TODAY -

Conflict Resolution in respect of Manipur
- Part 2 -

Dr. A. K. Chishti *



The Centre was supposed to be more concerned with the genuine and legitimate interest and demands of the people of Manipur a newly joined member. The Merger Agreement is a living testimony in that the interest of both the State of Manipur as well as of the Dominion of India was the main consideration for the Merger. In reality it worked in a different direction. It is now sufficiently clear that the country's interest alone is served by this integration. The State's interest is not at all bothered; who needed whom is now clear. The Post Merger Scenario speaks volume.

We often tend to think that if the mountain range or the terrain in the East with thick jungles did not exist as an impenetrable border fence or boundary of the State, the Country would have never thought of integrating the State with it or in other words the 1949 Merger Agreement would not have been effected. It was after seeing the efficacy of this terrain during the II World War when the terrain served as the Great Wall of China for the British Forces in Manipur, the idea of annexing Manipur ticked in the mind of the Nation's leaders before India attained Independence.

The Centre was also supposed to be more tactful in dealing with the newly joined member, a kingdom like Manipur with different traditions and customs. In this context we wish to recall the spirit of the Article VIII ( C ) of the Agreement that specifically maintained that the Government of India undertake to preserve various laws, customs and conventions prevailing in the State pertaining to the Social, Economic and religious life of the people.

It is still the living memory that the approach of the Britishers who occupied Manipur in 1891 after the Khongjom war and left in 1947 after 56 years was quite in contrast. It will always be remembered as Good Old Days in the history of Manipur. It was commendable in so far as its relation with the people of Manipur, as its respect and regard for the religion , customs and conventions and in so far as its kind of administration run in co-ordination with the State Durbur.

There was no anti -incumbency feeling in the heart of people inspite of the fact that the Anglo- Manipuri War or Khongjom War took place and we lost in that. It is also true that there was no violence of any sort in the kingdom with different communities and tribes speaking different dialects as described earlier or there was no threat to the kingdom's territorial integrity from any quarters within or outside, either. People of the time loved them and praised them and still many who saw them remember for the Britishers' posession of great political and social acumen in that chapter of Manipur's history.

Chronicling the events in the Post Merger chapter of one and a half decade's short account was already given in the foregoing para. After Manipur's attaining statehood in 1972 till date - 3 decades and a half's scene can be described as the worst scene we have ever experienced in our life-time. All man-made miseries for the poor people of this former kingdom have come in chain to create the hell- like situation. Number one problem is the Law and Order problem with no sign of relief.

The murderous situation is in fact the result of the ever increasing rise of insurgency with arms for the restoration of Sovereignty and to suppress it Army's using of maximum force. As this has been the practice to use force to solve the Law and Order problem, the people sandwiched between the two forces with no means of defending themselves are the ultimate victims of both the operations.

Next to this woes is the rampant corruption and nepotism in all spheres of life. Who bears the brunt? It is the public again. As the Highways particularly the National Highways are very often blocked for days / weeks together by some Organizations at their own sweet will - the ultimate suffers are the people using these roads- the life lines connecting the State with outside World. According to a recent report the State has also incurred the loss of crores of rupees due to these blockades. At the same time price hike is the prorata consequences: Nexus between the politicians and the underground groups have become inalienable now. Central Grants to Manipur for the development though received in terms of crores and crores of rupees- all were swindled.

The Centre knows this situation and its development fully yet the right solution to the problems is never found out, instead the symptomatic treatment alone is given so far. Correct diagnosis is half cure but never cared for that diagnosis. We see, the World sees , that still the APSPA continues to operate even as the Reddy Commission recommended for the repeal of this draconian Act one year back and the country's Prime Minister expressed in favour of repealing with some modifications to make it more humane.

This clearly shows that the Centre does not bother for the State's genuine grievances and interest. This has further strengthened the general belief that the Central Authority's interest is centered round the strategic importance of the State alone when the people of Manipur is rueing the Agreement of Merger in 1949. Where is the meeting point? Where is the search for conflict resolution?

The eruption of violence and development of anti centre incumbency can't be subsided. There is no reason why the youths and brave hearts will become all the more indignant as the infamous draconian Law the AFSPA has been pressed in the service that no longer serve the purpose but only evokes worldwide condemnation instead. What is most unfortunate and appalling is that a nation claiming to be the largest Democracy on earth instead of nurturing a law-based State, has been active in an exercise to keep justice and law, more so the humane consideration, at bay.

It will be a wrong fangled notion if the Authority harbours optimism that the conflict will die down willy nilly as the time rolls on. Judging against the backdrop of the process of integration of the State to the Union and pent up feeling embroiled in the heart of the people of a State at the sensitive frontier in the East a humane and sober approach to the conflict can alone assuage the wounded feeling and volatile mind.

It can never be by the arbitrary arrests, harassment and killings under the aegis of the Draconian Act - a legacy of the colonial era that has long been a measure of despotism in the State. With all these heavy handed methods adopted by the authority and excruciating circumstances people are exposed to, one is apt to think that Authority is set to conditioning people to police State tactics that would help create a garrison state mentality which could easily snub the democratic method.

This reminds the people again and again of the fallacy of the Merger Agreement that is now considered to be the turning point in the history of Manipur and will always prompt the younger generation to look back in anger and spew venom on the Union Government and the erstwhile State Authority. We have now enough of experience of the subversion of humane values in contrast to our aspiration for the flowering of the personality in the democratic India.

The State's woes is never ending; when the people of Manipur are helplessly fighting for the return of normalcy in their territory - it is seen that some disgruntled leaders belonging to this land have joined hands with the forces outside in the demand for a Greater Nagaland with that our Centre is busy for an amicable settlement of the Naga issue.

This demand if considered by the Centre under the Article 3 of the Constitution of India, will further reduce the size of the state to the point it can't survive as a viable State. The former kingdom of Manipur never faced such a threat in its existence. Before Merger, of the Manipur's area, a big chunk- the Kohima (Thibomei) is already with the Nagaland and a greater portion than that the Kabo Valley which was gifted to Burma by British is still under dispute. The state can't afford to loose its area further more.

It is not negotiable under any circumstances. Merger and dismemberment can't go together. Our valid argument is that the Merger Agreement itself is the living testimony for us to refer. We are very sensitive people and we see no solution to this. Our Centre is also seized with this peculiar demand for the integration of all Naga inhabited areas of the adjoining states with no regard to the concerned state's legitimate interest. Jews converged to the land of Israel but not brought with then the land they occupied in other countries.

Manipur and the whole nation saw in the year 2000 the sinister move made in favour of the said demand in the act of extending the Cease-fire beyond Nagaland to the territory of Manipur which the people of Manipur rejected outright and forced the Central Authority to withdraw the Order of extension of course at the cost of precious lives of 18 brave Manipuri youths.

The incident is a reminder to all involved with some knowledge of Manipur's past history . At the same time it was a clear demonstration of the Centre's arrogance and under- mining in open of the genuine and legitimate interest of the people and land of Manipur. It will always remain as an eternal regret. On this blunder of the Centre - we would like to ask what will the Centre tell our children and all those for whom the nation builders are the living role- models for all times. Does it not go against the spirit of Merger Agreement in that the interest of both the State of Manipur as well as of the Dominion of India is the main consideration of Merger? The nation is still to prove against that.

This small State of Manipur is a geographical receptacle having a pluralistic society as an added attraction in as much as India is a geographical receptacle for many nations speaking many hundreds of tongues. Centre should not lose sight of the existence of a polyglot state in its family. When we, the people of the valley and hill tract have been living together in this land -locked tiny state as our homeland we have been promoting the virtue of a pluralist society projecting a distinctive culture- canvass the nation can simply be proud of .

Fragmenting a small territory on ethnic line propelled by a powerful militant section of the hill- tract simply bears testimony to the fabulous notion of Mahatma Gandhi, The spirit of democracy cannot be maintained in the midst of terrorism! While protecting our territory we have been promoting national political culture that would help create a bouquet of different hues in the process of which we appeal to the conscience of the brethren of the hill-tract to bury the strong sentiment tightly anchored to the ethnic root that destroys asunder the tender fabric of plurastic society.

Any attempt for further dismemberment of Manipur will lead to the birth of several new other states in the same line. It will be of a lasting value if we can incorporate the feeling of Karim Aga Khan IV, "Pluralist societies are not accidents of history. They are a product of enlightened education and continuous investment by governments and all of civil society in recognizing and celebrating the diversity of the world's people".

In this context we wish to recall the spirit of the Article VIII( C) of the Agreement between the Governor General of India and His Highness the Maharaja of Manipur that specifically maintained that the Govt. of India undertake to preserve various laws, customs and conventions prevailing in the State pertaining to the social, economic and religious life of the people. It is obvious that the economic life of the people / State shall be affected severely, should the hill tract be torn from the territory of Manipur. To prevent dismemberment of small state like Manipur, a retrospection of the Article 3 of the Indian Constitution is the need of the hour.

What was not visible to the older generation of our people is now clearly visible to their younger generation. The Post Merger Scenario if the State and Central Authorities consider as not sufficient enough for serious attention and action to end the conflict, the fate and future of Manipur will take its own course.

The question that poses before us today is that why the Centre triffles with such an important and emotive issue involving the pride and honour of this State for such a long period. Will there be no initiative to end all these conflicts however difficult it may be, to address. It is certainly difficult we all agree, but it is also very important for both the State and the Centre to take up the case in the right earnestness without further loss of time.

Time has come for all concerned and the nation as a whole to raise the slogan for peaceful settlement of the conflicts. India 's talk of lasting peace and order in the world and giving sermon to the countries in conflict will be considered as hollow and nothing but lip service only if her own domestic conflicts are left unresolved for longer period.

The world is the witness to the developing situation in Manipur and neighbouring state. Manipur 's murderous situation turning the former kingdom into gravedom , breeding of armed insurgents, extortionists political thugs, corruptmen in the public service and survile people, has become the global concern . Why not the peaceful method of addressing the issue be given a chance? In an issue involving body politic of the nation, it will be more appropriate if peaceful and democratic method be allowed to precede the method of force in the search for solutions. People are still conscious of their right to expect decency from the government of the land of Mahatma Gandhi.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION:

In this context, the memoranda submitted to the President and the Prime Minister of India separately in the end of the year 2006 by this Association may be conveniently recalled here. In that we have made early resolution of conflicts a serious point for consideration. We often feel that if the Centre takes the initiativee in the right earnestness there will surely be a matching response from all quarters. To create the ideal situation wished, easing the tension created in the mind of people by the inordinate delay in lifting the APSPA from the State is a must.

It is also the desire openly expressed by our Hon'ble Prime Minister in favour of substituting some of the unwanted or detrimental clauses from the said Act. It is for sure that this 1st step will help in restoring the people's faith in the Centre. If the Centre acts according to the wishes of the people, the armed insurgents will also reciprocate in the fitness of things. An ideal situation is bound to develop that parties concerned will be ready for discussions and parleys; terms for peace will be found out in due course.

We always feel that people' involvement in such a people's affairs as demanded in a democratic set up of government and functioning is the corner-stone of success. To end the anti-incumbency feeling , measure like keeping the streets, Highways-State & National free from obstructions and Blockades should be taken up as a step forward to instill the required amount of confidence in the citizens and to ensure their right to move freely.

For free movement is more important than the freedom of speech to the people who are not free to move. Highway scene has been in the people's' full glare to judge the guts of the government; 52 days' closure / blockade of the National Highway 39 by some organisations in 2005 did not face any challenge from the custodian of Law and Order in the State though the Government knows that the NH 39 is the life line of the State. How much the people suffered was nobody's concern: people had already lost faith in the Government in power. What can be expected of those who can't command respect from their people, leave alone their defending the territory.

Conflict between the people of Manipur and the Centre is now more clearly visible in the form of Armed insurgency in the State while the small border state has been involving itself in the nation building process ever since it was brought into the fold of Indian Union in 1949. The Merger Agreement, a turning point in the history of Manipur turns out to be the seed of conflict that prompted the younger generation to look back in anger spewing venom on the Centre or Union Government and the erstwhile State Authority ruling in its fiefdom on its subjects of the placid days of the feudal era.

It is not a mere conflict pertaining to the economic aid and development of the State or the unemployment problem as projected by some observers. State politicians alone used to manipulate the situation in a way that would serve their interest better. Today this old tricks of trade is no more a secret with the Chief Minister of the State admitting in his public speeches or interviews that it is not the dearth of Grants or Funds required for the development of Manipur that the State remains undeveloped for so long a period but it is all because of the continuous obstructions and the demands for percentage from various organizations.

As we find that the conflict is related to both the Centre and the neighbouring Nagaland, with the former it can be regarded as the Vertical Conflict arising out of the Merger Agreement in 1949 and mismanagement of the State after and with the later as the Horizontal Conflict arising out of the peculiar demand for the partition of our State Patta land. Resolutions to the two conflicts are, therefore required to be found out by holding separate discussions with the parties concerned.

In the Vertical conflict- three parties are involved viz- The Centre, the armed insurgents and the elders with no political affiliations but capable of giving academic views on behalf of the people.

As suggested, measures like effective regulations of the movement of public freely without any hindrance or obstructions from the organizations along all the NH 39 and the NH 53 and State Highways, be taken up as the first step towards the creation of the proper climate and demonstrating the Centre's will to do something for bringing about peace and more understanding, following the repeal of APSPA from the State. This is a must from all considerations, we feel. We wish that the initiative for talk be taken by our Centre. By far the most effective step for the regulation of the two National Highways the NH 39 and the NH53 will be as we suggested in our Memoranda to the Preident and the Prime Minister of India for the opening of an outpost at Imphal which will serve as a watchdog under the Union Home Ministry.

As to the horizontal conflict we wish to urge the Centre for speedy amendment of the Articles 3 of the constitution in particular for the permanent safeguard of the small sized territories like Manipur, Tripura , Goa etc. In order to bring about the congenial atmosphere for better understanding and co-operation all the parties concerned be given the opportunities to sit together under the supervision of Centre. It can't be that problem which can't be solved through discussion.

SOME SUGGESTIONS IN RESPECT OF OTHER ADMINISTRATIVE REFORMATION

A. Mini Assembly For Each Constituency:

In the matter of administrative reform we have a feeling that narrowing the gap between government and people could be possible if a mechanism be invented that would ensure people's participation in government and politics. Ventilation of public grievances and open discussions in the matter pertaining to public interest that would account for vibrant working of democracy will find congenial atmosphere, should mini Assemblies be introduced in all the constituencies located at places convenient for all.

Matters of importance seldom get off the ground of the Assembly owing to the lack of the degree of awareness of the general public/ mass. Confining at the capital of the state by the MLAs / MPs away from the constituencies busying themselves elsewhere that often made them forget the representative character- a prerequisite of popular Government, will simply arrest the functioning and progress of democracy.

B. Monitorning cell

Another matter that deserves the attention of the Centre is the mode of administration, and working style of the bureaucrats whose dissemination of their trained intelligence and skill is nothing short of oriental potentate who often treat their office / position as the source of gain requiring to be exploited well in acquiescence with the popular ministry.

All these factors are attributed to Manipur's acquiring the sobriquet of most corrupt state in the East and of the Union as well. This could be mitigated if Centre's monitoring cell be created / opened in the state which could effectively raise the stature of public servants instead of painting or viewing them as necessary evil.

Concluded......




* Dr. A. K. Chishti wrote this article for The Sangai Express and Huiyen Lanpao (English Edition) This article was webcasted on June 13, 2010.

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