TODAY -

Prospect of peace talk in Manipur

By B B Sharma *



The insurgency movement in Manipur is over 40 years old. During this period, people's mindset in Manipur has changed. The changed situation now demands a paradigm shift in the approach for solving the insurgency problem in Manipur.

Yet, the State's understanding of Manipur remain ensnarled in the limited confines of the history and situation and thus so far failed to understand these changes still refusing to look for fresh ways to address the conflict.

What has changed during the last 40 years? There is a growing realization among the people that the real problem in Manipur needs a political solution. In every elections either to the State Assembly or Lok Sabha, the recorded voting percentage used to be low but is now hovering over 80 percent. The people's aspiration for freedom is now redefined not only in terms of 'sovereignty' but also the peace and security. Very significantly, people's intent is all-out for dignity of self-respect and self-governance.

This, many analysts so far failed to recognize. Thus, it would not be wrong to presume that the people's aspiration for freedom is associated with peace and prosperity.

The national mainstream discourses traditionally considered the insurgency problem in Manipur as driven by acute unemployment problem, fomented by its non-governance which was not the proper diagnosis of the malaise that inflicted the state. Thus, whatever appeal politicians make for peace talk remains only a rhetoric of the political leadership.

The appeal by the Union Home Minister, Mr P Chidambaram during his recent Guwahati visit to all north east insurgent outfits, particularly the ULFA of Assam and UNLF of Manipur, for a negotiated settlement is the right approach for a lasting solution to the problem. According to him, both the UNLF and ULFA should abandon the 'sovereignty' issue for a dialogue with the government.

This marks a growing awareness about the nuances of the insurgency problems of the north east and about the follies that the State has committed so far. However, the UNLF has rejected Mr. Chidambaram's appeal saying that 'we do not have anything to talk of, except sovereignty'.

The point here is that the Naga underground never abandoned their sovereignty demand and yet the peace talk is still continuing for the last ten years. Similarly, peace talks can begin on the issue of sovereignty with the ULFA and the UNLF instead of remaining fixated on sovereignty issue.

Yet, the Government of India has once again banned the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and its political wing Revolutionary Peoples' Front (RPF), the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), the Peoples' Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) and its armed wing the Red Army, the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) and its armed wing the Red Army, the Kanglei Yawol Kanba Lup (KYKL) and the Manipur Peoples' Liberation Front (MPLF). These organizations were declared unlawful organizations under the proviso to Sub-section (3) of Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (37 of 1967).

In a notification issued on the 13th November 2009 in New Delhi, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India said that these organizations have been indulging in violent activities including killing of civilians, security forces and law-abiding citizens of Manipur with an objective of formation of an independent Manipur by secession of Manipur from India.

It is also charged that these organizations have been indulging in acts of intimidation, extortion and looting of civilian population for collection of funds for their organizations.

Further, the notification alleges that these outfits have been making effort to establish contact with sources abroad for influencing public opinion and for securing their assistance by way of arms and training for the purpose of achieving their secessionist objectives. It is also said that they have been maintaining camps in neighbouring countries for the purpose of sanctuary, training and clandestine procurement of arms and ammunitions.

In support of these allegations, the notification says that during 2007 as many as 122 persons including 37 security personnel were killed and 336 violent incidents took place. In 2008, also 94 persons including 10 security personnel were killed and 492 violent incidents took place. Up to August 2009, again 48 persons including five security personnel were killed and 326 violent incidents occurred.

In fact, in Manipur there are more than 40 underground outfits indulging in violent activities with varied political objectives ranging from formation of an 'independent Manipur' to a 'separate homeland within India'. Of them, only a few have been declared unlawful organizations by the Government of India.

Thus, the government measures so far remain far short of the desired long term peace strategy. It has been more in the nature of fire-fighting rather than a lasting solution to the problem.

Also, top Army and Assam Rifles hierarchy, actively involved in the counter insurgency operations, is of the opinion that they have accomplished their task and it is now for the political leadership to solve the problem. This is true, for insurgency can not be solved by sheer force alone.




* B B Sharma wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
This article was webcasted on January 24th 2010.


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