Before the outbreak of violence in Manipur on May 3, the security situation in the Northeast had vastly improved and the government is confident that intense deliberations between the Centre and the Meitei and Kuki groups will deliver results soon. This is unlikely to end the deep distrust between the two groups but may make the current lull in violence more durable. In comparison to 2005-13, there has been a 68 per cent reduction in incidents related to insurgency over the 2014-22 period. The deaths of security personnel correspondingly declined by 68 per cent and civilian fatalities due to insurgency are down by a significant 82 per cent. The coming of a majority government at the Centre, along with NDA’s widening footprint in the region, has led to eight agreements being signed between various groups and the pacts have held. NDA’s determination to look beyond the transactional and cynical politics of the day with the Centre propping up and pulling down governments has changed the narrative. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) was completely removed from Tripura in 2015 and Meghalaya in 2018. The Act has been withdrawn from all but eight districts in Assam and removed from 18 police stations in eight districts of Nagaland. Even in Manipur, AFSPA has been withdrawn from 19 police stations and has not been re-imposed despite the recent violence, with state and Central forces directed to act within the confines of normal law and order regulations. Apart from the ill-considered order of the Manipur High Court on reservation for Meiteis, the state government’s action against encroachments in forest areas and a rise in opium production in Myanmar are factors in the events. Although seemingly unrelated, the sharp rise in opium production after the 2021 coup in Myanmar has led to increased drug-smuggling into India. A majority of drug runners, according to security agencies, are from one community. This has led to a sharp escalation in ethnic tensions as Meiteis deeply resent the drug trade. The role of illegal immigrants from Myanmar—who set up villages in forest areas almost overnight—adds to the friction. All of this in turn is linked to the Free Movement Regime (FMR) that exists between Myanmar and India which permits citizens on either side to move several kilometres across the border without hindrance. India’s attractiveness as compared to other alternatives is obvious given the soaring inflation and rising costs of farm inputs in Myanmar. The Centre is now moving to review FMR and is also capturing the biometrics of everyone crossing the border to ensure they are not included on voter or Aadhaar lists.
Prominent Chinese dissident handles put out the story of the delayed announcement of the death of former deputy commander of the PLA’s rocket forces Wu Guohua as a suspicious incident. The dissidents suggest Wu had fallen on the wrong side of a corruption investigation. According to some accounts, Wu’s son had been accused of sharing naval designs with the US. Chinese handles link Wu’s death with an ongoing investigation into a former rocket force commander and other senior retired officers. A naval officer has now been posted in charge of the rocket forces that are key to China’s defence and are seen as a prestigious wing of PLA. President Xi Jinping has again called for unswerving loyalty of the armed forces to the communist party and its leadership.
RIP Madan Dasji
The death of RSS senior Madan Das Devi was widely mourned by many in Sangh circles. Although inactive for several years due to an ailment, ‘Madan Dasji’ as he was often referred to, played an important role as intermediary between RSS and the Vajpayee government at a time when relations within the saffron family were far from smooth. A change of guard in RSS in 2000 when KS Sudarshan took over as Sangh chief was followed by considerable friction between RSS and the Vajpayee government. At one point the late BJP stalwart was incensed by a reference to his foster family, a remark that had to be withdrawn. Sudarshan’s outspoken, and often poorly informed comments, were a constant source of friction and the distance between the government and RSS took a toll on NDA in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls as well. In such trying circumstances, Madan Dasji was a voice of calm and moderation. He articulated the RSS viewpoint but was not, as some in the Sangh seemed to be, dogmatic and untutored in the practicalities of coalition politics. His quiet words and personal rapport with key BJP and RSS leaders helped in ensuring a dispute did not get out of hand. His ABVP background meant that many leaders in BJP who had cut their teeth in student politics and who knew Madan Dasji well gathered in Pune last week to mourn the RSS pracharak’s death.
Opposition members of the Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology from Congress, Trinamool Congress and the Left ‘walked out’ of a meeting of the panel called to adopt a draft report on the data Bill (Digital Personal Data Protection Bill) on the grounds that the final draft was not circulated. Thereafter, some of them wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla not to accept the report. Yet, an examination of the meetings held by the committee shows wide consultation with experts from various fields and there is no evidence that the opposition was either excluded or absent from discussions. Officials from the Ministry of Electronics and IT briefed the committee on data security, privacy and citizens and representatives of OTT platforms were heard as well. The views of Twitter India were heard in detail, too. The committee was particularly concerned about the need to safeguard citizens’ rights and prevention of the misuse of social media and online platforms, with an emphasis on women’s security. It does seem odd that the opposition members are protesting about not being consulted on the final draft. The adversarial nature of present-day politics, with the Lok Sabha polls fast approaching, means parliamentary panel meetings will become the staging ground for partisan action and reports of committees headed by NDA MPs will be mostly contested.
For some weeks now, registration of properties in Gurugram has been at a standstill due to a strike by clerks demanding a pay revision and parity with state government employees in Punjab. The comparison may be misplaced as the Punjab government has been munificent in its spending without much concern for the state of its finances. Also, conceding will almost certainly lead to similar demands from other sections of employees. The clerks may have calculated that the Haryana government would bend as it did recently to farmers demanding MSP for mustard. But the government stood its ground and has now permitted Tehsildars to handle registration work that the clerks are not doing.