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How secular are we?

Editor,

We call ourselves secular but such words are contradicted by the fact that only a few privileged communities in Meghalaya enjoy the privilege of celebrating their festivals freely. I would like to bring to the notice of the readers that on the 25th of November this month the Sikh community around the world is celebrating Guru Nanak Jayanti. Every year, all states in India (except very few) observe a holiday on the the occasion of the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Devji as it is a central gazetted holiday. It is absurd to note that our state with quite a number of Sikhs are denied a holiday. The Central government offices and central institutions remain closed but not the state government offices and educational institutions. I would like to ask, “Are we Sikhs not a part of this state or is the Government also considering us ‘outsiders’? Everyone knows the role of Sikhs in nation building but are we still not entitled to receive a day off on this very special occasion. Also I would like to add that most educational institutions in the state and particularly Shillong are conducting examinations. Can these institutions not spare a day for us to celebrate our festival? I was shocked to see that Guru Nanak Jayanti is not even a restricted holiday in Meghalaya. Such partial behaviour on the part of the Government is not acceptable. The Sikhs of Meghalaya would be happy it from the following year. i.e. 2016 the government would declare a holiday on this occasion. Also the Sikh students will be happy if they would not have to explain to their school authorities as to why they were absent on Guru Nanak Jayanti!

Yours etc,

Sanbeer Singh Ranhotra,

Via email

India’s porous borders

Editor,

One of the highly unguarded and under protected as well dangerously porous border area of India is the infamous and historic Indo-Myanmar border. A complex densely forested and hilly terrain with no clear marking between the two nations stretching over 1624 km (~1009 miles); and lack of modern electrified and well lighted border fencing is a huge security threat to both the administrative and military establishments of India. The border adjoins the NE Indian sates of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram; all impacted with serious cross-border insurgency issues. The Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force in charge of guarding the Indo-Myanmar border is grossly short staffed; with poor funding, lacks modern military gadgets, communication system and advance training and experience to work in such dense forest and hilly terrain compounded with ground problems such as poor intelligence coordination among various agencies jeopardizing national security in a significant manner. The Indian defence establishment is engaged in capacity building in areas of space technology, naval and military hardware development and improving various missile technologies; however, a serious border issue has been left unattended for over 68 years making the region, a hot bed of innumerable insurgent groups. Most of these groups operate on the Indian side of the border and cross over to the Myanmar side for safe refuge in the adjacent forests and villages. The ground staff and the jawans of the Assam rifles and related military units must be applauded that in spite of least available support from the government they have been able to protect this huge border area with minimal infrastructure.

The Indo-Myanmar border is one of the most dangerous regions of India and is an active hotbed of insurgent groups, human and wildlife traffickers, rampart prostitution, drug mafias, war lords and an important center for various cross border crimes like exchange of fake currencies, smuggling of contraband commodities, violent attacks on border villages and security agencies causing very high average annual death toll that is not disclosed by the government agencies or under reported due to remote localities. It is almost unbelievable that a major military power of the world such as India with huge ground troops could leave this vulnerable area to destiny and sleeping peacefully for decades. This could only happen if this porous border has been filling the secret coffers of some local military bosses, politicians and some members of the administrative establishments of the adjoining NE Indian states. A secret arrangement between beneficiaries on either side of the IndoMyanmar border must be under operation to facilitate this arrangement for decades after Independence.

Any future strike if made by enemies of India will be through this soft belly of Indian military establishment and one does not need to be a veteran military expert to understand this. With a new democratic government being elected in Myanmar, India should do everything doable to enter into some joint agreement with Myanmar for joint border management and enhancing security of the region. India must work towards establishing secure fencing in the region, develop regional infrastructure (building roads, railways, emergency landing strips, medical units, schools and bridges; initiate massive electrification programs, establish mobile towers and secure stringent satellite surveillance), increasing the presence of ground troops, strengthening military intelligence network in the region and encourage socioeconomic development in the border region. The remote, rural, border communities should be made stakeholders in the security network by employing them as informers, trackers and engaging them in infrastructural development projects in the border region. Unless a comprehensive developmental and security policy is initiated for the Indo-Myanmar border region with clearly illustrated pathways for the future, the soft belly of India may prove to be a costly mistake of Indian administrative and military establishments.

Yours etc.,

Saikat Kumar Basu Lethbridge

AB Canada T1

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