Human Rights and National Security: A Neo-Nagaland Police!

Mmhonlümo Kikon 

There has been various debates about National Security vis-à-vis Human Rights in recent times across not only India but, rather disturbingly, across the western countries. Before the Indian National Congress came to power, there was a big debate in the Mukherjee hall at St. Stephen’s College over the same topic. The debaters were Jairam Ramesh, (presently a Minister in the UPA Government), and Shashi Tharoor, Author and currently the Under Secretary to Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General. These debates were mostly initiated by the Government Departments or by Universities irrespective of whichever Country it was discussed. Why did this particular theme become a phenomenal issue? Before Osama Bin Laden’s jihadis plane-bombed the U S of A, draconian laws were uncomfortably discussed and vilified by scores of human rights activists and humanists. In India the debates in Delhi happened immediately after the rubbles of the Twin Towers were replaced by twin light beams. Interestingly, the issue of whether to scrap POTA or not was the primary political focus at that moment and the Congress, being in opposition, lost no time in flaming the fires of dissent in all the platforms they could avail. The more vocal dissenters were the left parties in India and the Vaiko inspired protests in Tamil Nadu, which eventually allowed the DMK led Alliance to sweep the Lok Sabha Polls in Tamil Nadu. It does not require a trained mind to observe the political link of this theme in the light of the above. In the end POTA was scrapped and the newly formed UPA Government took a strong anti-terrorist stance by proposing to strengthen the CrPc and the police in tackling “terrorists’ operating in India. While the debates raged on about whether National security should be above human rights, the policy makers and the so called think tanks strongly favored a strong police force, strong not only in arms but also by law. The word impunity did not feature in the assessment of giving immunity to the police and of course the Army, while operating in disturbed areas. 

The interest in this issue has been varied and depending on expediency of some political situations, as was seen in the case of the Congress, the decibel level has been accordingly maintained. And while the world was turbulently flowing through the various intricacies of this issue, Nagaland Police also organised a similar debate among its officers early this year, in keeping with the trends of the world. Why oh why should we write about such an uneventful and seemingly inconsequential process in this present state of Nagaland? It can only be explained by tracing back the history of draconian laws since 1958(let us ignore the British Acts for now) and relating it to the current Peace Process. The birth and development of the Armed Forces Special Powers in the Naga Areas and in other conflict areas in India led to the gradual reduction of civil space in those areas. The provisions within the act are sufficient enough to frustrate the most ardent evangelist of the sanctity of the “biggest democracy” known as India. Alongwith the AFSPA there emerged a new policing concept called the unified command where the Army and the paramilitary forces join hands with the local deputies to practically continue with the AFSPA. Of course this means less space for the ever diminishing civil society. We already have a unique history of sorts with draconian acts and the dutiful police force. Therefore it is completely logical that besides the semantics involved in such debates and also the financial support from the centre, it can be the beginning of a self-motivation that has the potential to become the dominant discourse and therefore the general truth when it comes to dealing with all sorts of offenders and suspected detainees. 

At the international level the recently created Counter-Terrorism Committee of the Security Council has been the cynosure of all Human Rights bodies due to its lack of the human rights component. The UN has created, through a resolution, a Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. In the recent Human Rights Monitor published by the International Service for Human Rights, there was strong emphasis on the impact that “laws and measures to combat terrorism” can have on the respect for detainees’ integrity and the right to be tried before an independent and impartial justice system. According to the report, “upholding human rights in the fight against terrorism remains a fundamental human rights issue, with civil society continuing to document and publicize severe human rights abuses committed within the context of the “War against Terror”. Further, UN special procedures and the human rights treaty-monitoring bodies have continued to observe and record violations of human rights committed in the context of State counter-terrorism measures.” In the vortex of all these international phenomenon we are also getting drawn into concepts which did not exist in the Naga customary laws. There was a restorative will in the delivery and interpretation of justice unlike the ones we are witnessing today. In our pride as a warrior people we are losing sight of the fact that the pride lies in the protection of our rights and respect for other peoples’ rights; not in the blind assertion of might or aggression. This was seen recently in the deployment of the IRB from Nagaland to Chattisgarh. How unfortunate is it for Nagas that when the struggle for the right to self-determination took us through various painful experiences and is still teaching us a lot, we are participating in the same methods and tactics of the oppressing agencies. There are ways to tackle political problems and the Government of the day has rightly pointed out that it is through dialogues and not through military might. How then can we who profess to support the Indo-Naga Peace Process behave so self-contradictorily? We cannot become outsourcing agencies for other war mongers. 

The trend which prevails must also be challenged in the pulpits of the church because it is a fact that almost every Naga attends the Sunday service or mass. Are we as Christians to become war machines for the sake of money? These are questions which must be debated vigorously and if time and financial support are given to the Nagaland Police, why not go for an interactive debate with others outside the police force on such issues. Another interesting thing to note here is that human rights and civil society organs are becoming too bureaucratic and numb to even notice the formalization of impunity by such debates. A lot of people reminiscence over the effective civil society organs during the earlier regime in the state of Nagaland, but now it seems that either you are neutralized or in effective or that the government of the day has become too intolerant towards uncomfortable views and opinion makers. Finally it must be remembered that the health of a society is measured by the space it allows for different opinions rather than by the politicization of such space.