Anti-AFSPA stand in the NE Essence of timing

    13-Dec-2021
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The crucial question is, will people take it at face value or will they see a spin and interpret it as yet another political speak ahead of the coming Assembly election ? This poser is being raised in the backdrop of the public statement of National president of the National People’s Party (NPP) Conrad Sangma that the party will fight to get the infamous Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) repealed from the North East region of the country. To give effect to his pronouncement, Sangma, who is also the Chief Minister of Meghalaya claimed that the said Army Act has been removed from Meghalaya after the NPP came to power. Give it to him, the young Chief Minister of Meghalaya knows the essence of timing and here he is bang on target. On December 4, fourteen civilians were mowed down by security forces, in what has officially been dubbed as a case of mistaken identity. It is not only the NPP or Conrad Sangma which has jumped into the fray to demand the repeal of AFSPA from the region, but also the Chief Minister of Nagaland Neiphiu Rio, the State unit of the Shiv Sena, State unit of the CPI and the Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee questioning why Chief Minister N Biren has been mum on the Army Act. One understands the constraints of the Chief Minister in not airing his opinion, but if what MPPC president N Loken has had to say is anywhere near the truth then it is food for thought. According to N Loken, Biren was among the seven MLAs who served an ultimatum to the then Chief Minister of Manipur O Ibobi to get the Army Act repealed in 2004, when anti AFSPA voice reached its peak after the dastardly killing of Th Manorama. An ultimatum was even served, claimed N Loken and this led to the said Army Act being made redundant in the Municipality areas of Imphal. It is heartening to see political parties rising to the occasion and unitedly taking an anti-AFSPA stand, but one should not forget that Assembly election is just round the corner and putting the BJP in a tight spot at this moment would just be what the spin doctors of election had prescribed. Timing, this is crucial and this is something which does not seem to have missed the eye of other political parties such as the NPP, the Shiv Sena, CPI and the Congress.
At the same time it is significant to note that the different political parties have spoken out only now, that is a full six days after the massacre at Oting in Mon district of Nagaland. In the interregnum, numerous civil society organisations and student bodies had spoken out where they stand vis-a-vis the Army Act, with the influential All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) staging a rally on December 9 and the COCOMI making it known that they are ready to launch different modes of agitation against the continued imposition of the Army Act. It has also been the same thing in Nagaland, but what makes Nagaland and Meghalaya different is the point that Chief Ministers in these two States have already made known their stand on AFSPA. The Sangai Express too has already had its say on why an Act that empowers the security personnel to open fire even to the extent of causing death on mere suspicion does not exactly behoove the idea of India as a Nation, where some section of the population have to live under the glare of the said Act. The young Chief Minister of Meghalaya was bang on target in asserting that AFSPA has not been able to rein in militancy by any stretch of the imagination other than alienating the people. As noted earlier here, Conrad Sangma knows the essence of timing and how to strike a chord with the people. He was the rallying point against the then Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), before it became an Act, and here the young Chief Minister has again been pitchforked into the  limelight with his stand against the continued imposition of AFSPA in the North East region. Whether the anti-AFSPA statement was made with an eye on the coming Assembly election or not will be known only after the vote has been cast, but already Conrad Sangma has delivered an important point. A key man on matters concerning the North East is the message that has been delivered and in many ways it can work to the advantage of the NPP. How this translates into votes is something which only time will tell, but an important point has been delivered and this is what is significant.