The Centre’s estimate of militants in Manipur shot up from 1,500 to 5,000 in a span of 10 days during the Supreme Court’s hearing into the fake encounters in the north-eastern state but the spike may have just been on paper.
The government had reported the two figures in affidavits filed on December 5, 2012, and December 15, 2012, to persuade the court to dismiss pleas that sought probes into the alleged fake encounters in the state. “It is emphasised that only around 1,500 militants are holding a population of about 23 lakhs in Manipur to ransom and keeping the people in constant fear,” the government said in the case decided last week.
In its judgment, the SC, however, said this estimate was different from the figure cited 10 days later (in 2012) by the Centre in a similar case. Parts of the second affidavit too were reportedly a cut-paste job but with a higher estimate of the number of militants.
A home ministry official said they would need to look up the records to figure how the error crept in. And this wasn’t the only goof-up. The court pointed out that the government also got Manipur’s population wrong in both affidavits, observing that the 2011 Census had put the state’s population at over 27 lakh, not 23 lakh.
Security expert Ajai Sahni said he wasn’t surprised at the slip-ups but the problem was a lot more fundamental .
“The government and the home ministry demonstrate no respect for data and have often manipulated figures over time to suit their narrative,” said Sahni, executive director at the Institute for Conflict .
The Chhattisgarh government promptly stood up to junk the figures, asserting that the total number of armed Maoist cadres in the state alone were in excess of this estimate. But does an estimate of 5,000 militants imply that the problem in Manipur is much more serious than in Jammu and Kashmir?
No, said Sahni, pointing that the size of an insurgency had nothing to do with the intensity of the insurgency. Brig (retd) Gurmeet Kanwal, distinguished 2012, and December 15, 2012, to persuade the court to dismiss pleas that sought probes into the alleged fake encounters in the state.
The SC said the Centre also got Manipur’s population wrong in both affidavits, observing that the 2011 Census had put the state’s population at over 27 lakh, not 23 lakh. fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, agreed, saying the number of militants in Jammu and Kashmir was estimated at 400 but were much more active.
Kanwal—who has commanded an infantry brigade in the high altitude Gurez Sector in northern Kashmir and an artillery regiment in counter insurgency operations in the Kashmir Valley — said the J&K figure comprised hardcore armed militants and were estimated on the basis of 15-20,000 radio interceptions made every month, interrogation of suspected terrorists and weaponry.