N Biren Singh admitted that the situation in Manipur was very complex (File Photo)
Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh has said it is time the imposition of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or the AFSPA, in the northeastern state is reviewed but added security concerns over the state sharing borders with foreign countries should also be considered.
The army said that though the situation in the state was now under control, the AFSPA is a requirement to ensure peace.
"Manipur is a peaceful state now, but the country's security must be a priority… The financial health and arms supply by foreign countries cannot be ruled out," Mr Singh told a group of visiting journalists in Imphal on Wednesday.
Major General VK Mishra, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of 57 Mountain Division of the army, which spearheads counter-insurgency operations in Manipur, said the AFSPA is a prerequisite for the army to operate for maintaining peace in the state.
Citing the example of seizure of sophisticated arms from an insurgent camp, he said it takes two months of efforts and lengthy operations — from intelligence gathering to locating and search of suspects — to recover arms and ammunition. Such operations can be carried out only with the AFSPA in place.
"If we do not have AFSPA, how do we do this? It is not just an enabler, it is a prerequisite. AFSPA is a requirement for the Army to function."
He said that the situation is under control but pressure needs to be maintained on the insurgent groups to ensure peace in the north-eastern state, which has been hit by terrorism for several years.
Advocating a review of the act that gives wide powers to the security forces, the chief minister, however, admitted that the situation in Manipur was very complex.
"It's not like Kashmir, where Pakistan is involved. Here it is our own people and as such it is very difficult for the security persons also. I am not supporting the security forces, but it is a very critical and complex issue and has to be solved."
"Time has come to review AFSPA, but since we share our border with foreign countries when the review takes place this point has to be considered also," he said.
Asked about extortions by insurgent groups, he said that talks are on with these entities and once these are completed, the problem will be solved, he said.
He said that there has not been any major insurgent attack in the state since his government took over one-and-a-half years ago.
"There is peace in the state. Night life has started in Imphal and there is lot of activity in the evenings unlike in the past," the chief minister said about the state capital from where the stringent AFSPA has been lifted.
He also expressed confidence that a solution to the vexed Manipur insurgency problem will be arrived at soon.
Regarding allegations of human rights violations by the force in the state, GOC Mishra said that the army is very sensitive on the matter.
"Right from training, our conditioning, in our process of equipping, human rights are in-built. We are sensitive on human rights," Major Gen Mishra said.
The Supreme Court is hearing a plea seeking a probe into alleged cases of extra-judicial killings in Manipur and had on July 14 last year constituted an special investigation team (SIT) to probe such cases.
Over 300 army personnel have also petitioned the top court challenging the registration of complaints against them for operations in areas where the AFSPA is in force.