Welcoming decision to roll back AFSPA Now take it further
It is understandable why many across the spectrum have welcomed the decision of the Government to roll back the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from areas under police stations located within six districts across the State. A sort of a strong political statement it was and even as news of Union Home Minister Amit Shah announcing the roll back of the Army Act from across many places in Manipur, Nagaland and Assam did the round, Chief Minister N Biren wasted no time in convening a press conference to announce the same and highlight what would certainly go to the credit of the BJP. What has made the decision of the Centre to roll back the Army Act more significant is the fact that there was no widespread movement demanding its repeal as did happen in 2004 when the Congress Government under O Ibobi defanged AFSPA by removing the areas under Imphal Municipal Council from under the ambit of the Disturbed Area Act, under which the AFSPA is enforced. Manipur is still under the glow of the decision of the Centre to repeal AFSPA from six districts, but this has not yet stopped certain individuals from raising certain issues and points which should be of immense importance to the people. A certain gentleman in his Facebook update had questioned whether removing AFSPA from some places answers the militarisation of the place or not. To the said gentleman the decision to repeal AFSPA should be followed by the more rational approach of engaging the different armed groups to a political negotiation. There is merit in this observation for the said Army Act has been repealed on the ground that situation has improved dramatically over the last few years and herein lies the importance of the poser, what if situation takes a turn for the worse ? Will it mean a return of AFSPA or a similar or more stringent Act ? This is a question which only the Government can answer and obviously the situation, but there is merit in this observation and the logical thing should be to take the AFSPA repeal decision to a higher plane and see how the different armed groups can be engaged in a political dialogue to address the armed movement and see what may be done. Repealing AFSPA is but just one step towards addressing this point, but a beginning has been made and this is what is significant at this point of time.
Like the gentleman who put up the said update on his Facebook wall, there must be others too, notably political leaders and political parties which share a similar line of thought. This is where perhaps the Congress and other like minded political parties can step in and see how to make the BJP Government make the first move to initiate a meaningful dialogue. Announcing that the Government is ready for a political negotiation at public meetings is one thing and getting down to the business of talking is quite another. Perhaps a leaf or two may be drawn from how the NSCN (IM) was brought to the negotiating table. Go through the earlier efforts made to contact the leadership of the NSCN (IM) and perhaps this is where the modalities of getting in touch with the armed groups may be studied. Here it would be prudent for all to come to the point that The Sangai Express is not speaking on behalf of anyone much less any armed groups. The wisdom of engaging in a political dialogue is best left to the leadership of the different armed groups, but it is nevertheless important for the Government to come to the point that repealing AFSPA from certain parts cannot be the stand alone answer. It should be accompanied by something else and that something could be opening the doors for a political dialogue with the different armed groups.