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EDITORIAL: Wah! Wah! Mr. CM

Politics or politicians, especially of the breed we find here, never cease to amaze us. It was only back in 2006, that the SPF Government, then headed by Mr. Ibobi too had hounded all those who dared to take the public platform and push for the call of a plebiscite mooted by the UNLF. The story of how the plebiscite proposal was floated and made public by the proscribed UNLF has that certain touch of romanticism that one usually associates with outlaws and bandits,  especially as it came as a response to the Governor of Manipur Dr SS Sidhu‘s Republic Day address in 2006, where he described the rebels as “dissatisfied brethren.”

This particular term, which Governor Dr SS Sidhu used, was in total contrast to other terms used earlier such as “misguided youths” or the purely military jargon such as terrorists or insurgents.  The plebiscite proposal caused a political ripple here, not in the sense of the politics that we see in the mainstream of party politics, but in the politics of resolving a conflict situation which date back to the 60s and started catching momentum from the 80s onwards. Discourses, public meetings etc began to spread to every nook and corner of the State and the resolutions adopted then were always almost the same, that is the people or the public should be involved in resolving the Indo-Manipur conflict and plebiscite is the means to do it.

The outfit had obviously prepared its home work well, and this can be seen from the practical suggestions, such as the supervision of the plebiscite by a UN force, withdrawal of all Indian security forces from the soil of Manipur, UNLF cadres to deposit their arms to a neutral force, the United Nations, spelt out by them. The plebiscite option somehow gave a fresh lease of life to the debate on the ongoing Indo-Manipur conflict and one point that prominently stood out was, it was not a rhetoric or some words of bravado, which militant groups and the security forces are infamous for, as part of their propaganda warfare.

Coming back to the time when a good number of people started rallying around the idea of the plebiscite, the State Government, rather the Chief Minister, who also held the Home portfolio in 2006, as he does now, cracked the whip and all those who spoke or took an active part in arranging any meeting to mobilizing the people to the idea of a plebiscite, were marked with red ink in the Government files. This was in 2006, and gradually the word plebiscite became an allergy to the State Government and its agencies.

To the UNLF, the arrest of Meghen and his incarceration in the custody of the NIA must have surely been a major setback, but on the positive side, his arrest and his public stance has only added more teeth and muscle to the call for plebiscite to resolve the Indo-Manipur conflict.  It is another matter that Delhi has put on an act that it cares two hoots to the proposal laid down by the UNLF and this could be a two pronged strategy. By remaining quiet and indifferent, Delhi is sending out the message that the plebiscite option has been floated by just an armed group and hence is not the voice of the people. On the other hand, opening its mouth on the topic and going on an over drive against this would not have gone down with the international community.

It is against this backdrop and against the strategy adopted by Mr. Ibobi in 2006, that the same man has today done a turn around and said that the plebiscite model is a ‘good sign’, at a place nothing less than the august floor of the Assembly. Did the Chief Minister really mean what he said in the Assembly on March 16, 2011, or was it just another sham of an act, aimed at the gallery? More importantly does the statement of the Chief Minister reflect in any way, a slight shift in the stand of New Delhi or was it said on his own volition, with unadulterated conviction? This is the reason why we say that politicians, especially the kind found here, never fail to amaze us.

Whether the Chief Minister said what he said after consulting Delhi or not, his words contain seeds of truth, which cannot be compromised. What better model is there than the participation of the people to resolve a conflict which has damned them for decades? India too must have stretched itself in deploying its armed forces here and receiving brick bats from international human rights organizations for resorting to such a controversial Act like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. It is here that we are reminded of what the venerable Mr. Haobam Bhuban wrote in an article some years back. It was at the time when public meetings on plebiscite were on in full swing and the Government was determined to quash it, that the former solider advocated the idea of holding the plebiscite.

Mr. Bhuban put it bluntly when he wrote that India should not shy away from holding the plebiscite since Mr. RK Meghen is one of the more respectable rebel leaders in the region and in any case, the people would vote enmasse for Delhi. If only things were that easy, but what cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet is the fact that only a political solution is the answer to the conflict situation here. Others may see it differently, but in coming out with plebiscite option in the first place, the UNLF had partially kept its door open to take the first step. It goes without saying that the plebiscite cannot be decided on Sunday and conducted on Monday, but would involve a series of negotiations before the people are finally given the choice to resolve the conflict. The Chief Minister’s statement ‘good sign’ on the floor of the Assembly somehow comes close to this observation or interpretation.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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