About Me

This is what I do.

Personal account of reconciliation and Insurgency

Col DPK Pillay, Ph.D., Shaurya Chakra
Senior Defence Specialist (2010-2017)
National Security Council Secretariat, Prime Minister Office
New Delhi

The incident

The bridge that was to be blown up
One of the wounded children
Waiting for the return of the helicopter

The Reunion

The reunion with those who were wounded and saved and former militants who shot me became national news.- News video of NDTV is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuFnIDx6OjQ and a news report about meeting the man who shot me is at http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/16-years-later-army-officer-meets-man-who-shot-at-him/594741/

Actions following the reunion

In Tamenglong, the following aspects were evident, which would be commonly found in most areas afflicted by insurgency:

  1. Poverty as there is no means of livelihood thereby attracting the youth to insurgency as it provides an identity, respectability, as well as livelihood;
  2. Lack of educational opportunities thereby restricting occupational choices.
  3. Unemployment and the lack of adequate opportunities for sustaining local enterprises even if started by enterprising locals;
  4. Lack of access to healthcare;
  5. Fear of militants―violence, extortion attempts, aggravated by the ineffectiveness of the law enforcement machinery;
  6. Fear of security forces―harassment, violence, etc;
  7. Lack of basic infrastructure, such as running water, electricity and motorable roads.
  8. Corruption in the provision of government services – diversion of much of the vast amounts of funds being poured into these regions
  9. Appropriation of natural resources by the state without ensuring that the benefits accrue to the local population; and
  10. Economic blockades by competing insurgent groups.

The implications of the insecurities faced by the people are as follows:

  1. Hostility towards the Indian state and the armed forces;
  2. Helplessness due to the realization that the state cannot offer protection against armed militias, and that, in fact, the state views the people with suspicion;
  3. Resort to arms, terrorism, arms trafficking, drug trafficking, and to drug abuse;
  4. Migration to other/larger towns and cities in search of educational and employment opportunities;
  5. Perception of being left out of the development process; and
  6. Perception of being considered as the “other”, reinforcing feelings of antagonism towards the state.

Foundation stone laid and the rough road cut. More at http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/finally-manipur-village-may-get-road-link/751031

Training of persons in bamboo product making, and the finished products (incense sticks and mats)

The oranges of Tamenglong are organically grown and have great potential. Talking to villagers at the Orange Festival 2011 (http://kanglaonline.com/2011/12/state-will-sanction-rs-6-lakhs-for-orange-cultivators-from-next-year-phungzathang/)

Meeting with Union Home Secretary which resulted in a truck gifting ceremony. http://e-pao.net/GP.asp?src=26..290411.apr11

Sewing machines for the women and girls
Vocational Training: Outcome Reconciliation in Insurgency

What are the stumbling blocks?

  1. -Difficulties in convincing villages, tribes to work together in a highly charged environment. Therefore the main player has to have some legitimacy. It helped that I was work in the National Security Council Secretariat in the Prime Minister‘s Office.
  2. -Difficulties in convincing government – at all levels- local, state and federal levels – to adopt a ‘development’ approach in place of a counter-insurgency approach. The hard factors of security still weigh heavily on the minds of decision makers as a solution instead of the more effective yet time and resource consuming development and inclusive approach.
  3. -Difficulties in cutting through the bureaucratic maze – the lethargy and corruption that characterize the local government machinery, as well as the lack of trust, and therefore lack of proper coordination, between federal and local levels of government.
  4. -Difficulties in countering the hostility of armed opposition groups, which are also characterized by extortion, corruption, and are also prone to settling issues through peremptory diktat and violence, both deliberate and random. Most such groups would see any well-meaning attempts at development as a threat to their own authority and writ in those areas. Lack of access to healthcare;
  5. -All factions must be included in any peace building initiative and process. It is difficult to bring about peace in a fractured environment with multiple tribes, religions and other divisive factors.
  6. -There are difficulties in sustainability and in monitoring projects located far away.
  7. -There is a tendency to focus on individual constituencies by whoever is delegated or in charge of a project.
Tamenglong as a Case Study: Lessons learnt:

The take away from my experience is that there are no quick fixes or a one size fits all solution. Any further actions would depend on how well one can build on these issues. The following issues should be considered before the armed forces are deployed in an internal conflict situation. In any case the deployment of armed forces should not be unending as has been the case in the north-east. The lessons learnt are:

  1. Consider all non-military options before inducting the armed forces.
  2. Human security should be the centre of all military activity. It is not just winning hearts and minds and civic action programmes, but integrating the principles at the operational level. It must be realized that a soldier is trained to kill and be killed, but this liability cannot be transferred to civilian and non-combatants in a disturbed area.
  3. Talk with the affected population, those who do not have a political stake, but whose lives are actually affected.
  4. All interventions must have an end state – in the form of sunset clauses in security laws and/or regular reviews.
  5. Military interventions must also allow space for peace building efforts.
  6. The deployment of the Army should be seen as legitimate and, if possible, must be carried out in consultation with village elders and local council. They must be informed of the need for deployment before the actual operation and activities begin.
  7. The training and equipment used by the armed forces should be of high quality as counterinsurgency (CI) and war fighting are different. Weapons that can be used in war cannot be used in CI operations.
  8. There has to be the institutionalising of lessons learnt – through the training institutes of the armed forces – so that past mistakes are not repeated and successes can be replicated.
  9. The discussion and debate on conflict must be taken forward – the focus should be moved away from treating the disease to finding out why it took place at all. It might offer solutions to intervene earlier.