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Sainik Schools to wean young in NE away from insurgency

By The Assam Tribune

ITANAGAR/NEW DELHI, July 20 (IANS): In a bid to provide better education and training to young people, the Arunachal Pradesh government is considering setting up Sainik Schools that would motivate them to join the Indian defence forces and keep them away from the myriad insurgent groups that are active in the region.

Government statistics indicate that over 600 youths from Naga-inhabited areas in the state -- Tirap, Changlang and Longding -- have joined various outlawed groups in the last decade. One of the major factors is the lack of job opportunities in the region and easy influence on the youth by the outlawed groups such as the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) and United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent), among others.

"The State government will be happy to have Sainik schools in such a strategic region as this is very much required. Currently, such a proposal is with the Chief Minister's office. Once it is forwarded to the Home Department, we will further seek clearance from the Union Home Ministry," Michael Panging, Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to Arunachal Pradesh Home Minister Kumar Waii, told IANS.

The decision comes after a delegation from the Arunachal Naga Students Federation (ANSF) submitted a memorandum to Chief Minister Pema Khandu seeking Sainik Schools and a proper surrender and rehabilitation policy as in the neighbouring state of Assam for insurgents who want to come overground.

The concept of Sainik Schools was introduced in 1961 to prepare boys academically, physically and mentally for entry into the National Defence Academy. It also has the objective of correcting the regional imbalance in the officer cadre of the defence services.

Panging said that apart from Sainik Schools in Tirap, Changlang and Longding, the state government now also has special reservations in government jobs such as the police departments for youth from these districts.

The location of the schools will be decided once the decision to establish them has been taken.

Tirap, Changlang and Longding -- also known as Patkai hills -- is the home of the Wanchos, Noctes, Tangsas, Tutsa Ollos -- recognised as Naga by the constitution. The area is strategically important because it shares borders with Myanmar.

These areas often see high infiltration of cadres of banned armed groups and also smuggling of narcotics.

Earlier this year, the Centre had sanctioned a special package for strengthening security in the three districts to tackle the insurgency problem.

According to the communities residing in the region, in the last couple of years a lot of youths have joined the Indian armed forces, such as Hangpan Dada, a trooper in the paramilitary Assam Regiment who was posthumously awarded the Ashoka Chakra, the highest award for gallantry in peacetime, for killing three militants and neutralising another in the Shamshabari Ranges in Jammu and Kashmir's Naugam area in a fierce gunbattle last May.

However, the number of youths joining the outlawed groups has not come down.

Stating that the Arunachal Pradesh government has special provisions to bring the people of Tirap, Changlang and Longding into the mainstream, Panging said the government will also relax the requirements in various educational institutions in the state to empower the population.

A demand for an autonomous council for the three districts has also been revived while the attention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh has also been on the development in the region.

The ANSF, an important youth body that has focused on the need for development in the three districts, believes that while the Sainik Schools will help prevent the students from getting influenced by the banned armed groups, a surrender and rehabilitation policy in Arunachal Pradesh will help the outlawed armed cadres come over ground.

"Sainik Schools will certainly be a boon for the students of the three districts; however, if the state government also accepts our demand of coming up with a surrender and rehabilitation policy, then may be the armed cadres from the outlawed forces will get a chance to quit the groups and be back to civilian life," ANSF President Nokchai Boham told IANS.

The ANSF has been demanding a surrender and rehabilitation policy on the lines of the one which came into existence in Assam in 1998. The main objective was to wean away misguided youth who have strayed into the folds of militancy and now find themselves trapped.

The scheme also seeks to ensure that the militants who have surrendered do not stray back into insurgent groups.

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