TODAY -

The Paraolon Ambush: Time to recognize the state of armed conflict
- Part 2 -

Kangujam Sanatomba *

Damaged vehicles : 10 days aftermath the militants ambush at Paraolon village in Chandel District :: June 15 2015
Damaged vehicles : Aftermath of ambush at Paraolon village on June 15 2015 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam



The existence of armed conflict in Manipur has been re-established by the Paraolon Ambush

Last, the KYKL, a Meitei armed group which largely confined its activities to social reformation has now started armed campaign against the Indian military. Post Paraolon incident witnessed the establishment of a new revolutionary alliance called the Alliance for Socialist Unity Kangleipak (ASUK) consisting of the KYKL and the KCP. Earlier, the two armed groups were constituent units of the CorCom (Coordination Committee), a conglomerate of RPF, UNLF, PREPAK, PREPAK(Pro), KYKL, KCP and UPPK.

It may be recalled that UPPK had earlier unilaterally withdrawn from the CorCom and signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the state government. It is not officially known whether or not the KYKL and the KCP have relinquished their membership of the CorCom. But the formation of ASUK implies that the two armed groups have distanced themselves from the CorCom. It is not easy to comment on the internal dynamics of CorCom given the silence maintained by it.

However, one thing is quite certain and that is the existence of ASUK alongside the CorCom. The name ASUK indicates that the KYKL which was believed to be an armed group committed to revivalist ideology has now open up to socialist ideology. Perhaps, this particular group has undertaken an ideological re-orientation. The dialectical leap from revivalism to socialism can be viewed as a significant ideological transformation which the group has undergone in its revolutionary sojourn.

Almost all the armed insurgent groups of Manipur seem to have subscribed to the socialist ideology. This will have serious implication on the security scenario of the Indian state as there is possibility of forging a revolutionary alliance between the CPI (Maoist) and the insurgent groups of Manipur. The RPF/PLA had already reached an understanding with the CPI (Maoist) for initiating a coordinated struggle.

The Indian state machineries especially its security establishment and intelligence apparatus over-emphasized the role of China behind the escalation of armed conflict in Manipur. The “Foreign Hand” or “external angle” is a thesis propounded by the GoI and its think tanks in their effort to explain the crises besieging the Northeast. But there is a need to go deeper in our quest for the root cause of the conflict and insurgency. The external support is definitely a factor in the rise of insurgency in the region.

However, it is pertinent to ask whether or not insurgency can emerge in the absence of internal dynamics. Internal dynamics refer to the interplay of various factors; socio-economic, ethno-cultural, political and historical conditions which are prevalent within a country, a region or a particular society at a particular point of time. If the internal dynamics is characterized by serious contradictions, insurgency is bound to occur with or without the support of the foreign powers.

The rise of middle class in the Northeast, identity politics, procedural lapses inherent in the process of integration (of NE with India), absence of autonomy and flawed development policy are few of the internal dynamics that gave rise to insurgency in the first place. External support may be a factor for the emergence and persistence of insurgency, but that’s not the ultimate factor. Insurgency needs to be viewed as an independent phenomenon.

Therefore, to blame China for everything that happens in Manipur may not be driven by a sound logic. Such an obsession simply smacks of a defeated mentality born out of the 1962 debacle. Why frightened so much even before the dragon starts spitting fire? Or is it a case of trying to further the reason of the state which in reality is the reason for the existence of the military.

The approach of the GoI towards insurgency in the Northeast is fraught with paradoxes. The government holds that insurgency in the Northeast is an internal law and order problem. But this claim is contradicted by the deploying of military troops on the ground. A law and order problem is a situation characterized by the breach of public order, safety and morality that requires the application of police action to restore normalcy. The state police and the central paramilitary forces like the CRPF are more than enough to tackle any kind of law and order problem. The military has no business in handling the internal law and order problem of the country.

However, if the situation is one marked by high occurrence of armed hostilities over a period of time, the military may be called in to restore normalcy. But a situation which warrants the heavy deployment of the military cannot be described simply as a law and order situation. There is nothing wrong to press the army into action in Manipur or the Northeast if it is considered necessary by the GoI. Nevertheless, there is a need to give a correct interpretation to the events and circumstances that render the application of the armed forces.

The concern about the deployment of the army in Manipur arises because of the simple fact that the army is an institution specifically designed to fight external enemies. The service of the military may also be solicited for peace-keeping purpose in foreign countries or for humanitarian purpose in times of a large-scale natural calamities.

Otherwise, the army should stay in the barracks. That is why the army comes under the purview of the Ministry of Defence and not under the Ministry of Home Affairs. This is also primarily the reason why the army is not used against the Maoist insurgency in the heartland of India. The logic attached to this understanding is that the army cannot be used against one’s own people.

The killing of 18 Indian army personnel in Chandel district was unfortunate and every right thinking citizen should sincerely share the pain and grief of the bereaved families. But the question is; what had they been doing in Chandel at the first place if there is no conflict situation? And if a conflict situation does exist in Manipur, what prevents the GoI to officially declare the existence of such a state of affair? Sending the army to the conflict zone without first declaring that there is a conflict is tantamount to misusing and the institution of army.

Large-scale deployment of army in the Northeast represents the colonial legacy of viewing the Northeast as a frontier. A frontier refers to a geographical area which is yet to be integrated into the body-politics of the country and which therefore remains as a mere buffer zone. It is this understanding that informs the GoI to enact different form of legislation (AFSPA) for the Northeast.

The people of the Northeast do not figure prominently in the mainstream imagination of Indian nationhood. The region and the people are external to the Indian nationalist imagination and therefore they are subjected to different kind of treatment. So we have the AFSPA and the army in our midst. Here lies the externality of the conflict situation in the Northeast.

The debate surrounding the existence or non-existence of an armed conflict in Manipur needs to be viewed on the basis of the objective realities prevailing in Manipur. A situation must reach certain thresholds in order to be characterized as armed conflict. The current international norms postulate two objective criteria as a threshold to determine the existence or non-existence of armed conflict.

They are (1) The criterion of intensity of the hostilities and (2) The criterion of organization of the armed non-state actors. The intensity of the armed hostilities is measured by the frequency of armed confrontation, the kind of weapons used, displacement of the villagers, the number of death etc. Organization refers to a certain level of organization of the armed groups like existence of the chain of command, political objectives, certain ideology, etc.

Besides, there are supplementary criteria such as the protractedness of the conflict, the area controlled by the insurgents and respect for international humanitarian law. The situation in Manipur fulfils both the criteria of intensity and organization as laid down in the decisions of the Trail Chambers of the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal on the Former Yugloslovia) in various cases especially in the Tadic Case.

It is high time to resolve the prevailing armed conflict in Manipur in order to usher in a durable peace in the region. We cannot afford to live in a conflict situation for an indefinite period. We must find a way out of this situation. To achieve such an outcome, there is a need to accept the hard realities of the condition and circumstances surrounding our existence.

Recognizing the existence of armed conflict in Manipur is the first step towards resolving it. Second, there is also a need to recognize that the armed conflict being witnessed in Manipur is political in nature as the conflict is primarily centered on the question of the political status of Manipur irrespective of whether one defines it in terms of sovereignty or autonomy.

Third, the conflicting parties should seek a political solution to the conflict in Manipur as it is basically a political problem. Seeking a military solution to a problem which is purely political in character will prove disastrous for all the stakeholders. The need to find a peaceful political solution to the armed conflict in Manipur has long been overdue. Peace cannot be established by means of sheer military might.

For, peace has to be achieved only through peaceful means. The first step in this direction, as mentioned above, is for the GoI to officially recognize the state of armed conflict in Manipur. This is the lesson that we all need to learn from the Paraolon episode. How many “Paraolons” do the people still have to witness before the Government of India declares the existence of an armed conflict in the state?

Concluded..


* Kangujam Sanatomba wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Research Associate at the Centre for South East Asian Studies, Manipur University and can be reached at sanatombak2(aT)gmail(doT)com
This article was posted on November 10, 2015.


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