TODAY -

The dubious case of Guite and Assam Rifles

Surendranath Sharma *

Denizens of Jiribam protesting against the highhandedness of the Assam Rifles personnel on July 18 2013
Denizens of Jiribam protesting against the highhandedness of the Assam Rifles personnel on July 18 2013 :: Pix - Hueiyen Lanpao



As was reported in the local papers, Manipur Police Commandos apprehended an extortionist, one Seineo Guite, at Jiribam on 15 July 213. This Police action deserves unreserved commendation. What makes the case peculiar is what had happened at the time of arrest and what followed thereafter. It was reported that some unidentified personnel of 22 AR had even physically resisted the arrest of Guite by the Police Commandos, claiming he was one of their men, when he was attempting to make good after collecting the extortion money from the Manipur Police Commandos who were in disguise.

On 16 July 213, one Officer of the rank of Major belonging to the 22nd Battalion of Assam Rifles is said to have come to the Jiribam PS and demanded of the Additional Superintendent of Police, Jiribam to hand over Guite to the Assam Rifles. As the Police officer had refused to acquiesce to the unlawful demand of the Army officer, Major Ajay Kante slapped the ASP, who in turn was thrashed by the PSOs of the Police officer.

This incident provokes a continuum of thoughts. If an Additional SP of the State Police can be assaulted by the Assam Rifles inside a Police Station under his own supervision, can the people at large ever feel safe with the Assam Rifles? Common consciousness would respond in the negative. The history of common public experience of the Assam Rifles has been an opposite of what they boldly inscribe on big billboards as 'Friends of Manipur' or 'Friends of the Hill People'. Of the many suspected fake encounters resulting in the death of innumerable people of Manipur, Assam Rifles is accused as a major culprit.

What were, as alleged, the Assam Rifles personnel doing with, or in the vicinity of, Guite when he had come to receive the extortion money at the predetermined rendezvous?

Why did the Assam Rifles boys physically obstruct the Police when the Police were arresting Guite? These are questions whose answers are best known to the enlightened leadership of Assam Rifles and are best left to the good judgment of the general public.

What was so pressing a reason, other than the ludicrously lame Assam Rifles' official line that UTLA was to surrender to the Government, which was jittering the Assam Rifles in letting the Law follow its own course on Guite? The claim of the Assam Rifles that UTLA was to sign the Instrument of Surrender is a fact. What is not a fact, if the UTLA Release printed in many local dailies on 18 July 2013 is anything to go by, is that Guite is not even a member of UTLA as the AR would like us to believe. Rather, UTLA claims that he is a mischievous agent of some parties. Given the above, one cannot but suspect the intention of 22 AR. Is Guite, then, an extortion agent of the 22 AR?

What was the desperation that made Major Ajay Kante resort to slapping O. Menjor, Additional SP, Jiribam? The lack of civilized mannerism of the Army officer notwithstanding, the inexplicable desperation of Major Kante, perhaps, leaves a large room for misgivings. Is it that the arrest and interrogation of Guite could open a can of worms for Major Kante and 22 AR? One is left to wonder what secret Major Kante wanted to steal by whisking away Guite from Police custody.

What is the vested interest of Assam Rifles or what are the personal stakes of the Officers of 22 Assam Rifles that compelled them to plan and attempt a forcible evacuation of an outlawed extortionist, Seineo Guite, who allegedly was issuing threats, extortion notices and even leaving or placing grenades at his victim's premises in the name of KRA (U) and was caught red handed by the State Police Commandos? It is impossible that the Major went to demand the release of Guite without the express order of the Commanding Officer. That is how the Forces function.

Thus, if Major Kante is culpable, so is the CO 22 AR. The AR, which is operating in the State, is to aid the Civil Administration, not to subvert. The Officers and men of 22 AR have tried their best to subvert the civil administration by trying vigorously to wrest Guite from the Police, starting with physical resistance to initial arrest, and then the ruse of Guite being a General Secretary of UTLA which was soon to sign a Surrender Agreement. When the ruse failed to deliver the desired result, the AR even resorted to assaulting the Additional SP.

Is it, then, that the Assam Rifles has become a repository of dubious officers and men in uniform? Is it the secret job of the AR to protect and encourage armed extortionists and public enemies? Does the AR also have a stake in money collected through intimidation and extortion? It has long been said in hush that the AR is suspected to be corrupt and in cahoots with many anti national elements and criminals. This incident only appears to vindicate this long held suspicion.

There is no plausible reason why the AR should want to forcibly evacuate a criminal caught in the act from the Police Lock-up unless they are in tandem and have some very serious and damning matters to hide from the Police. What on Earth compelled Major Kante to overstep the bounds of not only discipline but also the ingrained Officer-like-quality to physically assault another senior officer in Uniform? The desperation of AR only reeks of a bleak and covert agenda.

Is the slapping of the Additional SP a manifestation of the deep-seated mainland Indian mindset of dominance over the mongoloid people of Northeastern India? If there is even a preponderance of probability in this, it will spell doom for the racial harmony India is proud of. While the Army as a whole cannot be suspected of racist leanings, this incident has exposed the glaring lack of general education and awareness among some of the Army Officers, their lack of knowledge of the Law of the Land, their role in India's democratic set-up and where they stand vis-a-vis the Civil Administration; their utter ignorance of cultural relativism and their innate savagery.

While it is a fact that good talent does not find its way to the Army, the minimum level of quality needs to be ensured. Ethnocentrism cannot be allowed to surface in an institution like the Army. Incidents such as this only highlight the incompleteness of India's nation building process. It also has highlighted the training pitfalls of Army.

There is a need for reorientation training to usher them out of their vain cocoon and make-believe world and be taught in unequivocal terms that they are subservient to the Civil Administration. Their role, definitely, is not to circumvent or subvert the rule of law.

While their accountability is suspect, if at all their self respect is to be retrieved, it is only expected that AR should come clean on these issues. A mere Press Release of denial will not hide the truth in today's awakened world.

The incident itself is shocking. It bodes bad blood among the Forces working towards the common objective of maintaining Law and Order and Internal Security. But it is also a serious matter for introspection by the State Police why and how did an Army officer have the audacity of slapping an Additional SP who is much more responsible than a Major.

The factors emboldening the AR may lie in the perceived weakness and incompetence of the State Police; the State Police's overdependence on the Assam Rifles; and their mutual connivance and contrivance in acts of omission and commission. Based on this perception, the AR is likely to have developed a condescending disrespect for Manipur Police, even to the extent of presuming that the State Police will take the offence and humiliation of an Additional SP being slapped lying low.

Be that as it may, the State Government now must come of age and rejuvenate its own Police and prove this ill-founded perception wrong. Manipur Police must metamorphose into a professional Force. By putting it only to rightful duties and not making it a slave and an errand boy of the powerful, the State Police will grow into a sound and excellent organization.

Only then will Manipur Police command respect not only of the Central Forces but also of the people who it is mandated to serve. It is high time the Government of Manipur realizes this and takes the necessary steps towards Police professionalism. It is also time that the collective political leadership take a stand on the excesses of the Assam Rifles and rein in this uncivilised apparatus.

The morale of the State Police must not only be maintained but also be sustained. While the incident may simply be read as only a case of a Major slapping an Additional SP, it can also be seen as a humiliating slap on the collective body of Manipur Police. Whichever way you would like to view it, the choice, of course, is entirely yours.

But what must unfailingly be done is to initiate stringent legal action against the errant Major for obstructing a public servant in the performance of his bonafide duty and Criminal Assault. It is imperative that the Government of Manipur shakes off its timidity. It must rise to the occasion. Else, the morale of the State Police will slide downhill beyond recovery.


* Surendranath Sharma wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
This article was posted on July 22, 2013.


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