Manipur and Naga peace process

Manipur and Naga peace process
By: C Doungel *

Wherever we move around in Manipur, we see people helpless or angry in an anarchic world. Not only, lack of respect for authority or rule of law is writ large but open contempt and disgusts are visible. Whether the oft repeated blame on the Government and other authorities of following ‘divide and rule’ policy should now be replaced more appropriately by ‘confuse and rule’ is the considered view of many.

The opposite pulls of Naga integration and Manipur territorial integrity has polarised into contradictory ideological stands. Thrown into this is a degree of inevitable linguistic domination and cultural invasion by majority community which however are hyped into alarming righteous indignation of imposition.

Undoubtedly, coexistence and harmonious relationship between communities are the casualties caused by emergence of limitless ethnic politics going into new dimensions.

And the main players in the fields are hydra-headed organisations mostly represented by so called freedom fighters or revolutionaries championing and protecting their fellow ethnic groups, who stalk the countryside and exercise hold over the people through fear.

Many are likely to consider that it is worthwhile giving a chance to the “so called” peace process by acceding to Naga integration as this demand had been there since 1960. In other words, there is a chance to solve more than half a century problem constitutionally.

In fact, the cease-fire between Gol and Federal Govt of Nagaland in 1964 which was extended to Tamenglong sub-division, Ukhrul sub-division (now districts) and Mao area (Senapati segment of Senapati district) would indicate that this is the logical conclusion.

This however would have been the right course if the assumed indicators had remained the same. But so much water had flowed down the Imphal and other rivers in Assam and Arunachal bringing sea-change to those indicators.

For, insurgent groups like ULFA/UNLF/PREPAK/ KNA/ KNF sprang up as fall-out of Naga movement and are aimed at protecting their domains as also threat to the territorial integrity of Assam and Manipur. Likewise, unless there is reconciliation with Federal Govt of Nagaland (FGN) and (NSCN-K), no further head-way seems possible.

One irony is the stand taken by Indian Army including Assam Rifles, emphasising the political nature of the problem that ultimate solution will have to be thrashed out through negotiation.

Perhaps this is prompted by the desire to be careful not to provoke violent reactions from people with wounded feelings, the army having gone through bad experience of protests against abuse of human rights. But where will such evasive behaviour and side tracking lead us to?

The army is performing their duties very well regarding prevention of timber/ganja smuggling etc and other static duties. Also one cannot believe for a moment that Indian army including Assam Rifles who have the highest record of bravery and valour is unable to cope with the task of controlling the situation.

But, where is the hitch ? Cannot they ask for clear direction instead of trying to manage the situation. Because managing insurgents without controlling will make bringing them to the negotiable table much more difficult.

In view of developments which had taken place over the recent years, it may no longer be possible to view the peace process in isolation.

It will be in the fitness of things to bring the aforesaid insurgent groups to the negotiating table and then ultimately thrash out the problem in a package. Otherwise problems created by the fall out could be equally serious. There will be more wisdom in following this course.

Any political solution needs acceptance by the parties concerned but this is not likely to come forth yet. One cannot help musing whether the inhuman quit notice against Tangkhuls is being indirectly used as a means to negate the peace process. A healing touch therefore to bring unity and harness all efforts towards the common cause within and create a well of goodwill without are required for achieving this.

Reconciliation is essential to take to next step. Of the diametrically opposed ideologies of Naga integration and maintaining territorial integrity of Manipur, the later case seems to be bolstered by adoption in UPA common minimum programme that there will be no alteration in the boundaries of small North Eastern States.

This firm resolve appear to have safeguarded Manipur territorial integrity more effectively than the regional parties shouting at housetops that they are the ones doing this.

In fact, earlier Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister of India also stated in his speech at Kohima in 2001 that such alteration requires the consensus of all parties and concerned states. This is not however to say that the status-quo will remain for all time to come but such stone-walling can be broken only by a far stronger force.

That Manipur has survived for more than 2000 years is a historical fact in support of it. The absence of any evidence that there was a common Naga polity in the past is another weak base. Further, lack of any homogeneity is an added disadvantage because unifying force of people speaking same language and having common culture is much stronger.

Plethora of insurgents groups countering NSCN (IM) or supporting, are disturbing peace and hampering development. Loss of dedication in many of their cadres had now reduced them into hordes of extortionists who are free to commit any heinous crime with impunity.

Factional fights and group fights are the order of the day. These are in clear violation of ground rules in respect of those who entered into ceasefire with army or GOI but Indian Army rarely interferes.

Many politicians also wash their hands off by saying that this should be treated as national problem. There are others who say that these are not law and order problem, forgetting the fact that many places have turned into battle fields and the rule of law is not allowed to prevail.

Virtual legitimisation of such violence has cost us very dear.


* C Doungel wrote this article for The Sangai Express . This article was webcasted on July 27th, 2007.

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