New Delhi, Dec 7: The killing of six innocent persons of Nagaland by the security forces last Saturday raises the issue of intelligence failure in the sensitive state. The Government spends huge amount on civil and military intelligence, specially in the north-eastern region, in order to avoid cases of mistaken identity. If the defence personnel had correct information about the movement of the six daily laborers, the tragedy could have been averted.
This suggests that the intelligence personnel do their job perfunctorily. The vehicle carrying the six hapless men may have tried to speed away at the sight of the security personnel, but that does not give liberty to shoot. The SIT formed to go into the incident is expected to give its findings encompassing all aspects, including the obvious intelligence failure.
The incident also raises the larger issue of continuation of the Armed Forces Special Power Act not just in Nagaland but in all other sensitive areas. That the Act is in operation since the late 50s suggests that no government found it expedient to remove. There is no doubt that the act may be necessary to deal with insurgency situations like in Nagaland or militancy in Jammu and Kashmir. But unbridled power to security forces is not in the interest of the country.
The Nagaland incident has upset the whole exercise of reaching an agreement with insurgent groups. A framework agreement was signed in 2015 giving hope of an amicable settlement between the Centre and the rebel Naga groups. The powerful NSCN (I-M) group was almost on board. Other insurgent groups were also coming round to accepting the arrangement. The killings have brought the situation back to square one. No group is in a situation to save the deal. It is the responsibility of the Centre now to act wisely and arrest the situation from deteriorating further. The SIT must come out with its report soonest and justice must be seen to have been done. This alone can salvage the deal.
In the immediate context, the Centre may consider tweaking the AFSPA to the satisfaction of the NSCN (I-M) group. Indeed, all insurgent groups have been demanding its repeal for a long time. Moving towards a Naga accord was among the first major step of Prime Minister Modi after he assumed office in 2014. There was much hope and expectation after the framework agreement was signed.
The BJP led by Modi has been marching ahead in the north-eastern region. The PM may do well to intervene to help salvage the Naga deal by assuaging the people of Nagaland on the unfortunate incident. Home Minister Amit Shah’s Parliament statement expressing regret over the matter is no more than a routine gesture. This alone would not suffice. The Nagas have , despite decades of insurgency , not allowed the situation to go out of hand for the Centre. All Governments at the Centre have poured money on J and K in an effort to win over its people. Naga groups have often asked why they did not get similar treatment. They need to be heard.