Land Mines – Anti Human Devices
Though all the weaponry used against humans is never innocuous and needs to be dealt with extreme caution. Unlike all other weapons of war, anti personnel land mines are “victim” actuated. That is they are designed to be detonated by a person stepping on or handling the device, or by disturbing a tripwire attached to it. Anti-personnel mines are indiscriminate in their effects and unless removed or detonated long lasting.
Even after World War II, the land mines continue to be laid and thus cause a great deal of horror. There is a global landmines crisis with 100 million mines in more than 60 countries. Each year 26,000 people become victims. The bottom line is that
“Land mines cannot ‘distinguish’ between a soldier’s boot and the child’s foot”
The injuries inflicted by anti-personnel mines are particularly severe. These weapons are designed to kill, more often to disable permanently their victims. The victim is rendered handicapped and often, they require multiple operations and prolonged rehabilitative treatment. The ordeal that the victims go through is pathetic.
Our valley stands no exception to this problem. With a large border-line with Pakistan, the area is prone to the land mine accidents. This abhorrent weapon has already taken a heavy toll in the valley. The aftermath compensation is never going to solve the problem though.
Pursuant to its active direction and respective mandate to plummet the use of Landmines, Mines Action Canada (MAC), in collaboration with Society for All Around Development (SARD) and ICRC, organized a five day workshop focusing on Skill Building and Thematic Training for South Asian Youth to become local activists and leaders in Mine Action. The programme was coordinated by SARD and sponsored by MAC in New Delhi from 19th – 23rd may 2006.
The main objective of the workshop was to assist and train the South Asian youth in developing a mechanism to learn more about the concept of shunning Landmines. The conception included universalization and implementation of the convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of Anti-personnel landmines. The simultaneous incorporation of Ottawa Convention in a quite profound way!
The workshop stressed the efforts at international, national and community levels to be taken in ‘mine action’ and aimed at reducing the effects of mines and ERW: Demining including surveying, marking and clearance, mine awareness, victim assistance, advocacy and stockpile destruction.
The requisite set of goals maintained persistent efforts to inculcate an attitude of readiness in the South Asian region to reduce the number of causalities and prevent further suffering by helping effected communities to change risk taking behaviour and identifying solutions adapted to local needs.
Concept of banning the use of landmines sees in its purview, the essence and applicability of the Ottawa Treaty, which is a part of International response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the global proliferation of anti-personnel mines.
These deadly weapons are already contaminating more than 70 countries, thus creating one of the most serious man made ordeal of our time. The long term impact upon individuals, communities, and entire societies is startling. The history of the treaty, redefines the covenants as ascribed to humanitarian cause. The world voluntarily came together in 1997 and negotiated the Ottawa treaty, an international agreement comprehensively banning the development, production, stockpiling, transfer and use of anti-personnel mines, and requiring their destruction. The treaty is an outstanding achievement because it marks the first time that countries – through International Humanitarian Law – have agreed to ban completely a weapon already in widespread use. Ottawa treaty represents a decisive first step in the long term goal of addressing the scourge of landmines and clearing the world of these horrific, deadly weapons.
Coming on to the Indian chapter of the treaty, as of now, India has not acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty. Though it has often expressed support for the ultimate objective of a non-discriminatory, universal and global ban on anti-personal mines. During the workshop, some facts came out clear; the India believes the weapon in the question still plays a legitimate defensive role. “The importance of landmines as army weaponry could never be underestimated” was the bottom line from the Indian side. There are certainly alternate weapons to be used in place of landmines but military would never use them. They validate their statement by the large border area or the area of operation and immediate effect of using this weapon.
ICBL representative in India, the NGO – Indian Institute for Peace, Disarmament and Environmental Protection (IIPDEP) organized a series of seminars for policy makers and political leaders in September 2004 in Jaipur, Srinagar & New Delhi to promote the first review conference and the land mine ban.
India is trying to be a mute spectator of all these initiatives taken up by the International Committee to ban landmines, participating only in forums, attending protocols or organizing seminars etc but it does not take a serious note of the implications as such.
While answering a question, Canadian High Commissioner, during a High Tea party hosted for the participants of the workshop, said that the High Commission is gravely concerned about the situation in south Asia especially in J&K. According to the High Commission, they are trying their best to make India sign the Ottawa Treaty.
According to the Landmine Report 2005, India maintains that “it has never exported nor imported anti-personnel mines”. But it does manufacture them, balancing the equation quite clearly. According to the report, Indian government’s last major use of anti-personal mines took place between Dec 2001 and July 2002, when the Indian army deployed some two million anti-personnel and anti vehicle mines along its 1,800 mile northern and western border with Pakistan under operation Parakram.
The use of landmines takes its toll on both sides – killing defendants and offenders as well. The end results in death of Human life. Ministry of Defense has reported that 60 Army personnel died during this mine laying operations. Many civilians have fallen preys to landmines, especially in the areas where the mines are not adequately marked. In a region like J&K, deploying landmines is a great danger for every strata of its biome. Adding to the mess, bad weather conditions like rains, earthquake or snow misplaces the mines. Marked mines are rendered lost and as a result anything, anyone can become a causality. Furthermore the mine education in J&K is quite negligible among the vulnerable masses. The victim is subjected to a great torment and there is the psycho social stigma attached to it also. The victim finds it very difficult to live a normal life. There is a social, physical, emotional and economic alienation for the victim.
Now that people are in the middle of the crisis – of dealing with landmines; whether countries in South Asian region comply with Ottawa Covenants or not, the agony would not cease there. What should be done is that concerned organisations, NGO’s, Government should take the case in a very profound manner and should consider points like Mine Clearance, Mine Risk Education, construct Comprehensive Data Collection Mechanism, Survivor Assistance and Disability Policy and Practice with an intense effect.
The writer attended the workshop at TERI; New Delhi (India) from 19th may to 23rd may 2006.