In recent times, there has been an increase in differences between the army on the one hand and IPS and IAS organisations on the other, often on flimsy grounds and more from jealousy than logic. This displays a bias which should never occur as the army and its allied forces remain committed to national security, despite every form of internal political pressure. On 2 November 18, the police in Bomdila arrested two army jawans and illegally detained them, despite being aware of their identity.
The jawans were ill-treated and had to be hospitalised. This was followed by an altercation between the army and police. A video released by the state police displayed the CO of the Battalion warning them never to misbehave with his boys. The army was aware that its officers and men acted in good faith and were maltreated by the police, and hence stood by them. After the incident, multiple central government associations including the IPS and IAS, accused the army of high-handedness, ignoring the fact that it was army personnel who were initially maltreated.
The army is of the nation, for the nation and the common Indian is aware that it is always at the forefront whenever the nation demands. Hence, compared to all other central cadres, it remains the most respected. The latest incident pertains to an altercation at a check post between Moreh and Imphal in Manipur involving a lady Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) and Assam Rifles on 19 January.
This road is the commencement of the Eastern Highway, presently under construction, extending to Thailand via Myanmar. For anyone aware of the geography of the region, Moreh is known as the entry point for smuggling of contraband and drugs. The traffic is large and every day over 300 vehicles and 2,000 passengers are sanitised at this check post alone. It is to prevent smuggling of drugs and contraband that the government has given the responsibility of monitoring to the Assam Rifles.
This is to ensure that this major smuggling route is not under control of agencies which could be influenced. The success of the Assam Rifles in curbing drug smuggling on this route of just 40 Kms is a record. During 2019, the Assam Rifles seized contraband and war-like stores valued at more than Rs 500 crore along this highway. This was more than the combined seizures within the state for the past five years and the maximum along a 40 km stretch anywhere in the country, and thus a feat by itself.
Further, the Assam Rifles have been behind the success of curbing locally supported militancy in the region. No wonder they are disliked. Their success has riled powerful elements within the state who have been unable to further their nefarious activities. There have been attempts by multiple authorities to have the Assam Rifles removed and the responsibility handed over to other agencies. Such an act would be detrimental to not only the state but also the nation, while benefitting a few. In the latest incident, a lady SDPO entering from Myanmar sought to bypass the check post and refused to permit her vehicle being checked. She attempted to bulldoze her way through.
Rather than complying with instructions, she accused a jawan, responsible for manning the post and performing his duty, of misbehaviour and molestation. Since the check post has blocked multiple attempts of smuggling, there was a doubt on the intentions of the police officer, who was neither in uniform nor willing to identify herself. It is common knowledge that fear to declare identity and deny permission for legal checking only occurs when an individual has something to hide.
A video displays the lady SDPO not alighting from her vehicle throughout the incident, hence there was no personal contact. Yet she claimed molestation. The support to the police officer flowed from associations, IAS and IPS, which have traditionally displayed antipathy towards the army and its sister organization, the Assam Rifles. Support also flowed from within the state, including the state government and State Commission for Women, which has sought removal of Assam Rifles notwithstanding its success in curbing illegal activities and militancy in the region.
It was evidently exploiting a fake incident to demand removal of a capable force from checking a known smuggling corridor. All this to back the dubious action of a police official seeking to question a jawan performing his duty. Assam Rifles possess videos of her illegal entry from Myanmar, loading her official vehicle with stores and refusal to permit checking, as per law. There is video proof of her arguing and refusing any vehicle check, all while remaining seated in her vehicle.
Despite proof of misconduct of the police officer, IPS, IAS associations and some elements within the state continue to back the culprit and demand that a simple jawan, performing his duty be held responsible. Those with vested interests forget that the soldier is seeking to protect the nation from inflow of contraband and drugs and not for any personal benefit. Such false accusations impact morale of the soldier standing guard to protect the nation, whether it be against terrorists from across or drugs which adversely impact the populace.
It is time for the nation to take a call and support the soldier. India must decide who needs to be supported, a police official who broke all rules and refused checking, while insulting a soldier doing his duty, or a jawan who stood his ground and refused to buckle under pressure. The day Indian army jawans buckle under such illegal pressure would be a sad day for the nation.
The army will support the jawan, so should the nation. The IAS, IPS and state associations need to study the evidence and justify why are they backing the wrong horse. They have only displayed an anti-army attitude despite the army rushing in on multiple occasions, to control adverse situations, created by the follies and shortcomings of the IAS and IPS.
(The writer is a retired Major-General of the Indian Army)