned down in Churachandpur district bordering Myanmar.

Months ahead of the Assembly elections in Manipur, terrorist activities have increased in the northeastern state, forcing the authorities to ask the security forces to intensify vigil in the sensitive and vulnerable areas.

Elections to the 60-seat Manipur Assembly are likely to be held in February-March this year, along with Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Goa.

Terrorist insurgencies in North East

Multiple terrorist separatist groups, funded and supported by both China & Pakistan, are still active in the North East (NE), although the security situation has improved considerably in recent years and many terrorists have laid down arms. Many terrorists have their bases in the dense jungles of Myanmar, and some also hide out in Bangladesh, although governments of both nations today co-operate much more with Bharat in countering this threat than they used to few decades back. China has been supporting ethnic insurgencies in Myanmar’s Shan, Rakhine, and Kachin regions, making that nation more wary of Chinese designs.

Intense missionary activity and Christian conversion of the indigenous people/tribes of the NE has radicalized a section of the population which now abhors everything about Hindu-majority Bharat. Then there are simmering ethnic and tribal fault-lines. The ideology of many terrorist groups in NE is a deadly cocktail of Maoism and religious extremism – their separatist rhetoric is laced with Biblical imagery such as “Nagaland for Christ”. Until 1971, even US (the hub of global evangelism) was openly aiding and abetting such terrorist groups.

These insurgents are also heavily involved in criminal activities like drug smuggling. People’s Liberation Army Manipur and Manipur Naga People’s Front (MNPF) had claimed responsibility for the attack on Col. Tripathi’s convoy, which security experts believe was carried out at China’s behest and because he had taken tough action against drug traffickers.

Last month, an ambush laid in Mon, Nagaland by Army special forces against NSCN (KY) and ULFA terrorists following an intelligence tip off went horribly wrong leading to the death of 14 civilians and 1 soldier. Civilian miners travelling in a pick up truck and carrying a hunting rifle were mistakenly fired upon by the troops after they crossed one of the ambush parties and reached the area of the second one. 6 civilians died due to the firing, and later angry civilians carrying machetes reached the spot and lynched one soldier and injured many others before the Army opened fire in self defence, leading to the death of 7 more civilians. Another civilian was killed the next day when a mob tried to attack an Assam Rifles camp.

Following this tragic incident, protests swept across Nagaland and there were calls for the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Act) to be revoked. While one can understand the pain of Naga civil society, the terror threat still lurks over parts where AFSPA is in force – Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, three districts of Arunachal Pradesh, and areas falling within the jurisdiction of eight police stations of Arunachal bordering Assam. The Act authorizes Armed Forced to use force or open fire to maintain public order in disturbed areas.

The South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) informs us that broad trends indicate an improved security situation in Nagaland. Apart from the tragic incident in Mon, there was only one other incident of killing of civilians by terrorists in 2021. However, incidents of abduction and extortion remained unabated. “The peace in Nagaland is tentative and it is consequently imperative for the State to ensure that the political approach and security measures don’t botch up the peace process at this critical juncture,” SATP concludes in its assessment.

One would expect retired Army officers, at least, to understand the complexities of the situation and difficulty involved in conducting counter-insurgency operations in a fragile border state without cover of AFSPA. But a section of the military veterans community has become so embittered with their hate for the PM, and harbor such contempt for the current Army top brass (as was clear from the shocking reactions to Gen. Rawat’s death), that they are now advocating for AFSPA to be revoked.

(With IANS inputs)

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