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EDITORIAL: Shooting In The Dark Or…

Not everyone makes it to the Indian Administrative Service or IAS in short and one needs to be a cut above the rest to crack the three layered process of examination starting from the Preliminaries, Main and ending with the personality test or viva-voce.  This by itself is a tall order but tougher still is the climb up the ladder of bureaucracy, which is a pyramidical structure and it is not a given that every IAS officer will go on to become the Chief Secretary of a State, much less occupy a post of the rank of Secretary in the Union Government.

A number of factors are at play here, merit and seniority being two of the more important points and taking these facts into consideration, one cannot help but admit that it needs something more than the others to become the Union Secretary for Home Affairs or the Defense Secretary or the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. GK Pillai, an alumni of Bishop Cotton Boys’ School, Bangalore, must have had that extra something to outrace his peers and occupy, what is possibly the most crucial position in the bureaucracy, and this is the reason why  so much weightage is given to whatever he says. In other words, every word which the Union Home Secretary utters, especially with regard to the situation in the North East, (read related to insurgency and the IM peace talk-Nagalim), it is fit or newsworthy to hit the front pages of all newspapers for this is something important to the people.

And so it is that the very utterance of the Home Secretary at the sidelines of the inaugural function of Manipur Tribal Cultural Exchange Program at Ukhrul on March 5, that the proscribed United National Liberation Front is in ‘dialogue mode,’ has evoked much interest as well as raised a number of questions. At the moment, the UNLF is without a permanent Chairman, following the arrest of RK Meghen last year as well as a number of top rung leaders from Guwahati. If we shut off all other viewpoints and look at the issue only from this angle, then the statement of Mr. Pillai would have meant that a talk is around the corner.

The developments in the last two/three years are other factors, which tend to give credence to what Mr. Pillai said in Ukhrul. In Assam, the Tarun Gogoi Government is patting itself on the back for having managed to draw a number of ULFA heavy weights to the negotiating table led by its Chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa. Paresh Baruah, the Commander-in-Chief or the man in charge of the Army within the ULFA, remains the only thorn that needs surgical removal from the path to the dialogue table. The IM group has been in a peace parley with Delhi since 1997 and the Khaplang group is likely to follow soon, though informal talks have reportedly started.

A number of armed Kuki groups under two camps, the KNO and the UPF have entered into a Suspension of Operation agreement with the Government since the last few years. The MNF is no longer an armed outfit but very much a party of the Constitution of India. A number of Bodo groups as well as the Dimasas have also entered into some sort of an understanding with the Government. It will take more than a cursory look or a ham-handed approach to understand how the Meitei dominated insurgent outfits, including the UNLF, have remained an island of armed movement in a sea of political dialogue. Surely there must be some very important reasons and it is this which the policy framers at Imphal and Delhi should try to grasp.

The paradox or the irony will not be lost on anyone. While Mr. Pillai sent out the message that the UNLF is in a ‘dialogue mode’, the plebiscite call mooted and championed by RK Meghen and the outfit which he leads, has started spreading to all the nooks and corners of the State. The public posture of the arrested leader also says something else, nothing remotely connected to a political dialogue. So then, can we presume that Mr. Pillai was shooting in the dark?

This again is unlikely for it is not for nothing that he has managed to leave his peers behind and occupy the chair which is coveted by all those who made it through the intensely competitive civil services examination. In other words, it is not expected of a brilliant student and of course a more brilliant administrator to talk loosely without weighing the pros and cons on any sensitive issue. The question staring us in the face is, what exactly is happening?

Was Mr. Pillai under some instructions from the Home Minister to come up with such a statement only to create confusion and distrust amongst the rank and file of the outfit. ? Bureaucrats are known to do the dirty works for their political bosses many times. This is a culture which is embedded in the Indian system of governance. On the other hand, was he telling the truth or hinting at something that may come close to a dialogue? Whatever the case may be, our stand is, sowing the seeds of confusion will only create more problems than solve anything.

Delhi knows that it is not the UNLF alone which has launched a war against them, but also other outfits, say the RPF/PLA for example. With men like Chidambaram and Pillai at the helm of affairs, we are inclined to believe that Delhi has learnt a lesson or two that talking peace with only the IM group is not the answer since insurgency or the armed movement in the North East cannot be separated nor identified in isolation. Surely they would not tread the same path while dealing with Manipur. Regardless of whether what Mr. Pillai said contained a grain of truth or not, the more important point to note is that it was a premature statement and thereby hangs a tale.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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