By: Oken Jeet Sandham, Kangla Online,
The recent disclosure by the Hmar Students' Association (HAS) that 81 people lost their lives over the last 2 years due to landmine blasts and booby traps planted by Manipur based militants at Tipaimukh in Manipur cannot be taken lightly.
Interestingly, the powerful UNLF has been accusing Indian Army of planting the landmines in Chandel, Churachandpur and Tamenglong districts of the State, whereas the Army blames the UNLF for most of the landmine explosions in Manipur's Southern districts. Despite accusing each other, the victims are always the innocent people.
There is global movement to ban the use of landmines, as they have become a threat to the humanity. And thousands of innocent people mostly in underdeveloped and developing countries have lost their lives, while thousands were maimed, besides forcing them to become refugees. There are about 26,000 landmine casualties every year in the world and most of them are women and children. There are estimated 110 million unexploded landmines around the world and about 1/5 of it is located in Africa.
In India, the Jammu and Kashmir State alone had 92 casualties in 1999. From 1994 to 1999, landmines killed 128 military personnel, and injured 459 more. During the same period, police and paramilitary forces suffered 52 deaths and 265 injuries. There were 148 civilian fatalities and injuries to another 410. There is no reliable information of the total amount of mine?affected land. However, it is reported that over 90% of the mines it laid in the border with Pakistan in 2001 and 2002 had been recovered.
The pollution caused by the landmine explosions also has the effect of pushing the people from their traditional lands because most of the mines are often laid in the habitation areas. The communities, unable to return to their contaminated land and agricultural farms, are often driven out into otherwise unused or marginal land, placing additional pressure on already fragile environment, while many are forced to live in the urban areas, contributing to overcrowded housing, congested traffic, unemployment, air and noise pollution, and problems with water supply sanitation and waste disposal.
The landmine pollution leads to environmental degradation and ecological disruptions and large areas of arable land became inaccessible. Landmines are also posing an immense threat to all but children face maximum threats. Many minefields in several countries are marked with signs but it seems unhelpful since children don?t bother to read it at all despite knowing how to read. The children go running in the fields then set off the mines, thus causing injury to themselves and others. A child is likely to suffer more and more severely because their bodies are smaller and explosion destroys more of it.
The adults are not usually killed when they step on a landmine but they are mostly maimed, a major problem for the family members to take care of. They eat the food the family grows but can no longer help in its production. Consequently, families are shattered and many spouses are abandoned in favor of other, more productive mates. Once abandoned by their families and the community, many amputees turn to alcohol, drugs, and criminal behaviors. Such actions only create greater problems for the societies in which they live making the society poverty stricken.
Although New Delhi voted in favor of the 1969 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution urging states to vigorously pursue an international agreement banning Anti-Personnel Mines (APMs), it has been abstaining from voting on every annual pro-Mine Ban Treaty UNGA resolution since then, including UNGA Resolution 58/53 on 8 December 2003. India attended Ottawa Process meetings and the treaty negotiations in 1997, but only as an observer. India has not attended any of the annual meetings of the State Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty.
In December 1997, a total of 122 Governments signed the Treaty in Ottawa, Canada and today there are 144 member States of the Treaty and a further 8 signatory countries, which still need to ratify the agreement. A total of 42 countries are yet to become signatories and those include China, Egypt, Finland, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Significantly the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) signed the Geneva Call ?Deed of Commitment? on 17 October 2003, banning Anti-Personnel Mines (APMs)."The slaughtering of innocent people by using Anti-Personnel Mines is a crime against humanity and we are totally against it," declared Th Muivah, general secretary of the organization while signing a ?Deed of Commitment? in Geneva.
While the NSCN committed to the total ban on the use of APMs by signing the Geneva Call Deed of Commitment, there were hopes that the action of the organization would influence other Non-State Actors (NSAs) in the region to prohibit the use, production and stockpiling of the mines. But there are still reports of NSAs using improvised devices and sometimes landmines. There were reported incidents of using landmines by the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) and United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) in Assam.
In fact, the NSCN (IM) has earned international fame when it became the first Non-State Actor in the whole of Indian Sub-Continent to ink its Geneva Call ?Deed of Commitment,? but it appears to have failed to promote the message and mission. And the most unfortunate is the certain community in Nagaland, last year, had tried to settle score with fellow communities by deploying such dangerous landmines. Havildar Tongpangkokba Ao became the victim of such landmine blast in Tobu areas last year.
The landmine issue is a global issue that concerns every one of us and needs multi-pronged strategies to combat. There are about 1500 NGOs that are working around the world campaigning against the use of landmines and creating massive awareness by organizing several workshops and seminars. They are also mobilizing support of the civil societies and communities to act against the mine use.
The people and the civil societies in the region should come out against the use of the mines either by NSAs or Indian Army. They should vigorously urge the authorities to demine from the suspected areas and to make proper fencing with marks, besides giving education to communities about the mines. This would save lives of many innocent people. Whether India is part of the International Mine Ban Treaty or not, the civil societies and communities should fight continuously against the use of mines. They, while pressurizing the Government to become a signatory to the Treaty, should also persuade NSAs to ban use of landmines.