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EDITORIAL: Confused Delhi

If Delhi is under the impression that the arrest of RK Meghen will sound the death-knell of insurgency in Manipur, then either they are fools or are being misled by some elements, who have their own agenda drawn up for the future. A movement, whether it is an armed movement or one that is firmly rooted in non-violence as in the case of the freedom movement of India under Mahatma Gandhi or in South Africa under Nelson Mandela, is never about an individual but is about an issue, an issue that needs to be thrashed out through sincere and determined political commitments. No doubt there have been leaders, who stood out from the rest because of their sheer charisma and character along with their political prudence, say someone like Fidel Castro or Mao, but they are individuals and they cannot over shadow the movement which they may have led.

In arresting Meghen, Delhi no doubt netted an important personality of the armed movement, seeking sovereignty from India, but the follow up action has exposed Delhi’s immaturity and refusal to see the writings on the wall. Whether the stand and the means that he adopted are right or wrong is not the issue here. The bigger and more important point is how Delhi interprets the armed movements in the North East region, especially Manipur. With the NSCN (IM) and the NSCN (K) in Nagaland and ULFA in Assam, breaking the ice with Delhi, it is only Manipur now which perhaps pose the biggest headache to the men in Delhi. A look back at the sequence of events that followed after his arrest gives an interesting insight into the mentality of the people who run and manage the affair of the country.

Meghen was arrested in Dhaka by a combined team of the National Investigation Agency and Dhaka intelligence personnel on October 27 last year but this was kept as highly classified information, with both the Sheikh Hasina regime and the Congress led UPA Government engineering a conspiracy of silence. Even the UNLF, of which Meghen is the Chairman, had officially acknowledged his arrest, but the official confirmation of his arrest was made public two months later and that too with a twist. According to the Government of India, he was arrested from a non-descript place in Bihar while trying to sneak in from Nepal. This is dangerous and mischievous.

In the first place, India kept the arrest of a wanted man a secret for over 60 days and in their bid to cover up their tracks or to give credence to their version, unnecessarily dragged in the name of a neighboring country, Nepal. We wonder how the External Affairs Ministry reacted when the Home Ministry came out with this cock and bull story. Would India have dared to cook up a story and drag in the name of a more powerful Nation like China? We leave it to the wisdom of the people to answer this question. Till date, RK Meghen has been produced before a special court of the NIA in Guwahati three or four times. The rebel leader, in his brief interaction with the public and the media struck a tough pose and did not betray even the slightest hint of giving up the fight. This must not have come as a surprise to the NIA or Delhi, but it surely indicates that Delhi has got it all muddled up in the first place.

Time and again we have been told that the insurgency movement needs a political solution and military might cannot defeat it.  In fact, the best that the huge army of India can do is to contain the situation and keep it under a certain degree of control with firing cover provided by Acts like the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Where Delhi went wrong was in its treatment of RK Meghen. Insurgency needs a political solution and thereby it is necessary that insurgent leaders like Meghen should be treated as political prisoners and not like some common criminals.

The first time he was produced before the NIA court said many things. He was brought in handcuffed, which can be interpreted along many different lines. It could be a psychological tactic adopted by the NIA to blow away the air of aura surrounding the personality of Meghen or it could be a message to all rebels that they too will face the same treatment, if they do not give up their fight. Neither strategy worked as it turned out and it will take more than a hand-cuff for the NIA to defile the rebel leader’s personality. We do not know what methods the NIA may have used to extract information from RK Meghen, but one thing that is for sure is, the more than 60 days of silence was the period under which the rebel leader must have been grilled to the bones and in today’s age, interrogation of a suspect or a wanted man can take many forms, such a narco-analysis, psychological approach besides the modern method of inflicting great physical pain.

The NIA may say it is merely doing its job with the approval of the Union Home Ministry, but the fact of the matter is, this is not how one deals with an issue like the armed movement we see in Manipur. Delhi missed a great opportunity in casting itself in some positive light and thereby earn the respect of the common people here. As Opposition leader in the State Assembly, Radhabinod Koijam pointed out the other day, shuttling Meghen from one place to the other will backfire in the long run. Delhi would have done much better if it had not played the game of silence and if it had the moral conviction to say that since insurgency is a political problem, insurgent leaders like RK Meghen will be treated as political prisoners.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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