TODAY -

The unapologetic militant

Benjamin Gondaimei *



The episodes of escalating violence right after the abrogation of ceasefire by NSCN (K) began when security forces shot down four NSCN (K) cadres on May 1, 2015 in an alleged ‘encounter’ at Kapningching Village under Nungba Police Station in Tamenglong, Manipur. Some suspected cadres of NSCN (K) retaliated in an ambush in Mon district of Nagaland and killed Assam Rifles personnel and one Territorial Army Jawan the security forces had gone Changlansu in Mon district to fetch water from a stream on May 3, 2015. The attack and counter attack continues between the Indian Armed Forces and the NSCN (K).

Whenever there are ambushes and when the Assam Rifles jawans or Indian security forces are killed, the Government and its agencies seek condemnation from civil societies and the public for the “brutish” acts. But the people are not prepared to do so, it is not that they want to celebrate killing or support the armed cadres or the underground groups.

The people still recall vivid memories of atrocities committed by security forces in many operations in the Northeast region of India. One may recall “Operation Blue Bird”, “Operation Rhino”, “Operation Bajrang”. “Burning of Makokchung Town” or other operations in tribal and Naga inhabited areas. Young, old, women and children have clear views on how the security forces have allegedly “maimed and raped” persons.

When one talks about the brutal operations, the people had been branded “terrorist sympathisers”. It was obvious that an incident like “Operation Blue Bird” was not aimed at uprooting the NSCN but was allegedly directed against the Nagas and the poor people ofother communities.

It is during such operation, the state flaunts its military might, power and force in an effort to send a strong message to those who are supposedly seeking justice. The Government at the Centre talks about democracy yet keep weapons to silence the rising tide of people’s movement. It is clearly understood how the Government of India with just 20 minutes of discussion on Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 imposed the Act upon the people of Northeast India.

Yet, why people have to resort to armed struggle or pick up arms? The most obvious reason has been the “unapologetic foregrounding of armed struggle” as the only path to revolution or in seeking justice. Those who have fought against the system have been saying that the country has adopted “fake democracy” run by bourgeoisies and capitalists. They have argued that the state in its effort to run a democratic system had taken resort to utilisation of police, para-military forces like CRPF, Assam Rifles and Gorkha Regiment in the Northeast and Naga inhabited areas.

Many eulogize the virtues of non-violence and Gandhian Satyagraha. Those who have been actively involved in non-violent struggles may strongly disagree with the NSCN or other Naga factions who claim they are struggling for their rights. The underground groups who work for causes of the people may be irrelevant for the city dwellers, but it is quite relevant for the poor people whose plight have never been looked into and for those washed away by militarization. The armed groups have been completely unsuccessful in the centrepiece of their politics: in doing justice to the people. But they have managed to throw light on the structural injustice in our society.

The Government have always looked down upon people’s movement and found faults and has even sparked anger of the masses for branding innocent people who had been exploited and misused by the leaders. The state proclaimed justice and desire for development and self-respect in some of the most oppressed communities. Yet, the state continues carrying out reforms twisting tribal cultural laws in the State Assemblies and Parliament. And today, all talk about “uneven development” and “exploitation” in tribal areas.

Assurances and MoUs are just sheer lip service which never came true in the most needed areas. Though the militants in Northeast India have virtually no political presence outside the forested areas, they do have a presence, an increasingly sympathetic one, in the popular imagination as a party that stands up for the rights against the intimidation and bullying of the state, fighting for people’s freedom.

Among the most serious charges leveled against the militants is that their leaders have vested interest in keeping poor people and illiterate in order to retain their hold on them. The state should realise the fact that the poor and illiterates are the by-product of state’s injustices.

Field surveys and the Government claim that the militants have been blocking developmental schemes. This does not seem to hold much ground. The process was against state corruption, contractors and ministers who tried to whitewash development cheating the ignorant people.

Arundhati Roy in her article “Trickledown Revolution” opines that “Here in India, even in the midst of all the violence and greed, there is still immense hope. If anyone can do it, we can do it. We still have a population that has not yet been completely colonised by that consumerist dream. We have a living tradition of those who have struggled for Gandhi’s vision of sustainability and self-reliance, for socialist ideas of egalitarianism and social justice. We have Ambedkar’s vision, which challenges the Gandhians as well as the Socialists in serious ways. We have the most spectacular coalition of resistance movements with experience, understanding and vision.”

Roy continues that the first step towards reimagining a world gone terribly wrong would be to stop the annihilation of those who have a different imagination; an imagination that is outside of capitalism as well as communism. An imagination which has an altogether different understanding of what constitutes happiness and fulfillment.

To gain this philosophical space, it is necessary to concede some physical space for the survival of those who may look like the keepers of our past, but who may really be the guides to our future. To do this, we have to ask our rulers: Can you leave the water in the rivers? The trees in the forest? The land to us? Can you leave freedom for us?

Roys questions that wen the government uses the offer of peace talks to draw the deep-swimming fish up to the surface and then kill them, do peace talks have a future? Is either side genuinely interested in peace or justice? One question people have is, are the Militants really interested in peace?” can they be given an alternative an offer to stop taking arms?

Under the cease-fire many militants of NSCN and other groups were killed, does the state really want peace? When, lack of restrictions, self-rule, self-determination roll out, spontaneously justice, peace and love will stream in.


* Benjamin Gondaimei wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
Benjamin Gondaimei is social analyst based in Tamenglong District, Manipur
This article was posted on May 27, 2015.


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