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Militancy suits politicians, officials: Shekhatkar

By R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, May 16 � Insurgency suits a section of politicians, government officials and businessmen as the attention of the people is diverted from the core issues like development, according to former GOC of the 4 Corps of the Army, Lt Gen (Retd) DB Shekhatkar. He also warned that the enemy countries might try to take advantage of the disturbance created by the insurgent groups and there was urgent need for seriously dealing with the problem of insurgency, which could become like �a cottage industry in the North East�.

Talking to The Assam Tribune, Lt Gen Shekhatkar, who served in the North East in different capacities as an Army officer for more than 20 years, said that the Government of India should change its mindset about dealing with the problems of the North East and only announcement of packages would not help the region. He pointed out that over the years, the Government of India announced special packages for the North East, but there were reasons to believe that a substantial amount of funds was going to the pockets of a section of politicians, officers, businessmen and militant groups. He suggested that a performance audit should be carried out immediately to ascertain whether or not the funds allotted under special packages were properly utilized for the overall development of the region.

Lt Gen Shekhatkar was of the view that the enemy countries would definitely try to take advantage of the situation in the North East if the root causes of the problems were not addressed and it was now an established fact that the militant groups of the region were getting help from foreign countries including Pakistan. �If the root causes of the problems are not addressed immediately, the possibility of the situation deteriorating cannot be ruled out,� he warned.

Commenting on the measures taken by the Government to address the problem of insurgency, Lt Gen Shekhatkar said that the policies must change and the root causes of the problems should be addressed. He pointed out that at present, the Centre as well as the State Governments were interested in keeping the level of violence down by signing ceasefire agreements with the militant groups, but that would not bring permanent solution to the problems. He pointed out that there had been instances of militant groups regrouping by taking advantage of ceasefire agreements, while, most groups under ceasefire agreements are openly collecting funds and the Government is silent in the interest of keeping the level of violence down. But in the process, the common people were being deprived of fruits of development, he added. Giving one such example, he said that both the factions of the NSCN are under ceasefire agreements, but they were openly collecting money and the Government was allowing the same.

Lt Gen Shekhatkar pointed out that the mindset of the people in Delhi should be changed immediately as the region was seriously affected by �remote corner syndrome� and instead of thinking of geographical isolation of the region, Centre should consider the region as the gateway to India from the east. Unfortunately, most of the Central leaders did not have first hand experience of the North East, while, most of those engaged for advising the Central Ministers also did not have adequate knowledge of the region. However, it was a positive sign that Union Home Minister P Chidambaram recently visited the remote areas of Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh to assess the ground situation these and he even visited some police stations. This would definitely set an example and cause a chain reaction forcing the officers to visit the remote areas, Lt Gen Shekhatkar added.

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