Richa trolled on tweet about Galwan

Richa Trolled For Tweeting About Galwan Incident

Bollywood actor Richa Chadha has come under fire for posting a tweet on the 2020 Galwan clash, in which several Indian Army soldiers died.

On Wednesday, Richa had reacted to Northern Army Commander Lt General Upendra Dwivedi’s statement that the Indian Army is ready to execute orders like taking back Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Sharing a post on the statement, Richa took to her Twitter handle and wrote, “Galwan says hi.”

As soon as she tweeted this, all hell broke loose on social media and people started to slam her for allegedly insulting the army by talking about the 2020 clash between India and China.

One user wrote, “Mocking the sacrifice of our soldiers at Galwan valley. Shameful & disgraceful.”

Another user shared, “‘Galwan says hi’ writes Richa Chadha in response to a statement by a commanding officer on POK. Disrespecting those who gave their lives for India. Mocking the Indian army. She proves once again there is no limit to how low this industry can sink. A boycott is all they are worth.”

BJP’s Manjinder Singh Sirsa tweeted, “Disgraceful Tweet. Should be withdrawn at the earliest. Insulting our armed forces is not justified.”

Meanwhile, Lt General Upendra Dwivedi’s statement was made with reference to Defence Minister’s previous address in which he reiterated New Delhi’s resolve to take back Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), saying all refugees would get their land and homes back.

Lt General Upendra Dwivedi said, “As far as the Indian Army is concerned, it will carry out any order given by the Government of India. Whenever such orders are given, we will always be ready for it.”

“The military is always ready to make sure that ceasefire understanding is never broken as it is in the interest of both nations, but if broken at any time, we will give them a befitting reply,” said Dwivedi, Northern Army Commander on the ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan. (ANI)

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Indian Army china

Amid Chinese buildup, Indian Army Built Infra For 450 Tanks, 22,000 Additional Troops

Amid reports of Chinese buildup across the Line of Actual Control, the Indian Army has built infrastructure for housing 450 tanks and over 22,000 troops in the Eastern Ladakh sector opposite China, defence sources said.

The sources said that to counter the Chinese aggressive movements in the Pangong Tso lake which is both in India and China, the Indian Army’s Corps of Engineer has inducted new Landing Crafts in both Eastern Ladakh which has given a huge impetus to the patrolling capabilities and induction in men and material. The assault craft can carry 35 troops or one keeps with 12 men.
“Habitat and technical storage to include assets for 22,000 troops and approximately 450 A vehicles/guns have been constructed in the last two years. Focus has now shifted to undertake the construction of Permanent defences and infrastructure to improve defence preparedness in extant working season apart from completion of ongoing projects,” defence sources said here.

Speaking about the permanent defences being built along the borders, Indian Army’s Engineer in Chief Lt Gen Harpal Singh said: “3D-printed permanent defences have been constructed for the first time by Indian Army’s Corps of Engineers in the desert sector. These defences were trial tested against a range of weapons from small arms to the main gun of T90 tank.”

He added that such defences are able to withstand blasts, can be erected within 36-48 hours, and can be relocated from one place to another.

“With this, trial for similar permanent defences have also been carried out at eastern Ladakh and found to be useful,” he said.

Highlighting the infrastructure development being done by the Border Roads Organisation along the China border, defence sources said that presently nine tunnels which include a “2.535 Km long Sela tunnel, which will be the highest bi-lane tunnel in the world once completed. 11 more tunnels are also under planning.”

“The BRO has been entrusted with the task of constructing one of India’s highest airfields at Nyoma which is very close to the China border and will boost Indian capabilities there,” they said. (ANI)

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Rajnath Singh Attends ‘Shaurya Diwas’ In JK’s Budgam

On the 76th Infantry Day, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday attended the ‘Shaurya Diwas’ programme organized by the Indian Army in Budgam.

Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha was also present at the programme. Singh also visited an exhibition by the Indian Army on the occasion.

Infantry Day is observed as a remembrance of the first military event of independent India, when the Indian Army repelled the first attack on Indian soil on October 27, 1947, in the Kashmir valley.

The victory was accomplished by the personnel of the First Battalion of the Sikh Regiment.

On the 76th Infantry Day, the Defence Minister also extended greetings and warm wishes to the courageous infantry personnel and their families.

“On the 76th Infantry Day, greetings and warm wishes to our courageous infantry personnel and their families. Indian infantry has been associated with utmost courage and professionalism. The nation salutes their bravery, sacrifice and service,” tweeted Singh.

Rajnath Singh has been the second top Union minister to visit Jammu and Kashmir this month.

Earlier, Union Home minister Amit Shah was on a three-day visit to the Union Territory from October 4.

Later in the day, the Defence Minister will reach Leh on a two-day visit to the Union Territory of Ladakh.

The Indian Army celebrates October 27 every year as the ‘Infantry Day’, as it was on this day that the 1st Battalion of the Sikh Regiment landed at Srinagar airbase and displayed resoluteness and extraordinary courage to thwart the evil designs of the Pakistan Army, who had invaded Kashmir with the help of tribal raiders in 1947.

That is why every year on October 27, the Indian Army celebrates it as ‘Infantry Day.

This year both the Indian Army and the Air Force are going to celebrate this special day as “Shaurya Diwas” because Thursday is also the golden jubilee celebration of the Indian Air Force’s Kashmir Air Base. (ANI)

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Weekly Update: Why Agnipath is A Good Path; How Oppn is BJP’s Strongest Suit

In the first four days after registration opened for recruitment to the Indian armed services, the Indian Air Force (IAF) alone received 94,281 applications. That volume of applications will, in all probability, grow manifold as the days go by and as the other services, the Indian Army and the Indian Navy, tot up the applications they receive.

The announcement of the number of applications that the air force received has done two things. First, it has almost instantly silenced critics of the scheme who were calling it discriminatory and undemocratic. And second, more importantly, it has highlighted what is probably the Indian economy’s toughest challenge: frighteningly large levels of unemployment among the country’s youth.

The Indian government introduced the Agnipath Scheme as a new way of recruiting youth into the armed services at ranks lower than that of commissioned officers. Inducted cadets will get a four-year tenure with a stipend paid to them and at the end of the tenure, 25% of them will be inducted into the services while the rest will get a golden handshake–a sum of ₹12 lakh to start entrepreneurial ventures as well as preference if they want to join police or other state security services.

The background to the scheme is important. The armed services incur a huge outflow of money that goes to pay pensions, salaries and other personnel-related expenses. By some estimates they account for a quarter of India’s defence budget. The Agnipath scheme would alleviate some of those recurring expenses and allow the defence ministry to deploy more funds into critical areas like augmenting defence equipment and modernisation.

However, opposition parties, including the Congress and some other regional parties vehemently opposed the scheme, mainly on the grounds that they felt a more consensual approach ought to have been adopted but also that it discriminated and curbed the rights of new recruits, 75% of whom would leave service after the four-year tenure. But as initial data show, the scheme could turn out to be a hit.

The reason for its appeal is simple and stark. Youth unemployment in India has reached staggering proportions. According to the Times of India, “Youth unemployment in urban areas across India rose sharply to 25.5% in the April-June quarter of 2021 and remained in the double digits thereafter as the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic battered economic activities and dealt a severe impact on jobs.”

Do the maths. Nearly 40% of the Indian population is aged 13 to 35 years (defined as youth in the National Youth Policy). Forty per cent of the population is roughly 560 million people. If we look at the minimum employment age in India, which is 14, we are still talking about at least 500 million employable youth. If 25% of them are unemployed, how serious do you think the problem is?

It is small wonder that the Agnipath Scheme has found growing appeal among young Indians. Jobs in the public sector have not been growing; and in the private sector the emphasis is on automation and leaner workforce with lower wage costs. In scenario such as that if young people have an opportunity to earn and get training for four years and then have a shot at either becoming soldiers, airmen or sailors or, if they aren’t inducted, entrepreneurs, is that not an appealing alternative, say, to driving an auto rickshaw or delivering food from restaurants to people’s homes?

Some more numbers to mull. In the first year, an Agnipath recruit would earn (in-hand) ₹21,000 a month and by the fourth year that would go up to ₹28,000. Not really a bad deal, is it?

India’s Opposition Needs a Plan

Some years ago when the Congress party had started what has now become its free-fall journey into oblivion, one newspaper had written that Rahul Gandhi was the Bharatiya Janata Party’s strongest trump card. Gandhi was then messing up in all possible ways: losing election after election for his party; lacking coherent strategies about any issue that he addressed; and losing the support and respect of his party’s other leaders and functionaries.

Now, one could expand on that cheeky comment and probably say that the BJP’s strongest suit is the Opposition. Besides opposing anything that is proposed or done by the government–the misplaced opposition to Agnipath is a case in point–India’s Opposition parties have little else to get active about. The situation is the same in the states as it is in the Centre.

When was the last time we heard a constructive critique of the Union Budget from any Opposition party? When was the last time an Opposition party leader appraised India’s handling of the Covid pandemic (which, considering the number of people that live in India, has been quite commendable)? Have we ever seen a whitepaper from the Opposition on how India’s unemployment problem ought to be tackled? Or a strategy that addresses our government’s bewildering stance when it comes to international issues such as the Russian aggression in Ukraine? Sadly, India’s Opposition is bankrupt of ideas. And that is why it is the strongest suit in BJP’s hand.

‘Agnipath Has Burnt Down My Dreams, Career Preparation’

Anshu Mishra, who was preparing hard to join Indian Army, says the Govt decision on Tour of Duty has destroyed the ambitions of millions of youth. His views:

Wake up at 3.30 every morning. Hit the ground for training around 4.30 AM. Run for around 45 minutes. Exercise for another hour. Attend coaching classes and prepare for the written exam during the day. Repeat the running and exercise routine in the evening. Do it every day, without fail. No Sunday, no rest, no break.

This is not the Army training session, but a usual day of an army aspirant like me. I have been following this routine for the last four years and I am not the only one to do so. There are lakhs of such aspirants all across the country who also follow the same routine every day.

Joining the army and donning the uniform is a passion. There are people in the Indian Army from my family, relatives and friends. Since I turned 18, I have been training hard to join the force. I have also appeared in physical tests during the recruitment drive of the Army. Sadly, I missed being qualified twice in the running test by a whisker. I am 21 years and 9 months old now and I had committed to myself to pass the physical test of Army this time. The government’s Tour of Duty (TOD) or Agnipath announcement consigned all my dreams to flames.

Even If I pass the physical, medical and written test this year, I will be out of the Army after four years. Imagine the irony: I trained for four year to get a job that will retire me after four years! All the effort, practice and commitment have blown up in my face. What will I do after the completion of my four-year tenure in the Army? Back to square one. Does the country have that many private jobs?

ALSO READ: ‘Armed Forces In 21st Century Must Be Lean & Mean’

Most Army aspirants come from humble backgrounds. We also have a lot of pressure from the family to start earning. I recently moved from Bihar to Chhattisgarh in search of a job. Along with my army preparation, I was also doing a job of data operator at a private company there. Last month, I quit the job and came back to my hometown so that I could fully focus on my preparation. Now, this Agnipath decision of the government has burnt down all my dreams. Swaha!

Many students are protesting on the streets and venting out their frustration, but a majority of the aspirants are still in total shock. Our brains are numb. We don’t know what to do, how to react.

I think this is the worst decision of the Modi government and they will have to roll it back. The model of other countries can’t be copied and pasted in India. This policy might have serious repercussions in future. I read some posts on social media that raise concerns about the military-trained youth and unemployment will be a lethal combination. Such a posse of men will be susceptible to and can be recruited by criminal gangs for unlawful activities. Those concerns are right. In search of gainful employment, some youths can take the wrong path.

As told to Md Tausif Alam

‘Armed Forces in 21st Century Must Be Lean And Mean’

Abhimanyu Rai, a retired Subedar Major from Military Engineering Services, says it is too early to comment on Agnipath scheme as much will depend on its implementation. His views:

The Centre’s decision to shorten the service period of foot soldiers under Agnipath scheme has caused largescale protests in the country. However, as I see it this is a long-due reform to cut the flab in defence services, decrease recurring costs and build a lean and mean force. This is 21st century. Our Armed Forces need some course correction to meet the challenges of new-age warfare.

Right now, it is too early to comment on the scheme as its success will depend on how our top bureaucrats and political leaders bring it into force. They must look beyond short-term gains of this recruitment scheme. Being an ex-army man, allow me to examine the scheme dispassionately.

The primary motive of the scheme is to reduce the burgeoning pension bill of the Armed Forces. I recently read an article that stated that 58% of the military expenditure is towards pension and related costs.

Reducing the period of training (six months) and the entitled leaves (nine months, provided one is entitled to it), they will be an effective service period of about a three-year tour of duty, discharge employment needs to be effectively taken care of.

Singh (inset) feels Agnipath entails a far-reaching reform in Indian Armed Forces

The battle or ‘attributed to military service’ casualties will be treated on par with regular soldiers. This is appreciable and in addition, a fixed percentage from such intake will be absorbed as regular soldiers on merit is also welcomed.

ALSO READ: ‘There Will Be No Rollback Of Agnipath Scheme’

Additional advantages cited in the scheme are: reducing the age profile of the Armed Forces, strengthening the society with military connect, improving career prospects of regular soldiers, instilling military character qualities and nationalism among the youth.

The scheme is certainly a far-reaching reform and short-term engagement for officers/soldiers is a time-tested method of managing manpower and reducing the pension budget of the defence services and the Indian military is no stranger to it.

It will give strength to the armed forces by creating a strong pool of skilled youth, who can, in the future, easily work in private security forces and other allied professions. This will help our youth to become disciplined which will, in turn, also effectively benefit the country.

However, what I can make out from what is available in the public domain, it, no doubt, has a number of conceptual flaws — be it the motivation of the youth for enrolment, service tenure, training period, operational/organizational needs of the forces and post-discharge benefits — for it to be a viable option.

However, the strength of the armed forces will not be reduced because the recruitment of 50,000 soldiers is going to continue every year to replace 60,000 retiring soldiers. The scheme, thus, comes with the advantage that this will make the country’s army young and it is also being propagated that the Indian Armed Forces will become more `jawan’ on average.

As told to Rajat Rai

AFSPA Needs Constant Reviews, Not Knee-Jerk Repeal

The recent case of December 5, 2021 where the security forces in Mon, Nagaland killed 13 innocent civilians in an ambush and subsequent unrest and resulting in death of a soldier, has renewed the demand for repeal of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act -1958 or AFSPA. As per the presumably draconian act, Security Forces (including the para military forces of Assam Rifles and Rashtriya Rifles) and Central Police Organisations (CPOs) including BSF and CRPF, are given sweeping powers to search and seizure in civilian inhabited areas and arrest suspects without warrant for a limited period. Armed Forces can also open effective fire on terrorists or militants under this act.

AFSPA can only be applied by the Union Government where law and order has broken down and a defined area, district or the entire state has been declared disturbed, under the Disturbed Area Act, by the State Government. While the AFSPA gives special powers to the security forces and CPOs, the principle of minimum force and restraint is always exercised by commanders and troops at all levels. ‘One off’ actions like the incident at Mon happen due to the lack of judgment, scanty knowledge of the ground, and inept training at the junior level, and the actions by erring members of security forces never go unpunished.

Most of the areas where the Disturbed Area Act has been applied, fall in border areas wherein trans-border or trans-Line of Control (LoC) movement takes place with connivance of security forces of Pakistan, China and Myanmar. Immunity for acts of murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, looting or drug trafficking is not given under this Act to any security forces under the AFSPA; as is widely misunderstood by a section of the society. Because the security forces in these border areas have to intercept armed infiltrating and exfiltrating groups in real time, immunity to take action against such groups is covered under AFSPA.

In practice, invariably, the security forces are accompanied by local civil police who are handed over the captured terrorists, militants, suspects, weapons, ammunition and dead bodies after the encounters. Utmost care is taken to use minimum force against such terrorist or militant in order to avoid collateral damage. However, if some unfortunate collateral damage takes place in conduct of bona fide duty, then the security forces who had operated in good faith are immune from being apprehended by the civil police and tried by civil court. However, the actions of troops are scrutinised under the Army Act and departmental disciplinary action is taken against defaulting service persons without delay; in pursuit of justice for the innocents, as per the law of the land.

The AFSPA is required to defeat the machinations of the adversaries who sponsor proxy war on our borders in a bid to destabilise the Indian state. AFSPA has also been applied in counter insurgency operations in hinterland in our Northern and North Eastern States of J&K (now Union Territory), Punjab, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. Without the legal shield provided by AFSPA, the security forces would be hesitant to take offensive actions against the armed insurgents and those groups may continue to operate with impunity.

ALSO READ: Indian Army Is People’s Fauj, Not Modi’s

However, utmost care has to be taken to ensure fire is not opened on innocent civilians and warning and restraint need to be exercised. Normally, the security forces only open fire in self defence when the terrorists open fire on to them from the opposite direction or from a flank. This restraining action also ensures that innocent civilians are not targeted. The life of an active terrorist or militant is not more than an year after he starts indulging in violent actions against the population, civil police or security forces. Therefore, if the information about the movement of terrorists is not confirmed, they are given the benefit of the doubt with the hope that they will fall in the hands of the security forces if they continued perpetuating violence in the society.

An issue related to continuity of AFSPA in some border states is the state and quality of the civil police in that state. Due to coercion or sympathy for the terrorist groups, who may be seen as freedom fighters by a section of the local population, a portion of the civil police invariably gets compromised and may not be acting in the interest of the Indian State. There is a dire need for police reforms in the country wherein politicians are stripped from the powers of employing the civil police as per their whims and fancy resulting in employment of overwhelming strength of the police force only on protection of the VVIPs leaving a small portion of the force to do the extended police duties for the common man.

Whereas the need to have AFSPA is paramount for security forces operating in difficult terrain against armed groups in border areas, its continuation in hinterland in less disturbed areas needs to be constantly reviewed and the act should be lifted wherever semblance of normalcy start showing up. The Act was lifted from Punjab after about ten years of its imposition once the state dramatically returned to normalcy in 1995. Similarly, in the North East, the law has been lifted from Tripura and Meghalaya but continues to be applied in Nagaland from 1958 onwards. There is a case for identifying less threatened areas of Nagaland and Manipur and lift the Disturbed Area Act and AFSPA from those areas. The state governments and security forces need to be dynamically reviewing the situation every three to six months to decide if a particular area needs to be removed from the listed Disturbed area so that AFSPA is no more applicable in that area.

(Lt Gen Ike Singha was on the Kashmir desk in Military Operations Directorate from 1993 to 1997)

Gen Bipin Rawat – First Among Equals

The tragedy that occurred due to the air crash on 08 December in Nilgiri Hills in vicinity of Wellington, Tamil Nadu, resulting in death of 13 out of the 14 passengers including India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and his wife Mrs Madhulika Bipin, left everyone including uniformed men, the government and citizens numbed. General Bipin Rawat, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, a man of destiny, came from a traditional military background. His father, Lt Gen Laxman Singh Rawat got commissioned into 5/11 GR, commanded the battalion and as a Lt Gen commanded the Maharashtra & Gujarat Area in Mumbai. The son following his father’s footsteps, not only did all that but surpassed his father’s achievements, became the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) and the first CDS!

Little did I know on joining the Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMO) as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1993, that the young unassuming Major sitting opposite me would reach such amazing heights in his military career! I found Major Bipin Rawat totally grounded, quick on the uptake and possessing an analytical mind. He was meticulous in handling classified documents and would pull out the required file in a very systematic and organised manner inspite of all the ongoing chaos and confusion in our Section MO 3, during crisis management.

While Major Bipin Rawat looked after the conventional operations in Jammu &Kashmir, I was on counter insurgency desk and invariably both of us had to put our heads together and integrate our papers made for the DGMO to brief the COAS or the Raksha Mantri. Thus, we acted as a team and spent many a late nights together in the office if some important missions were going on. He always retained his positivity and demeanour and his levels of dedication and stamina to work under pressure were worth emulating. After long and grilling hours, once an operation was over, we made it a point to share a drink at his place or mine. We were both staying in NOIDA and were fortunate to have pick and drop facilities to the office at odd hours.

Over the years, in his outstanding career, Gen Bipin Rawat acquired a lot of operational experience and strategic vision which helped him in holding higher appointments very naturally and effectively. He got decorations after all his command tenures. As a Corps commander in the North East, he ordered a trans-border counter insurgency operation to annihilate terrorists belonging to NSCN-K group thereby setting a precedence for surgical strikes launched after Uri and Pulwama incidents and taking the battle into the adversaries land. As the first CDS of India, he set up mechanisms wherein his office was a bridge between the defence forces and the civilian government, thus giving a take off point to his successors who can further refine the procedures.

As we kept meeting at various levels, I was very happy to see that he was still brutally frank and as blunt and clear headed as he was in his younger days. Inspite of the higher and prestigious appointment that he held, underneath he remained grounded and accessible. Even as the COAS and CDS, he spoke his mind, calling a spade a spade, which sometimes did not go well with the public or powers that be. Since he meant well and spoke in the national interest, he could easily get away with it!

When we met at a wedding reception in Chandigarh sometime back, I could see the passion in him to bring in meaningful reforms and changes in the services to meet the challenges of modern day war fighting. He very swiftly took me through his plans to achieve time bound results and was aiming at making the defence forces “a lean and mean fighting machine”. Theatrisation of the defence forces by creating threat based Theatre Commands opposite our adversaries for Northern Theatre and Western Theatre was one of Gen Bipin Rawat’s pet project to achieve optimisation of all resources available in the theatre belonging to the three services.

In addition to the two geographical Theatres, Air Defence Theatre and Maritime Theatre have also been planned to be raised. This project remains work in progress. Whereas, Gen Bipin Rawat was well aware of the efforts of turf guarding by individual services, he was able to reason out the necessity of going in for these theatre commands to have better integration, synergy, optimisation and inter-operability during operations. He confided in me that he had political establishment, complete backing in what he was doing. Our northern adversary China has already raised the Theatre Commands and considering the posturing on our northern borders, it is essential that we also coordinate comprehensive national power in protection of our borders.

One is tempted to compare the journey of General Bipin Rawat with that of General Douglas Mac Arthur of the US Army. General Mac Arthur also inculcated the ethos and elan of the forces from his father who was also a General. Both were out spoken and had the convincing power to alter the opinion of their audience. Both the Generals had a personal connect with the rank and file as well as officer cadre. In different ways, both were charismatic and could influence people around them. Both were also coming into some controversies time and again, but like true fighters, stuck to their guns and had courage of conviction. Gen Mac Arthur and Gen Bipin were great orators and could articulate extremely well keeping their operational plans simple, workable and understandable by the commanders who had to get them executed. They were battle hardened and bold leaders who led from the front with personal example. They could easily read the minds and psyche of the adversaries and outperform them.

General Bipin with his great strategic vision has left a spring board for his successors to operate from. It will be an uphill task for his successor to foot the bill and move smoothly into his shoes. Above all, Gen Bipin Rawat has been the longest serving uniformed man in the history of Indian Defence Forces and died in harness by being at the pinnacle of his career!

(Lt Gen Ike Singha and Gen Bipin Rawat served together in Military Operations Director in 1993-94)

Does AFSPA Know A Mother’s Heart?

Deep sadness stalks the pristine landscape. The simmering shadow of angst and anger lingers like a specter of death across the villages and towns of Nagaland with its simple, hardworking people in the distant North-east of India. The legendary Hornbill Festival, with its pulsating rhythms, collective joy and beautiful oral and folk traditions, will not happen this year. The people of Nagaland are in mourning.

As many as 13 innocent citizens were killed by the security forces in the Oting-Tiru area on December 4, and in Mon one day later, in indiscriminate firing by the Army. One jawan was also killed in the clash which followed with people protesting the Army ambush.

You should see the silent suffering of the parents, including the mother and father of the twin brothers, among the six coal miners, shot dead in cold blood, for no rhyme or reason. The mother and father sit hunched outside their homes, stupefied, their stoic faces telling yet another story of the predictable pattern repeated yet again in the Northeast, reminiscent of similar massacres and killings in the past.

The six coal miners were returning on a pick-up truck, on Saturday, perhaps singing, happy to go back home and be among their people on the weekend, looking forward to go to Sunday church next morning. Instead, their coffins were neatly lined up for burial, from earth to earth, life to death — and so meaningless, brutish, short and nasty.

Video images have reportedly emerged of the Army trying to allegedly shift the ‘hidden’ bodies in another truck covered with tarpaulin, after wrapping them up in plastic. If these reports are authentic, and which sources in the Nagaland Police are claiming so, then why should the Army be indulging in this terrible camouflage?

The Indian Express (December 6, 2021) has reported from Dibrugarh: “Direct marise… they shot right at us,” said Sheiwang, 23. He is among the only two survivors of the eight coal miners in Oting village. Six of his friends were killed. He has been shot on his elbow and chest and he is battling for life at the Assam Medical College and Hospital (AMCH) in Dibrugarh. Along with Yeihwang, 30, another survivor, now in a critical state, was shot near his ear. According to the report: “Union Home Minister Amit Shah in a statement in Rajya Sabha on Monday said the vehicle ‘was signaled to stop’ and was fired upon after it ‘tried to flee’. However, Sheiwang says: “We were not signaled to stop. They killed us directly. We were not trying to flee…we were just in the vehicle.”

The entire Naga society, civil society groups, the Naga Students’ Federation, political parties, the state government, have demanded that the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act-1958 (AFSPA), first enacted by the British, should go. This has been a universal demand across the country since long, but most regimes have refused to scrap AFSPA, except the Left-led government of Tripura, with Manik Sarkar at the helm. Under the Act, the Army can shoot and arrest, and they have total impunity.

ALSO READ: Exhuming Extra-Judicial Deaths In Punjab

Over the decades, cold-blooded massacres and killings have become a method in the madness in the Northeast, but justice has eluded the people, despite huge public protests. The blood of innocents has been relentlessly spilled — what happened in Nagaland is nothing but a chronicle of a tale foretold.

Manipur, in the neighbourhod, has had its own litany of tragedy and injustice. Indeed, the lines of control of the so-called ‘disturbed areas’ where AFSPA has been enacted, are etched as lines of infinite sorrow in the hearts and soul of the people.

Extra-judicial killings had become rampant in Manipur earlier. The Mint, (August 1, 2018), reported: “A two-judge bench of the apex court on 27 July pulled up CBI for delays in investigating extrajudicial killings in Manipur and in filing of charges. On 30 July, Justice MB Lokur and Justice UU Lalit hammered home the point when they summoned CBI director Alok Verma… There is reason for the court’s impatience. The hearings are on account of a PIL by the Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association, Manipur, and the Imphal-based Human Rights Alert (HRA), a watchdog. The PIL alleged 1,528 extrajudicial killings between 1980 and 2011. The allegations were against the Indian Army, its adjunct Assam Rifles, several central paramilitary forces, and the Manipur Police. While police are not protected by the immunity-and-impunity provisions of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, they piggy-backed on the practice of security forces to conduct their own campaigns of… intimidation…” In July 2017, a Supreme Court bench also brushed aside the adequacy of claims by the government that compensation had been paid to families of the victims. The court underscored its own observation from 2015: “Now it’s like you kill 10 people, pay compensation and the matter ends there…”

In the picturesque mountain village of Malom in Manipur, amidst undulating meadows of the magical Imphal valley, across the rice fields and pristine ponds, a silent memorial tells its own sad story, with the names of the dead, young and old, all innocent, etched forever as a testimony of Army atrocities. Infamously remembered as the ‘Malom Massacre’, 10 locals, including a national bravery award winner, were shot dead by the 17 Assam Rifles on November 2, 2000 here. This massacre triggered the 16-year long Gandhian fast and satyagraha of Irom Sharmila, with iron in her soul, a nasal pipe for forcible liquid transmission in her nose, condemned as a prisoner for years.

As her fast in custody, drawing global attention, entered its 15th year, this reporter met her on November 5, 2015 in Imphal. In her one-room ‘cell’, with solidarity messages and newspaper clippings on the wall, including a letter by Nelson Mandela, surrounded by books, including one by Gabriel Garcia Marquez,  she had said, “How can nations call themselves advanced or civilised if they practice, sanction and legitimise organized barbarism in the name of law and order? Why can’t they repeal AFSPA if they know so well that it is completely inhuman, anti-democratic, brutal, and irrational; that, it has led to mass insecurity, relentless tragedies, angst and injustice in Manipur and Kashmir; that it has led to the armed forces going berserk without accountability and with absolute impunity? I am fighting for reason and humanity. My struggle is peaceful. Why should the armed forces be allowed to kill and torture and get away? Why are we treated differently from the rest of India?”

Indeed, while her protest continued, so did the peaceful vigil with candles of the ‘Mothers of Manipur’, night and day, even as the entire civil society, sat on fasts in solidarity with Sharmila. The mothers have been a rock in the protracted struggle against AFSPA. And it is they who shook the national conscience yet again, and with such amazing power and raw force, on July 15, 2004, outside the Kangla Fort in Imphal, then the Assam Rifle headquarters.

On that historic day, 12 of the mothers stripped themselves totally naked outside the Fort with banners saying: ‘Indian Army Rape Us’ and ‘Indian Army Take Our Flesh’. They were protesting the murder of of Manorama Thangjam, 32, who was picked up by the men of Assam Rifles four days earlier, and then, assaulted and killed most brutally.

Manorama’s bullet-riddled body was later discovered near a paddy field. There were gun shots on her private parts and thighs — clearly, with an intent to camouflage the sexual assault. This was the height of injustice and impunity, and this was simply unacceptable anymore. That is why, the mothers stripped themselves naked outside the Assam Rifles headquarters.

This reporter visited the poor home of Manorama surrounded by dense foliage outside East Imphal in November, 2015. Her mother was still heart-broken, remembering how she was picked up by the soldiers with such brute force, and for no reason whatsoever. That nightmare, as a dark and cruel memory of a night of terror, continues to haunt the Manipuri mothers till this day.

And, yet, AFSPA remains. And so does the nightmare.