Assam Rifles Says Sorry!
Rajnath Singh,during his visit to Manipur
NEW DELHI: The northeast state of Manipur is usually a neglected area and the journalist fraternity of this state is even more sidelined. However, surprisingly (though a pleasant surprise) and in a move of one of its kind, the scribes of Manipur received an apology (and fairly so) from the Assam Rifles and also from Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
Following a rebuke by the Union Home Minister during his visit to Manipur, the nation’s oldest paramilitary force apologised to the mediapersons for their high headedness and mishandling of journalists.
While some journalists had alleged that they were insulted by some officers of the Assam Rifles when theY had accompanied Singh and his entourage to Moreh during the Minister’s visit to Manipur, others had complained of being disparaged by the force while taking pictures.
Being the custodian of the Assam Rifles since the force is under his department, Home Minister Rajnath Singh himself regretted the behavior of the force and seeked forgiveness from the journalist fraternity as well as the people of Manipur on their behalf, during his press meet at Moreh on Tuesday.
Interestingly, Singh didn’t dodge difficult questions, rather answered many regarding the numerous complaints about the Assam Rifles at length or about the special battalion force (from the BJP’s point of view).
However, one of the most contentious issues of Manipur, that of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was also touched upon albeit very briefly without much clarity.
Assam Rifles, once described as "friends of the hill people" by anthropologist Verrier Elwin has rather turned out to be their antagonists.
Only a week back, following the assault on two journalists (including the News Bureau Chief) by the Assam Rifles who had gone to the police station to cover a story by the officers of Assam Rifles, the journalist fraternity of Manipur decided and has been boycotting all news related to the paramilitary force.
It isn’t just their insensitive and insulting behavior to the journalists but also to the general public that the Assam Rifles is quite disrupted about- be it the recent assault on journalists, the extrajudicial killings, harassment of the travellers of the Imphal-Moreh road or the alleged torture of the bus passengers, the unlawful detention of Ministers and civilian visitors, particularly on the Imphal-Moreh stretch.
Last week only, there was also protest by the general public against the security force’s harassment. The local residents of Khudenthabi in Chandel district were quite vexed due to the torture of travelers and passengers on the Imphal-Moreh road, who apparently protested against this very strongly with some even having resorted to violence.