UNLIKE the United Liberation Front of Asom leaders who are currently on bail and preparing for talks with the Centre, Manipur’s United National Liberation Front chairman Rajkumar Meghen, better known as Sanayaima, faces an uncertain future. Now in the National Investigation Agency’s custody since his arrest in Motihari (Bihar) in early December last year, Meghen is reportedly confined to Guwahati Jail. After their “arrest/surrender” in December 2009, the ULFA leaders were also lodged in Guwahati Jail and treated with velvet gloves. This would suggest that Meghen should have been sent to Imphal Jail. That this did not happen is bad enough, but how the NIA got Meghen into its dragnet is another nifty story in itself.
According to UNLF sources, Bangladeshi and Indian Intelligence personnel arrested Meghen in Dhaka on 29 September — which even Meghen later confirmed. But for nearly two months New Delhi did not disclose his whereabouts. And then came the report in early December of his having been arrested by Motihari police, while allegedly trying to sneak into Nepal. Not many will buy this apparent cock-and-bull story and wonder what the Centre was up to in keeping the people of Manipur in the dark, thus fuelling their anger.
Meghen was reportedly taken to Kolkata and, while travelling, was always blindfolded. This in itself exposes New Delhi’s double standards in the treatment meted out to militant leaders. By virtue of being the leader of Manipur’s oldest and dominant militant outfit and who has earned iconic status, Meghen deserved treatment on par with ULFA and NSCN (IM) leaders.
According to a senior Imphal journalist who interviewed Meghen some years ago, the UNLF was often dubbed as the intellectuals’ party before its armed wing, the Manipur People’s Army, engaged in guerrilla activities. Meghen graduated from Calcutta University, having studied at St Paul’s College, and later took his master’s degree in international relations from Jadavpur University — by which time he was the outfit’s acting foreign secretary.
The Centre’s motive behind putting Meghen in the dock is seen as an attempt to break the UNLF’s morale and coerce him into coming to the negotiating table. He has put his foot down on the restoration of Manipur’s independent status and wants the state’s future to be decided by a plebiscite, public support for which is growing. (Last month, NIA personnel suddenly swooped on the premises of the Lanyamba Publication Trust in Imphal, which houses Ireibak newspaper, a gym and a polo club, and also searched the residence of a person said to be the brother of a senior UNLF leader. No reason was given for these searches.)
If Meghen is a hard nut to crack, SS Khaplang, who heads the breakaway faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, is no less. Some years ago, Meghen admitted that his biggest failure was not being able “to march towards unity among the groups in Manipur”. He wants all communities and the people of Manipur to not fight among themselves and all fraternal organizations to have a common plank for a common dream till the independence of Manipur is achieved.
Khaplang wants sovereignty and is also for unity. He has said that since 90 per cent of Nagas are for unity he will go along with the people’s desire. He believes Naga unity must precede any “peace” talks and he is “prepared for anything that will bring about unity”.
Sadly, how far rhetoric born of aspiration is removed from reality is evident from the fact that these groups are too divided among themselves — one of them has as many as 10 factions — to pose a united front. Then again, will the Centre’s determination to pin Meghen down legally lead to a unity effort?
*The opinion is written by JB Lama, Endangered Eden
(Courtesy: The Statesman, India)
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