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E-Pao! Essay - What ails Manipur?

What ails Manipur?

By: Lt Col. H. Bhuban Singh (Retd) *



The above is the question, I am asking to myself repeatedly.

There are now many ailments inflicted on Manipur, like taunting our Chief Minister with festoons like 'Welcome to South Nagalim', corruption at high places, insurgency, failure of power supply for months when transformers are under repair, supply of dirty and unhygienic water by Public Health Engineering Department and its carefree wastage into drains by the public, fear of territorial disintegration of Manipur, frequent economic blockades, bandhs and hartals, deteriorating law and order situation, drug menace and consequent spread of HIV/AIDS, bad roads and bridges, rising unemployment level etc, etc.

An article like this containing about 800 - 1000 words cannot deal with all the problems, indicated above. Therefore, please allow me to pick up only three problems which I consider commanded high priority. These are:-
(a) Territorial integrity of Manipur.
(b) insurgency problem, and
(c) Drug menace and its concomitant HIV/AIDS and social disorder.

Now, let us take up 'territorial integrity'. Public opinion on this differs. One school of thought believes that if some of our tribal brothers and sisters want to break away, let them do so. Why quarrel and antagonize them?

They argue that there are so many small States and Union Territories in India, which are not only existing but thriving too. For example, the State of Goa, Daman and Diu with 1426 square miles of territory, having two MP (LS) is an advanced State. "Goanese are playing big roles in mainstream India.

Oscar Fernandes is a Minister in the Union Council of Ministers and is also representing the Prime Minister in peace talks with NSCN (IM). Pondichery with 185 square miles of Union Territory is doing very well. Lakshadweep (old Laccadive), Minicoy and Amindivi Islands is also a Union Territory, with one MP (LS).

Some small islands have a half square mile of area and are just a dot on the map. But they have produced a Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha and a Minister in the Union Council of Ministers. Your shine or dimness depends entirely on your calibre and performance, everyone will opine.

So, let a clean valley State of Manipur with about 870 square miles remain. What is the problem? There is one single problem - that is NSCN(I-M) and their agenda of Nagalim which envisages of an independent or, semi-independent country of nearly 1,00,000 square kilometres.

They want to expand Naganess to areas which were earlier non-Naga. The bluff of affiliation of schools to NSBE of Nagaland instead of BSEM (Board of Secondary Education Manipur), paying of house-tax to Government of India direct, and display of disrespectful banner of welcome to Manipur Chief Minister at Senapati and Ukhrul, are all converging to the Nagalim agenda.

According to social evolution theory, about which I had written earlier, mankind started life on this planet in caves and dugouts. Because of fear of wild animals and other enemies, groups of families of brothers, cousins, uncles etc stayed together forming a clan. Several clans together formed a tribe.

Now, since mankind communicate with one another, howsoever small the tribe may be, they developed a language. To perpetuate tribe history, customs, laws etc, some progressive tribes developed a script with which they wrote on stones, copper plates, papers made out of barks of trees etc.

Though many such tribes might be fighting among themselves for supremacy, but because they had common historical and genetic origin, they formed a sub-nation or a nation. Genghis Khan united all Mongol tribes and sub-nations to form the then great Mongol nation which conquered almost the entire known world in the thirteenth century, when North America, South America, Australia were unknown and Africa, though known then, was not explored.

Therefore, traces of Mongol culture, tradition and ethnic content etc will be found now in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and in some Slovakian countries of Europe.

Coming back to Nagalim agenda, I shall have the cheek to say that there is no tribe known as Nagas. British rulers called a conglomerate of various tribes as Nagas and Hill district known as Naga Hills District of Assam.

Because, they all spoke different languages, they developed a common language called Nagamese, which is a mixture of Hindi and Assamese, then spoken by Assamese Babus who worked in civil administration of Naga Hills District.

Therefore, the Naga nation, without a common language is a myth. Nagas meaning the Lothas, Aos, Angamis etc exist today as peoples who live in Nagaland, just like Apatanis, Daflas, Mishims, Adis, Monpas etc are all Arunachalis now.

Incidentally, Arunachalis have scored a point over us by having Hindi or English as their State languages. Almost all Arunachalis speak workable Hindi, and they communicate among themselves in Hindi.

Another aspect is that the Nagalim agenda has international support. There are now established platforms known as Naga International Support Centres at London, the Hague, Cologne, and recently Berlin too. American Baptist Church, Atlanta is active for Naga cause. Washington has Carter Institute of Emery studies.

There are also well-known domestic supporters of NSCN(I-M) cause in Delhi too, who openly plead for amalgamation of Ukhrul and Senapati to Nagaland, on give and take principle; to progress with the peace talks. This will be only give, no take. Suicidal, it will be.

Incidentally, I am not sure if ceasefire is extended to Manipur, the extension of which caused the June 18 uprising. A few years back, some. NSCN (I-M) leaders with weapons were caught by Manipur Police at Tamei. Delhi intervened and they were let off honourably. Recently on 25 July, 2006, NSCN (I-M) cadres overpowered Ukhrul policemen and fled with arrested colleagues from the court complex of CJM, Ukhrul.

This needs explaining as to how armed NSCN(I-M) cadres existed at Ukhrul. Can't North Block and South Block see through the grandiose Nagalim project of over 1,00,000 square kilometres of area? Phizo cried for independent Naga Hills only and died in London.

But because of his long distance pressure guided by unseen hands, he was able to amalgamate Tuensang Division of erstwhile NEFA to Naga Hills and the district came to be known as Naga Hills and Tuensang District. That was around 1957. All quiet for some time. Then pressure again for full-fledged Statehood within the Republic of India.

A magnanimous a climb-down from independence, so thought India. Thus Naga Hills and Tuensang District was granted Statehood in 1963, whereas Manipur earned Statehood after years of agitation only in January 1972. Inclusion of Dimapur railhead from Assam to the new State of Nagaland was foreign brain.

Now, Phiizo's vision was picked up by Isac and Muivah. They will die after a decade or two, but perhaps after adding Ukhrul and Senapati to a small Nagalim, provided GOI appeasing. Then, there will be some peace, but not for long. After sometime the Naga cause will flare up being picked up by someone else. Inch by inch they will move ahead.

There is no hurry for them. So, after a peaceful period of twenty or thirty years, greater Nagalim project will get revived with stronger foreign support. Then perhaps, Chandel and Churachandpur districts will go the NSCN way.

Things will continue like this till the Reangs and the Chakmas of Arakan Hill Tracts become converted as Nagas. Once the rebels capture the seaport of Chittagong, American ships will get berthed there and neither India nor Bangladesh can do anything.

Assam and all of North East India will be cut off at the tiny chicken-neck area at Siliguri. So, India will lose the entire North East. The Christian era at that point of time of break up of India may be as close as 2050 A.D., if we are not careful.

If the above opinion of mine is considered as idiosyncratic views of a retired nondescript Army officer, then, I will like to pose three questions and these are
(1) Why did Simon Commission made a singular attempt to visit Kohima in 1929 and interacted with the then Kohima Club?
(2) How did this Club became 'Naga Hills District Tribal Council' in 1945 and the same Council (or Parliament, if you like) got renamed as Naga National Council in 1946 under the patronage of the then British Deputy Commissioner and lastly
(3) Where was the hurry to execute the June 1947 Sir Akbar Hydari Agreement, whereas Indian Independence was so very close? My answers, I guess, are the same as yours.

Now the question is 'Who can save Manipur? Can the Manipur Legislative Assembly do this job? Apparently yes, because Article 3 of the Constitution of India stipulated that the consent of Manipur Legislative Assembly will be required. But if the Government of India desires otherwise, the Assembly can be dissolved when President's Rule is imposed.

So the ultimate authority to break or unbreak Manipur lies in Delhi. So the importance of Race Course road, South Block, North Block and Parliament Street and possibly, 10 Janpath also arises. We have to convince them that Manipur is the bulwark for defending India and Indian culture.

Coming to insurgency problem, I always maintain the views that if there is a country and a nation residing in that country, there must be one Government and one set of laws. But in Manipur, there are multitude of Governments and various territories euphemistically known as 'liberated areas' and different sets of laws. These private Governments try accused persons as per their laws and inflict punishments. This must end.

There are only two ways to sort out this - either (a) kill all insurgents and wipe them out, or (b) talk peacefully and sort out. The latter course is the preferred one, since the core issue will get solved - like Laldenga in Mizoram - and real peace restored. Now, Mizoram and Aizawl are peaceful. Otherwise, the spectre of violence will raise its ugly head again.

Moreover, killing all insurgents will be a Herculean task, perhaps beyond the capacity of our State Government. Anyhow, Chief Minister Ibobi Singh has to solve this problem since he is the arbiter of our destiny.

Now, drug menace and HIV/AIDS. Drug addiction is like one way traffic. Once addicted, you cannot come out of it, except for a handful of persons, who are morally and mentally robust. Addicted youngsters in their thirties die young, leaving behind infected widows and children.

The entire family is ruined. As a grandfather, I will like to dot on my grandchildren, but will hate to bear the responsibility of bringing up my six year old or ten year old grandchildren. This is one social problem.

Moreover, this problem of young man dying early has created social disorder. We now find many girls in late thirties awaiting suitable grooms. Some have become spinsters for life.

The mental agony suffered by our girls will have telling effect on our society. There is man-made imbalance of sexual ratio in our society.

After some decades, Manipur may experience minus rate of population growth. Meiteis may disappear altogether.

The only way to stop this menace is to make drugs non- available. So, a very robust and determined drug policy as is implemented in Malaysia, is needed in Manipur.


Lt Col. H. Bhuban Singh (Retd) wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on August 29th, 2006


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