- A recent military operation, involving one of the most elite and battle-hardened units of the Indian Army, led to the killing of coal mine workers in Oting in Mon District of Nagaland in December 2021.
- This incident led to a spiraling of violence that led to more deaths, and anger and distrust among the local population, furthering the divide with the security forces operating in the region.
- This once again brought into crosshairs the Armed Forces [Special Powers] Act (AFSPA), 1958 and its continued applicability stretching over decades in several states of the Northeast.
- The AFSPA is a successor albeit with cosmetic changes to the Armed Forces [Special Powers] Ordinance of 1942, which was enacted by the British to quell the Quit India Movement.
- Independent India promulgated the AFSPA in September 1958 to quell the disturbance in north-eastern states.
- They declare an area as ‘disturbed’, thereby enhancing military and paramilitary presence, and in doing so further antagonise the local population, already caught between the combined and competing might of state and non-state forces.
- The unreasonably prolonged deployment of the army and the enforcement of the AFSPA has not resulted in the resolution of insurgencies in the Northeast.
- It only shows the continued failure of the political process in the affected states.
- Employing the army in counter-insurgency operations is different from conventional military operations as the former involves a change in thinking, where preserving civilian life and infrastructure is considered more important than preserving the security forces and their resources.
- To begin with, the type of weapons that can be used in war cannot be used in counter-insurgency operations.
- There has to be a greater reliance on non-lethal arms and other methods that can temporarily disable or incapacitate the potential opponents rather than killing them.
- In counter-insurgency operations, it is believed that one innocent civilian’s death creates 10 new insurgents.
- The insurgent leaders lose no chance to demonise the security forces and establish their role and legitimacy in the fight against perceived ‘oppression’.
- In a counter-insurgency, the psy-ops and social media also play a great role in wearing out the opposing forces and discrediting their ideology.
- It should also be understood that there is a lot of relentless, long-term stress faced both by the armed forces and by the civilians in a counter-insurgency environment.
- These operations often take place in a territory that is alien to the soldiers and their presence could be portrayed as an intrusion.
Validity of the Act:
- The prolonged application of AFSPA by the Government has not helped in building the democratic narrative in the affected region in the long run.
- Continuing with this act with cosmetic changes does not augur well for the truly democratic credentials of the country where every human life counts.
- In situations where employment of armed forces become imperative, there is a need to integrate the civilian and military forces towards the objective of restoring the primacy of rule of law.
- The end state of any well-meaning counter-insurgency campaign should boil down to establishing the legitimacy and authority of the government, whereby the affected population is convinced that its interests are better served by working with the government and within the existing system.
- The aim should be to facilitate the earliest return to a political process, with de-escalation holding out greater value than the continuation of the conflict.
Source: THE HINDU.