TODAY -

NSF akimbo arms and un-couth police

Raj Singh *



Any incident in Manipur is good enough to be converted into a political drama that drags on to consume the vital elements of the society.

If the narratives of the NSF (Naga Students Federation) about police frisking incident on February 14, 2016 is correct, the actions of the police are unprofessional and deplorable.

We fear police in Manipur and Nagaland for their rudeness. I had a memorable road travel in 1990 through Nagaland in a Manipur State Transport bus when passengers were endlessly harassed by Nagaland Police at three different stops. The first was at a stop shortly after entering Nagaland after Mao, the station at Manipur border. A Nagaland police constable entered the bus and with a pokers face he stood in the aisle staring at all the passengers for a long time without uttering a single word. There was an eerie atmosphere inside the bus like that of a hijacked plane inside which passengers silently pray for their own safety. When he had no other agenda, the constable leisurely opened the medical box of the bus, pulled out a bottle of Dettol and asked the bus conductor, “What is this?”

“It is Dettol”, the conductor meekly answered.

The constable roared, “I know that. But why do you carry it?”

The bus conductor knew how to deal with the rude constable as that probably was his daily experience. He again meekly answered, “For accidents.”

Thirty minutes passed every minute of which was feared. There was a gentleman from Delhi who could not stand the harassment of the constable, probably because he was inexperienced for road travel by Manipur bus in Nagaland. After half an hour of watching the police action, he asked,” Can you please let us go if you have nothing more to check?” He never knew that saying this could provoke a proud and powerful constable.

To his bewilderment, the Delhite was charged by the constable like a gladiator shouting, “How dare you command a police? Stand up!” He dragged the helpless passenger outside the bus and threatened him with all possible words and gestures till the helpless passenger pleaded guilty and begged his pardon. The forty passengers sat dumb bystanders because they knew what to expect from the constable for any bid of intervention.

At another station, two constables climbed the roof of the bus and unpacked all baggage and consignments in the name of checking and pulled out three Naga Shawls belonging to one Meitei woman trader who did not have the courage to protest.

For the third time at a station called Medziphema, our bus was stopped by Nagaland police for checking. They took nearly an hour leisurely checking and asking all passengers carrying merchandise to visit one small room at the check post. When I asked the conductor if he had any reason for being ill-treated by Nagaland police, he said - There is nothing personal. They regularly do this to all the buses.

Increasingly impatient and rebellious, I asked,” Why can’t you complain about it?”

He grudgingly answered, “This is Nagaland!”

My story does not look an isolated one when we hear about the plight of scores of drivers who have been victims of extortions, bribery, harassment and assaults on the roads in Nagaland year after year for decades, quite frequently at the hands of police too.

My story and similar stories do not warrant the rude action of Manipur Police to the NSF team in the recent incident. We should condemn all such unprofessional conducts of Nagaland Police or Manipur Police and seek redressal.

What could possibly have gone wrong with either parties that turned a routine roadside checking into an unruly scene? Was it NSF General Secretary’s akimbo arms? His procedural obstruction by trying to stop frisking of his colleagues? Any other word or gesture not described in NSF narratives (since we have not heard the other side of the story)? Or, can the incident be linked to any of the numerous current socio-political crises in Manipur?

We often stop short of digging into reasons for incidents that flare up out of seemingly unrelated things in the contemporary Manipuri society. We are more satisfied with compromises achieved through involvement of CSOs or political figures rather than resolving issues through the use of state administrative apparatus. This is wrong as this leaves the crux of the problem unaddressed.

For fairness and for true solution of the problem having substantive, procedural and psychological considerations, NSF should have lodged a complaint to an appropriate authority within the police organization before it submits its memorandum of demands to Chief Minister in the form of ultimatum. Redressal should not be sought by submitting demands but by asking for “appropriate actions”. NSF could have taken full liberty to use any of the legally permitted ways of escalating its complain if justice is not served.

A roadside brawl with police can never be an issue to be brought to a Chief Minister. It is unfair on the part of NSF to ask the Chief Minister to confirm or refute the utterances of an enraged police officer in his verbal duel with NSF officials on the street. By doing so and by asking for a public apology, NSF’s real intention looks more of gaining a political mileage than correction of policing in the state.

The verbatim English translation of the utterances of the police officer put in the narrative of NSF based on what was heard by NSF General Secretary (a Poumai Naga from Senapati) proves his perfect knowledge of Manipuri language. Feigning his partial knowledge of Manipuri language and calling it a “foreign” language and banning of Meitei owned vehicles in Naga inhabited areas as a protest of the police action paint the Manipuri Nagas alienated from Manipuri Meiteis. These actions circumscribe the political ambition of NSF to form Nagalim which threatens the territorial integrity of Manipur that Meiteis are pledged to preserve.

If the socio-political ambitions clash, Meiteis and Nagas have to agree that there is a conflict to be resolved together. Neither political correctness/laissez-faire policy nor mutual avoidance is going to bring a solution. Looking towards third party mediation for finding the truth for ourselves is not going to serve our interests. These are signs of our weakness, servility and incompetency in dealing with our own problem. Nagas and Meiteis should stop looking at each other as adversaries and start recognizing the conflict as their common enemy to be defeated by sincerely working together. After all, harmony and progress are what matter to all the ethnic groups irrespective of whether they live as brothers or neighbors.

NSF is a 60 years old politically mature organization aptly positioned to set examples of well-intentioned politics in the region. Its memorandum to Chief Minister of Manipur regarding a roadside scuffle with police and the communally directed bund call do not speak of a sound approach for conflict resolution.


* Raj Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at rajkuss(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on February 27, 2016.


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