The Centre has sought a detailed report from the CRPF headquarters in Delhi, in the wake of a CRPF IGP blowing the whistle over an alleged staged encounter in Chirang district recently. The Assam government has promised appropriate action after reports of a magisterial inquiry and a probe by the State Police come in. The incident on March 30 last occurred at Simlaguri in Chirang district in the course of a joint operation conducted by the Army, CRPF, SSB and Assam Police. After receiving intelligence inputs about 4-5 NDFB(S) cadres hiding in the area, the combined team staked out position, but reportedly came under fire and retaliated. In the ensuing firefight, two militants were killed; an INSAS carbine, a revolver, a Chinese hand grede and live ammunition were recovered from their possession. However, after going through the encounter team’s report, CRPF IGP (North East Sector) Rajnish Rai conducted inquiries on his own and filed a departmental report, alleging that the two suspected ultras were already in custody, but were taken to the ‘encounter’ site, gunned down in cold blood and the weapons were later planted on their bodies. Calling for a full-fledged, independent investigation, Rajnish Rai, presently posted in Shillong, has reportedly cited GPS records and eyewitness accounts about the two youths picked up from a house in D-Kalling village, and shot dead a few hours later after a CoBRA team staked out the site near Simaluguri village — so that the security forces could present it ‘as some brave act of professiol achievement’. In his strongly worded report, Rai has noted: “Had this unlawful act been committed by a group of a few deviant officers, I would not have been so concerned. However, since multiple security agencies were involved in this incident, it indicates a deeper institutiol malady in the functioning of the country’s most prestigious security forces. It represents a dangerous deterioration and degradation of institutiol processes.” He has further observed that it is immaterial what background detained individuals are from, so long as they are subjected to ‘due process of law’. In similar vein, he has called for striking a balance between individual human rights and societal interests while combating insurgency, as ‘failure to do so is a cure worse than the disease’.
In this context, a media report has quoted a member of Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights as saying that in a 4-year period between April 2009 and April 2013, Manipur and Assam accounted for nearly 21 percent of 555 fake encounter cases across the country. The Congress meanwhile has taken this opportunity to hit out at the BJP-led government in the State, saying that this is not the ‘parivartan’ or change that the people had voted for. However, as hard facts reveal, it is immaterial which political dispensation is holding the reins at Dispur, since the Unified Command Structure follows its own rules to battle insurgency. Assam in its entirety, like Manipur, remains a ‘disturbed area’ in the Centre’s view; so the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) continues to remain in force in these two states, along with Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts in Aruchal and some areas in Meghalaya bordering Assam. Rajnish Rai’s report recommending ‘urgent systemic reforms’ to prevent wrongdoings by security forces should therefore be taken with utmost seriousness by the powers-be in New Delhi and Dispur. India faced major embarrassment recently during a review of human rights records at the United tions Human Rights Council, when it was asked to revise the AFSPA to bring it into compliance with obligations under the Intertiol Covent on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Last month, the Supreme Court upheld its July 8, 2016 order for mandatory registration of FIR against armed forces personnel for every encounter death, even in areas notified as disturbed under AFSPA — while dismissing the Centre’s curative petition that the order could ‘jeopardise efforts to maintain peace and security’. While rights groups continue to campaign against AFSPA, it has been pointed out by even some AFSPA supporters that while the security forces cannot fight insurgents ‘with arms tied’, there is indeed scope to tweak this law to prevent wanton abuses by rogue personnel. As the Chirang encounter controversy underlines yet again, the Central and State governments simply cannot allow such elements to hijack an entity like the Unified Command Structure, just because they feel the need of some gallantry medals to shore up their records. It is, after all, political failure over decades that has kept the country’s armed forces tied down in dousing the fires of militancy.