Changing Face Of Counter Insurgency Operations

A Manorama can land a crippling blow on their image and portray them as people in uniform who are out to terrorize the people, who they should be actually protecting. A Malom massacre  can give birth to the crusader in Irom Chanu Sharmila, that Delhi found it necessary to take a fresh look at the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the RIMS massacre, the Heirangoithong incident, the Tonsen Lamkhai killings, the numerous cases of people disappearing into thin air after being whisked away by some Hindi speaking people who came in muftis etc all form the larger  picture of counter-insurgency operations in the North East States, with Manipur currently at the epicenter.

The belief within the Indian political class was that the armed movement launched in  different parts of the North East region can be crushed by military might and by imposing Acts, which are deemed draconian, which Delhi have inherited from their erstwhile British masters.  However as things have unfolded, realization seems to have dawned on the political netas of the country that military offensive can never be the answer to the militancy movement in the region and just a look at the daily newspapers will leave no one in doubt that the Assam Rifles under the IGAR (S) and the Army under 57 Mountain Division, are leaving nothing to chance to get closer to the common people.

The numerous Military Civic Action Programs taken up by the security forces not to speak about saving the lives of snake bitten villagers, etc are all changing faces and strategies of CI Ops down the years. This did not come about because of a sudden change in the heart of the political netas at Delhi but due to the circumstances, which rightfully calls for a political approach rather than a militaristic view. That AFSPA is still in force here is a different matter. Winning over the hearts, trust and confidence form an integral part of CI Ops in the region and this can be easily seen in the manner in which the uniformed personnel deal with the ordinary folks. Today, it is rare to find a sepoy of the Assam Rifles or from the Army, rudely barking out orders to an elderly man to stop for a frisking exercise.

Thanks to the GOC of 57 Mountain Division, Major General DS Hooda, there has also been a marked improvement in the traffic behavior of the men in uniform. A jawan with his head jutting out from  the rear portion of the vehicle, with a whistle and a stick to boot and exercising their lung power to give way to their boss who is coming behind, is sure to spoil the mood of anybody on any given day, especially when one is caught in a traffic snarl. Fortunately, whether Major General DS Hooda has given specific instructions, as assured to The Sangai Express during an interaction program or not, there has been some improvement in the traffic behavior of the security personnel. We wish our courageous and valiant police commandos would follow suit and so too the political netas, whose only claim to fame is their nuisance value, which is multiplied by honking, shouting  or putting their siren on full volume to make the common people make way for the VIP ! The need to gain the confidence and trust of the people is again felt all the more as publicity and propaganda is a useful tool in any battle of the minds. The underground organizations realized this point much ahead of the military top brass.

And so it is that we now have an internally appointed PRO of the IGAR (S) besides the officially sanctioned post of the PRO in the Press Information Bureau (Defense Wing). We cannot comment on the positives and negatives of the presence of two PROs, each representing different units, but this is a sure sign of the military establishment’s keen desire to keep in touch with the people as much as possible. Other than the over exposed Military Civic Action Program, have any meaningful programs been organized by either the GOC or the IGAR (S) is a question worth raising now?

One point that immediately comes to mind was the one day seminar/workshop on human rights, organized by the 57 Mountain Division sometime in July last year, when Major General Shakti Gurung was the man at the helm. We had commented on the significance of the one day seminar or workshop and had also raised the question of whether the IG AR (S) will follow suit and do something along this line, if only to show the humane side of the security forces. Well no seminar on human rights has been organized at Mantripukhri, where the IG AR (S) sits. No noted personalities have been invited to talk about the need for a close co-ordination between the public and the security personnel to ensure peace but Major CA Krishnan did something which was something extremely significant and did not even cross the mind of anyone. Some call it blending while others call it fitting in a new environment or society, but whatever the term is, one cannot help but note the Ningol Chakkouba feast arranged by the IG at Mantripukhri on November 22.

It was not only about demonstrating the respect due to the tradition of a community, it was also about reaching out and trying to break the ice and do away with certain myths. How far such an unprecedented gesture will go in bridging the gap between the general public and the security forces remains to be seen, but no one can deny that Major Gen CA Krishnan chose to trek down a path that was never undertaken by his predecessors at Mantripukhri as well as at Leimakhong. This is the novelty of it all. By this we are not saying that organizing a seminar or a workshop by the Army on human rights and organizing a Ningol Chakkouba feast at Mantripukhri, will automatically cement the bond and ties between the security forces and the public. Rather, what is of significance is the novelty behind these courses of actions and the realization of the importance to win the trust and confidence of the public.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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