The International print media has given wide coverage to a UN report alleging the involvement of Indian United Nations peacekeeping troops deployed in Congo in sexual exploitation and abuse of Congolese women and girls. The image of Indian Army has been tarnished after allegations in Congo that Indian peacekeepers fathered around a dozen children while posted there on a United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in 2008. The allegations surfaced after DNA tests commissioned by the UN in Durla, Congo, showed that the children were born with ìdistinctive Indian featuresî. Based on the UN allegations, the Indian Headquarters wrote to Western Command in January this year asking it to investigate into the matter against the 6th Sikh Battalion, which comprises 12 officers and 39 Jawans stationed in Congo at that time. The accused troops are currently located near Chandigarh, therefore, the inquiry was ordered on May 24 by the Western Command, headquartered at Chandimandir, near Chandigarh.
This is not the first time that Indian UN peacekeepers in Congo have been in the news on the reasons of moral turpitude. In 2005, the widespread allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of Congolese women and girls were also leveled against Indian troops serving in the UN Mission. In 2007, at least three of its officers, including a Lieutenant Colonel and a Major faced allegation of being involved in smuggling of gold and ivory while on the UN peace keeping duties in Congo, Africa. Indian blue berets had exchanged food and information for gold with Rwandan rebels in Congoís North Kivu.
There were separate allegations that Indian soldiers had paid minor Congolese girls in North Kivu for sex. In March 2008, allegations surfaced that three Indian officers posted at the UN Mission in Congo had sexually exploited a local woman while holidaying in South Africa. Following allegations that over several years Indian peacekeepers had indulged in gold trafficking and sexual abuse, the Congo government had requested the United Nations not to send any more Indian troops for the peace-keeping contingent. Despite numerous complaints by the locals supported by evidences against them, the international body did not take any action against India rather allowed them to send additional number of personnel. June 2009 was probably the ugliest day for the people of Congo that despite their all out protests, UN did not ban India from contributing troops in Congo as peacekeepers. There was a gap of 15 months but UN forced Congolese government to compromise with India.
In June 2009, Indian Air Force contingent comprising 285 personnel was airlifted to Congo. This was followed by dispatch of 1,000 Indian troops, mainly 5 Bihar regiment. Later other Indian troops also joined the peacekeeping force in Congo.
The Indian Army’s participation in the UN peacekeeping operations spans a period of 57 years covering 43 UN Missions, in which over ninety thousand Indian soldiers have served in various parts of the world. The Indian Army’s performance has been widely acclaimed. Concerning recent UN allegations, one mind-boggling question is that then, why the Indian Army is behaving in such a beastly way in peacekeeping missions?
To my mind, New Delhi deployed their troops in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) to crack down on civil liberties ever since the independence of the sub-continent in 1947. India still maintains 500,000 troops that comprise its regular army, the Border Security Force and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). To suppress the uprising in Kashmir, the Indian troops used religious prejudices and hatred against Kashmiri Muslims while using ërape as a weaponí against Kashmiri women and girls. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) provides impunity for human rights abuses and fuels cycles of violence in Kashmir. Years of lawlessness beyond physical and emotional levels has established social dimension of “extra-judicial executions”, “disappearances”, torture and sexual harassment. Hence, this facet becomes perpetuated in their unconscious (archetype) and manifests as a habit. Now, the sexual over-indulgence by Indian officers and soldiers has been well embedded as part of accepted military norm and culture. A 2008 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees determined that the Indian troops and allied paramilitaries have been accused of widespread sexual violence against Kashmiri women. The same pattern of moral turpitude was displayed by the Indian peacekeepers in Congo who had once served in Kashmir.
It is quite alarming that India personnel deployed as peacekeepers in Congo have been responsible of belittling the image of the UN and its mandate to protect and serve the Congolese people.
There can be no second opinion that India should not be allowed to violate UN mandate and code of conduct. UN must take stern action in this regard and ban Indian troops in these peacekeeping missions. The peaceful nations of the world expect from UN Secretary General to hold a high level inquiry into the incidents and ensure that UN charter and mandate remains intact and impartial.