EDITORIAL: Changes And Static Stand

It is difficult to say which epoch making incident in the history of mankind inspired the core group or the think tank of the proscribed UNLF to throw down the gauntlet of plebiscite before Delhi to settle once and for all, the political conflict between the Government of India and ‘Manipur.’ The only thing that can be said with a certain degree of surety, is that the leadership of this outfit are firmly wedded to the idea of taking the issue to the people to settle the issue once and for all and nothing illustrates this better than the firm stand taken by RK Meghen even while in the custody of the National Investigation Agency.

The plebiscite in East Timor in August 1999, is the immediate example that comes to mind, but let’s also bear in mind that the plebiscite came about not so much because of external pressure from Australia or the West or the United Nations, but due to the changing political scenario in Indonesia, following the ouster of long time dictator Suharto in 1998. The East Timor experience cannot and should not be applied to all as each country, each Government and each people raising the banner of plebiscite have their own unique reasons and their demands have come about under different political regimes.

Another example that we can quote is the Quebec experience, when the majority French speaking people opted to stay within Canada rather than become a sovereign country of its own. No force or repressive measures were utilized by the democratically elected Government of Canada and after the first referendum was held in 1980, the final round of the referendum or plebiscite was held on June 12, 1995. East Timor and Quebec tell the story of democracy at its best, where the people were allowed to decide their own destiny and in a somewhat similar development, the wave of people’s power sweeping across the sandy landscape of the Arab countries is a phenomenon and is a reflection of just how much can a people take and tolerate.

It took a young fruit and vegetable seller to set himself ablaze in the square of a popular spot in Tunisia,, which provided the initial spark and led to the people’s movement, that ultimately ended with the dictator of this African country, Ben Ali, fleeing his country after lording it over for 23 long years and turning the country into something of a personal fiefdom. The Tunisian fever then spread to neighboring Egypt, where after days of street protests, with the civil police eventually being won over by the popular upsurge, forcing Hosni Mubarak to abandon his fortress and flee to safer climes.

The wave has now reached Libya, but unlike Tunisia and Egypt, its dictator, Muammar Ghadafi, seems to be in no mood to give up without a fight and the sketchy tales that have come out from this oil rich country, tells the story of the State forces, resorting to brute force to quell the popular uprising. Likewise the wave has started touching the soil of Bahrain, Yemen, Kuwait, Iran etc. This was something unexpected or not even dreamt about, two or three decades back. However it would help to identify some of the common threads that run through all these countries and these include, an educated middle class, who utilized social networking systems such as Facebook and Twitter to mobilize the people, the countries are undoubtedly endowed with rich natural resources such as petroleum products and they have been living under an iron fist for decades. None of these countries, where the wave of people’s uprising has taken place are democracies.

Expectedly, what is happening in the Arab world has caught the attention of the world community and many a tin pot dictator has started counting their days or are spending sleepless nights. The interesting part is, can Delhi sleep peacefully in the wake of such an unprecedented wave sweeping across the world? It is during this period of people rising against repressive regimes, that RK Meghen, the arrested leader of the UNLF has been sticking to his demand for a plebiscite under the supervision of the UN to settle the Indo-Manipur conflict once and for all. The strong stand adopted by Meghen is not only a fairy tale and must have been something of a surprise even to the highly trained personnel of the National Investigation Agency.

On the contrary what we see is a renewed thrust on the call for plebiscite and instead of lying quiet and wringing their hands in despair, what we see today, is the call for plebiscite gaining momentum once again, after it had been in limbo for quite some years. In other words mobilizing the people at the grass root level has received a fresh dose of energy booster. This is the significant part after RK Meghen was arrested and looking at things as it stands today, there is no indication that the UNLF will move an inch. Delhi too will not budge an inch, if we go according to what they have been maintaining. The plebiscite proposal was first mooted by the outfit some five or six years back and it has been the calling card of the leadership of this outfit.

Not surprisingly, India did not respond or react to the proposal of the UNLF but surely it must have taken note of it. And so it stands today that even as the chairman of the UNLF is in the custody of the NIA, a wind of change is sweeping across the Arab world, which will definitely have an impact on the rest of the world, the peace talk between the IM group of the NSCN and the Centre is still dragging on and ULFA is gearing up to come to the negotiating table, after saying sorry for all the years of mayhem and unexplained killings and of course after killing 13 school kids in Dhemaji. Change is the mantra in the Arab world at the moment, but the question of greater importance here is, whether a country can justify its seeming indifference to a proposal which has a universal appeal and is democratic under the cloak that it is a practicing democracy. This brings us to another interesting question and that is whether for a movement to succeed, the initiative should come from the public or whether it should be planned and directed by the collective few, who write and direct the script. Any answer to this will be welcome.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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