New Delhi, June 4 (IANS) Even as at least 20 soldiers of the Indian Army’s Dogra Regiment were killed by militants near Imphal in Manipur on Thursday, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju has said that the government will not enter into peace talks with any emerging militant outfits in the northeastern states.
Rijiju said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government had decided to take a “tough line” against the militants, adding that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) will stay in the northeastern states, other than in Tripura, where the law was repealed on May 27 by the state government after being in force for 18 years.
“The current situation in Tripura cannot be compared to other states of the northeast region. We are aware of every minor and major development happening in the north-east states,” Rijiju told IANS in an exclusive interview at his North Block office. AFSPA gives sweeping powers and judicial immunity to security forces in conflict areas.
Violence erupted recently in Nagaland when Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagalim (Kaphlang), a militant group, broke the 15-year ceasefire with the Indian government and killed eight troopers of the Assam Rifles on March 3 in Mon district. On Thursday morning, suspected militants of Manipur-based United National Liberation Front (UNLF) killed 20 soldiers on patrol in the Chandel district.
Denying any renewal of the ceasefire with NSCN-K, the 43-year-old BJP leader from Arunachal Pradesh, who is considered to be the face of the northeast region, said: “The central government was trying its best to coordinate with the state governments in the region to act against the militant groups in the borer areas.”
However, he said, it was not possible to take up the issues with nations like Myanmar and Bangladesh as they themselves “do not have proper control in their territories, where the militant groups have set up their base camps.”
According to the government, militant groups such as NSCN-K, United Liberation Font of Assam (ULFA-Independent) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and several others have set up their camps in the bordering areas of Myanmar, Bangaladesh and China with whom the Indian government had negotiated several times.
Relations between the militant groups and the neighbouring nations have flourished in the recent years with NSCN-K signing a pact with the Myanmar government that paved the way for autonomy to the NSCN-K in Sagaing — a northwestern administrative region of Myanmar.
The agreement also provided NSCN-K members the freedom to move ‘unarmed’ across the country and allowed them to open a sub-office in Hkamti district of the region.
Rijiju said that as the conflict in the north-eastern region is completely different from other parts of the country and the ruling NDA government has “special plans” to tackle the situation there.
Asked about the status of the ongoing peace process between the government and the militant groups, he said that solving the conflict in the north-east states was a top priority for the Home Ministry and the peace negotiations will reach a conclusion soon. However, he refused to comment on the exact status of the peace process.
Talking on AFSPA in the north-eastern states, Rijiju said that the government was monitoring the ground situation in Tripura since they came to power last year and was satisfied by the improvement of the security situation in the state.
However, Rijiju also said that AFSPA could be re-enforced in Tripura if the situation worsens. He added that the fate of AFSPA in other north-eastern states will be decided depending on the ground situation.
When asked about the constant criticism of the BJP government’s on slow progress on various issues in the country, Rijiju said development required time and things could not become visible immediately. “If our government fails to deliver on promises by the end of our tenure, then we can be blamed, but not now,” he said.
Rijiju was recently in news for his beef related statements where he purported to have said: “I eat beef, I’m from Arunachal Pradesh, can somebody stop me?”
However, he later denied having said that. On being asked about his comments, the minister said that “he was misquoted and that the media should not make it a big issue of it.” .