INDIA: Home minister runs weapons, money, and hooch
February 18, 2013
INDIA: Democracy a charade when the home minister runs weapons, money, and hooch
Mr. Imkong Imchen, the Home Minister of Nagaland, a state in the north-eastern region of India will have tough time explaining why he was traveling with weapons, ammunition, alcohol and money estimated to be more than Rupees 10 million, from his constituency Koridang to the state capital Kohima. The Assam Rifles, a paramilitary unit of the Indian armed forces arrested Imchen today when they were carrying out a regular vehicle check.
Imchen, representing the ruling political party, Nagaland People's Front (NPF), is contesting elections from Koridang. On 16 February, observers appointed by the Election Commission of India had recovered a similar sum from a helicopter used by yet another NPF candidate.
Imchen, by comparison to an average person residing in Nagaland is rich. The statutory declaration Imchen has filed with the Election Commission reveals that he has Rupees one million in cash, owns a Mitsubishi Lancer car bearing registration number NL-01-CL-5744 and two sets of property, one a 10 acre plot of agricultural land valued Rupees 6.5 million and the other a 2016 sq.ft building worth Rupees 860,000 that is in his wife's name. None of this would reasonably explain the amount of money recovered from Imchen and help him explain the possession of weapons and hooch.
Imchen could be written off as a representative of the politics and politicians laced with corruption and crime, the definite character of Indian politics. However, when it concerns Nagaland, a state in India's northeast, where the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) is enforced, the issue is not that simple. Neither would it help, given the fact that Imchen is the home minister of Nagaland, an office that could request the Government of India and the country's parliament to declare the state or a region within the state as "disturbed" so that this draconian law could be enforced in the state.
Notification number 1214 issued by the union home ministry, on 29 June 2012 has declared the "central government is of the opinion, that the area comprised within the limit of the whole state of Nagaland is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary." "Now therefore in exercise of the powers conferred under section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 the central government hereby declares that the whole of the said state to be a 'disturbed area' for a period of one year, with effect from the 30th June, 2012 for the purpose of that Act." Interestingly, a similar notification number 1234 issued in 2011, declaring the state as 'disturbed' read the same. What else could one expect when the home minister of the state, is running weapons, money and hooch to undermine the democratic process in Nagaland?
AFSPA, and its draconian nature is criticised by everyone who have studied this law, including government appointed committees. Equally important is the preparatory process before this law is enforced in a place.
AFSPA gives statutory powers to the central government as well as to the state government to declare an entire state or a region as 'disturbed' and enforce the AFSPA in that region. Often the practice suggests that the 'declaration' as well as the enforcement of the law is thrust upon a state. The chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, on more than one occasion, has questioned this process, for reasons better known to his government. However, in the northeast, no chief minister has so far questioned the union government whenever the central government notifies the declaration.
A cursory glance of the profiles of ministers, in the north-eastern states strongly suggest that in fact the politicians in these states benefit from the imposition of AFSPA upon their jurisdictions. For instance the chief minister of Manipur, is known to be one of the most corrupt politicians in the entire northeast of India. His government is directly responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses reported from the region. That the state government of Manipur is in cahoots with the political party holding fort in New Delhi is one reason why New Delhi tolerates such gross human rights abuses. Additionally, New Delhi has always defended its armed forces whenever the armed forces faced allegations of human rights abuses.
Indeed many governments across the world do so. However, governments that are serious in curbing extremism and separatism within its jurisdictions also ensure a certain degree of accountability within the rank and file of its armed forces. In India, it is not the case. Additionally corruption in high offices prevents transparency at all levels.
Just as it is in the case of Manipur, politicians in Nagaland also have benefited from AFSPA being enforced in that state. When the state is declared as 'disturbed area', it allows the state's government to demand from the central government, resources to deal with secessionist or otherwise armed and rebellious forces operating in the state. Most of these resources are spent without adequate audit. The state's home minister often has the final say as to how and where this money is to be spent.
Politicians also create 'events' to underline the need of declaring the state or a region within the state as disturbed. For this, in addition to their own armed private militia, politicians strike deals with terror organisations, and the Imchen is no exception to this practice. It is part of this money they distribute to selected sources at the time of elections to 'create' congenial environments within which they could manipulate elections.
In short, the imposition of AFSPA in Nagaland or Manipur is also the requirement of corrupt politicians like Imchen and Ibobi. When Imchen and Ibobi heads political parties in states like Nagaland and Manipur, peace has no chance to prevail. What that survives is violence, corruption and all that, illegal money, hooch and weapons can bring about in a society.
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.
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