Peace Audit Northeast–A Roadmap to Restore Normalcy (Part 2)
(From previous issue)
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he collateral damage to those who survived the mayhems has been formidable. Families were reduced to destitution. In the 1950s and ‘60s, the Naga militants used to attack running trains, either derailing them by removing fishplates or causing blasts on the tracks, causing heavy casualties of innocent passengers, especially in upper Assam. Civil and military vehicles were ambushed almost regularly causing similar deaths in Nagaland and its
adjoining areas in Assam. The killing spree of the ULFA in the Brahmaputra valley took countless lives since the early 1980s. Many of the incidents of attack were horrific. Similarly, the BLT, the Bodo Security Force and later the NDFB (before and after it split) followed the path shown by the Naga militants in the 1950s. ‘Cease-fire’ agreements made with these groups from time to time let off from legal process almost all who committed heinous
offences involving lives and public and private properties. Serious cases against rebels were withdrawn from prosecution. This certainly emboldened many from other ethnic groups – like the Dimasas, the Karbis, the Kukis, the Hmars, the Rabhas, the Reangs (Brus), the Tripuri tribes, the Khasis, the Garos, etc. – to become rebels and indulge in wrongful activities.
Those who commit crimes or profit from crimes must pay the penalty laid down in the law of the land. Victims of crime must receive justice. Here the need is for strengthening the police and other investigating agencies to efficiently investigate crimes and bring the offender to face trial in the court of law. However, things on the ground are different. First, the police in all the states in the region remain clue-less to most of the terrorist crimes.Persons are kidnapped, held in detention for ransom, killed for not being able to pay fantastic sums of money or killed for ‘being a spy of the police’.
Massacre of migrant workers is a favourite pastime of Manipur militants.
Even in Assam, killing of such people, like brick kiln workers from Bihar, took place several times. It has never been heard that the perpetrators of such acts were identified, brought to trial and convicted. To keep up a show, the police make some arrests but hardly succeed in adducing enough evidence for conviction. And, unfortunately, where they succeed, the state’s ‘amnesty’ comes to facilitate ‘peace talks’. The people at large get exasperated
when they see the perpetrators get away.
The reasons for police failures are many. Their training remains inadequate for the challenging job of handling insurgency-related crimes. They lack in equipments, scientific gadgets and manpower. Here the emphasis should be on the expansion of the civil police in the junior ranks – persons who do the real work of investigation. So far, as has been our experience, there has been a tendency to expand the armed police by raising battalion after battalion to deal with insurgencies. This is not helpful. In order to establish rule of law,
the police should acquire skill in solving cases in a scientific manner. This needs a heavy investment by the states in police recruitment, training, housing, etc. With the growth of new techniques in narco-terrorism, arms smuggling and even human trafficking, a newer vista should be opened up to meet the growing challenges of insurgency.
However, the police alone cannot deliver. The judiciary must also be strengthened. Right now, the lower judiciary which is really the institution to deliver justice at the grass-root level is in a bad shape. First, an enough number of judicial magistrates and judges are not available. The load of the number of under-trial cases is far too much for the existing strength of judicial magistrates and judges to bear. As a result, trial of cases, however
heinous, takes any length of time. The remedy is to increase the number of courts with all the facilities required for them to function with dignity and authority. The talk of having ‘fast track courts’ remains empty as long as enough number of judges are not appointed. Second, the courts do not get enough funds to pay daily allowances for state witnesses, who therefore avoid appearing in the court to give testimony. No wonder, cases fail for lack of appearance of the prosecution witnesses. Third, despite all the talk about protection of witnesses from the offenders, the country has not been able to lay down a definite policy on the subject. Thus few would venture to give testimony against insurgents when they know that the latter would not hesitate to do away with them.
Clumsy procedures of criminal law must be straightened out for speed.
Ethnic chauvinism will have to be curbed. Things done so far on ethnic lines should be dismantled, because there lies the seed of dissension. The path of dissension has already done a lot of harm to the plural society of Assam and the entire North East. That has to be un-learnt and de-activated.
Vote-bank politics should be shown the door. Enough damage has been caused owing to things done with an eye on votes. Equity and fair play should become the principle of state policy. There should be balanced regional development with special emphasis on identified under-developed areas.
Inspector General of Police (Retd), Assam