Antipathy to Democracy - from India, the so called Biggest Democracy!

Thounaojam Brinda *

It was chilly in Guwahati on 10th Jan 2011 - temperature well below 4'C, atmosphere was saturated from the fog and pollution. My husband and I reached the sessions court at 10.20 am where a special NIA court session was to be conducted for several cases, among which was the appearance of Uncle, Chairman of UNLF, Sana Yaima @ RK Meghen and his inmates, Ibohal, Joy, Rakesh, Landhoni and others. Lawyers and few clients were already present bustling around to complete unfinished works before the court began. We sat on a wooden bench next to the door of the designated court room. Minutes dragged on endlessly in the drudgery of the court environment peppered with the cold weather with no sign of their arrival. We tried to kill time discussing on various topics with Uncle's lawyer tamo Gunadhar.

Finally at around 2.30 pm amidst a commotion of noise, they were ushered in - entered Ibohal, Joy, Rakesh, Landhoni, - and finally the legendary, charismatic leader, my Uncle, Sana Yaima walked in - I was awe struck to see him in person finally after this long stressful seemingly never ending hiatus. My husband received his father in arms and closely scrutinised his father's face with the tip of his fingers to see any sign of fatigue like the way he does to our son. The closeness of the father and son, in spite of having maintained a long distant relation, touched and warmed my heart. It seems the few moments of togetherness instantly abridged the years of separation, for, in thought, thinking and principles we have always been connected to and followed Uncle, and perhaps meeting him in person was all that was needed to complete the physical proximity and my husband hastily introduced me to Uncle formally amidst the bustle. I touched his feet and exchanged pleasantries. I noticed and remarked he looked frail to which he replied after the secret detention of 61 days, at his age, it was difficult to recoup fast enough. Things went on smoothly inside the courtroom. In the midst, Uncle was requested outside from the courtroom by his guard and there were seven or eight 'Emas' who had come to hail him all the way from different parts of the North East.

RK Meghen being taken to the Court of NIA

The union was sort of emotional on both sides. The Emas blessed him to stick to his stand and that they, the people of Manipur would be there for him. Tearfully as mothers they embraced their son who has gone to war and as always Manipuri mothers stood by their brave son giving him courage, support, and all logistics morally and physically. For a moment the scene reminded me of how the young adamant prince Chinglensana was blessed by his brave but tearful mother before he set off to the hinterland of the War of 1891. It was emotional for Uncle too, after a long time, seeing the Emas face to face who have braved all the way to see the son of the soil. Batch by batch they came and met him, showering him blessings and support. As the session was closed, we came out and to everyone's surprise, there were hundreds of Emas and supporters dotted with pressmen and journalists. They were shouting slogans in his support, for his stand, for plebiscite. The urgently deployed CRPFs found it difficult to control the crowd who demanded the most democratic solution of all to the Manipur-India conflict - the Plebiscite ascertain the wishes of the people of Manipur.

11th Jan, 2011, 11am - Guwahati Central Jail
My husband and I met Uncle in the Guwahati Central Jail. This time, to have a sort of family talk though under a rather bizarre scene. I told him briefly how everyone was at home. Then Uncle related to me series of incidents that followed his abduction. This was what took place :-

At around 10.00 am of 29th Sept, 2010, Wednesday, my father-in-law (Uncle) went out to see some people. He was planning to come back to his temporary holding in time for lunch with his colleagues. At 11.50 am he was driving alone on the way back and had told his colleagues he would be back in 10 minutes in time for lunch. He was managing the busy traffic when a truck passed by and was suddenly stopped at a corner at Darus Salam, on Mirpur Road near Khalique filling station, by a joint team of Bangladesh and Indian Intelligence. They were all in plain clothes and scattered all over. He was questioned of his identity - Sana Yaima @ RK Meghen and confiscated all his cell phones that was four in number. Then he was abducted in a Toyota Prado Jeep blue Govt vehicle. He was driven blindfolded around in the vehicle until about 4 O' clock in the evening. They stopped and offered him tea which he refused. Again, drove for another hour after which he was brought to an interrogation cell and through the corner of his eyes he could make out the area that he was only around 800 metres away from the abduction point. Another officer was there who spoke Bangla. He briefly interrogated Uncle - still blindfolded - and took a brief biodata including home address. They asked him who accompanied him, etc, etc. He didn't answer much. At around 8.00 pm, he was taken to a cell - about 10X10 sq.ft., with no window, no air hole, connected to the outside through a door across a verandah to the bathroom. He was asked to rest at around 8 pm. There were no other detenues. Four plain clothed personnels guarded him and no other guards were deployed outside - may be not to give away any idea of the secrecy of the detention area. Even foods were called from nearby restaurants.

Meanwhile, on 13th of Oct, 2010, BBC correspondent Subhir Bhaumik had broken out the news of his abduction.

On 14th Oct, 2010, an officer came and took Uncle's full biodata - from schooling uptil present. He asked Uncle why he is fighting for. To which he replied - To regain the lost sovereignty and independence of Manipur that was surreptitiously snatched away from the people of Manipur in the year 1949 by the dominion Govt of India without the people's consent. Understanding the cause, the Bangladeshi officer supported the struggle and asked Uncle to intensify the struggle more by unifying together even when the political leaders are working against the struggle. The need of a reconciliatory syncretistic effort among the revolutionary freedom fighters was voiced by the officer who said he was just following orders of his act of detaining Uncle.

He was subjected to one of the worst forms of tortures - solitary confinement in a shielded cell of just 10X10 sq.ft. with no window, no outside contact, no proper air hole. No contact of fresh air except when he was allowed to take bath in the bathroom across the verandah. He was not informed of his whereabout, the charges against him, who was abducting/confining him. And over here the public and family were not informed either. Even Edmond Dant'es in the Count of Monte Cristo had a fairer condition in the nineteenth century justice. India and Bangladesh were ostensibly violating every basic human right universally acclaimed and of which they claim to be a signatory! According to law any person arrested should be produced before a court of law within 24 hours. Uncle started developing serious apnoea worsened by insomnolence. The problem was related to the guards but no physician was provided. Later on, the guard started interacting with Uncle and they chatted on various topics. They must have been struck with his commitments, principles and as a person on the whole, they felt bad on his departure later on. The guards were surprised at his resilience as earlier detenues that comprised State MPs, dignitaries, etc could not endure the strain of such detention and would break down within 10 to 15 days.

Uncle didn't demand anything - as is his nature - minimal materialistic requirement but nothing less than freedom for his people. The guards knew nothing about him. Later on they came to know of his real identity and the cause of his people through short spans of conversations they shared with him.

Meanwhile, an intense pressure was building up in Manipur through various agitations, sit-in-protests, complaints made to NHRC, International Red-Cross Society both India and Bangladesh, Amnesty International, UNHRC, UNWGEID, letters addressed to the PM (India), Secretary MHA (India), CM (Manipur), DGP (Manipur) and many others. Seminars got organized on his enforced disappearance at National and State levels. Cases were taken up in the UNWGEID, Amnesty International and others.

Union Home Secy, G.K. Pillai visited Imphal and delivered some recondite answers - as always - to the people of Manipur. Several theories followed as to his whereabout - by Assam Tribune, Tehelka and others. Students, intellects, meira paibis, common mass all erupted in protest everywhere. Just as things were getting out of hand in Manipur from the pullulating sprouts of various agitations, the Govt of India, under pressure from Manipuris and international community, consequentially was compelled to take up a hasty cover up in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh- 28th Nov, 2010, 1pm - suddenly a small bus with 10 people arrived and whisked away uncle hurriedly. He was blindfolded and flanked from all sides and the bus drove continuously until around 3.15 pm up to a riverbank where a ferry came and the bus was carried on the other side. At 11.30 pm they reached an isolated wooded place and in the darkness took him on foot to a small foot path. There they took out guns, AK 47s, pistols which they have hidden all along in the bus. The air was chilly in the November weather, uncle had no time to dress up - he was just in a trouser and a half shirt. For a moment, he suspected he was going to be exterminated then and there. Then he saw BSF floodlights through his blindfold. One of the two BDR officers - who took part in the abduction telephoned to their Indian counterpart. The Indian side replied that it would take two and a half hours to reach the place.

29th Nov, 2010, 2 O'clock in the morning uncle was handed over to the Indian side. Uncle was not given any information of the undergoing transaction. Two plain dressed Indian intelligence officers received him, and took off together - on the journey to revelation of his whereabout after an abeyance of 61 days of secret detention in solitary confinement - to the people of Manipur, the world, through a story everyone knew was fast cooked under pressure although in paper it was made a record.

The two Intelligence officers welcomed uncle and offered him tea and biscuits. Again he was taken in another vehicle blindfolded and around 5 O'clock in the morning reached Kolkata and taken to a place that looked like CISF camp on GT road. He was rested for some time and around 8 am was moved to another vehicle with RAW and IB officers. Altogether there were two vehicles.

The RAW officer was a Bengali. On GT road they drove to Bihar, reached Muzaffarpur. They lodged him in a hotel - Dilip Hotel and confirmed the timing was 11.30 pm. He was given tea in the morning. At 8.15 am they took him again to another place. For the first time they communicated to him that they had reached Chittawani, Motihari, Bihar at 10.30 am. They reached a bus stand and a man who identified himself as Inspector Riyaj received uncle. One SP (3) who introduced himself as Mr. Swayam Prakash Pani took him in a jeep to a nearby police station and took two already recruited local witnesses and formally arrested uncle. It took 33 hours from the handover to the Indian side upto the time of formal arrest. Almost all the intelligence establishments visited him through the night.

Uncle was produced in the local CJM Court in the afternoon without any legal assistance. And there, India announced their story. And here is uncle's side of the story - that we get to hear - as they couldn't break his conviction, stand for the people of Manipur - their inherent right to regain the sovereignty and independence lost to India in 1949 through an "agreement" that was inherently deceitful, forced and illegal and so invalid in the context of any natural and political justice. Ever since, India has been systematically following wanton destructions of all the basic human rights of the people of its colonies and dissecting the opinions of various groups. It has been methodically streaming in mass of illegal migrant workers through purposely perforated border from Bangladesh and from the spills of its over populated States which if not cautioned against in time will lead to huge demographic imbalance and thereby sustained Aryanisation will occur annihilating the entire ethnic racial identity and culture of the region (this issue will be dealt in a separate write up). India claims to be the biggest democracy in the world but it certainly is not the most ideal one, albeit myriad factors. Its very records on State human rights violations are no more news to the world. India is yet to prove its democracy. What could be more democratic than uncle's demand for a plebiscite - a people's vote on what they want, under the aegis of United Nations? Should not governance be based on the wishes of the people, on their confidence and trust? History has seen it and will see it - no pressure is greater than the wishes of the people. Let the people decide - and if India has so much confidence, why should it shy away from the most democratic of all proposals?

The only amnesty Manipuris can give India is when - Manipuris are allowed to go for plebiscite - for restoration of their lost freedom. Anachronistically at the dawn of its freedom India usurped the freedom of others - through all known undemocratic means - which they had so long decried. The price will be heavy on both the sides but ultimately it is the peoples' wish that will win as no amount of bureaucracy supremacy can suppress the paramountcy of the peoples' wish in the long run.

The Road To Freedom Is Indeed A Long Walk;
The Emancipation To Be Reaped By The Future Generations-

And The Nation Of Manipur Will Bask In All Its Former Glory!
To quote Arundhati Roy, the great courageous humanist writer on Kashmir - I take the liberty to use her quote for NE and Manipur -

"India knows NE and Manipur have never been an integral part of India either. "

Would it be wrong to add a rejoinder from BG Tilak

- For the NE and Manipur -

"Freedom is our birth right and we shall have it."

Related article on RK Meghen

* Thounaojam Brinda wrote this for The Sangai Express

This article was posted on February 04, 2011.

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