|Major Events Vol. 2 Issue No. 12||October 1 - 15, 2005|
Pranab in North-East
Defence Minister promises more recruitment opportunities for the youths of the North-East region in the Army, including women.
MORE recruitment opportunities for the youths of the North-East region in the Army, including women, establishing three battalions of Indian Territorial Army and a message of tolerance, were the highlights of Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s first visit to the region since assuming charge. The Minister visited Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal. He was accompanied by Army chief J. J. Singh and other top defence personnel.
From the utterances of the Defence Minister it is clear that he wanted to project the Army as a more tolerant, less reactionary force. This was evident when the Army chief revealed that there would be no retaliatory hunts for the militants, who killed 11 Army men in Manipur. On his part, the Defence Minister said that “Our job is to help the State Government, not substitute it.” The Union Minister informed that the Manipur Government was consulted before the Army signed agreements with several militant organisations to suspend operations against them. “Of course, the State Government was taken into confidence. If the State Government can manage the situation, there was no need to deploy the armed forces,” he stressed.
The Minister blamed the civil authorities for not wrapping up the probe into the alleged rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama Devi. He said the Army had offered to conduct DNA tests for all the men involved in the operation to arrest Manorama Devi. But the civilian authorities were unable to collect crucial evidence for testing. “As a result the investigations have not been completed,” the Defence Minister claimed. Taking a vow to protect the territorial integrity of the country in front of the troops who guard the border with China and other countries, he said the Government was moving forward to normalise ties with both Pakistan and China but “wanted to make to clear that no country would be allowed to covet even an inch of Indian territory.”
The Defence Minister mentioned that his visit to the North-East was aimed at boosting the morale of the Army personnel posted in the border areas. The Defence Minister lauded the troops in defending the country and carrying out counter-insurgency operations. ‘’The people had been undergoing hardships due to militancy problem, but due to the hard works rendered by the Army personnel people could sleep properly now’’, the Defence Minister said. The Defence Minister has also ruled out the possibility of holding plebiscite in Manipur on the issue of “sovereignty.’’ Mr. Mukherjee said no plebiscite was necessary on the issue of “sovereignty.’’ Earlier, United National Liberation Front (UNLF) Chairman R K Sanayaima had proposed holding of plebiscite by stationing UN Peacekeeping troops in the State to settle the problem once and for all.
Mr. Mukherjee said the Centre had extended ceasefire with about eight militant groups. Referring to the talks with the NSCN(I M), he said discussions were going on well and decades old problem could not be solved easily. The Defence Minister further said the Naga problem was a complex one and a simplistic solution could not be proposed within a short period.
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