Which First—Peace Or Development? Justice First!

Which first, “Peace” or “Development”?—has been a very purposeful and fundamental question in the conflict and violence ridden Manipur. The argument goes… When peace is in its best position, development will flourish, or in the absence of development, peace has no chance.

The contextual understanding of development in the question though mainly concerned with the constructional activities of the Government, it will be about constructing a situation where people can pursue their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accordance with their needs and interests, thus bringing the focus back onto people.

The general simple meaning of peace will be of a situation where people can live free from violence, conflicts, sufferings, fears and tensions of any kinds. From the viewpoint of the conflict, the peace is durable, involves high level reciprocity and cooperation, and virtual absence of self-defense measure among parties, although it may include their military alliances against a common threat. A “positive peace” prevails based on shared values, goals, and institutions (e.g. democratic political systems and rule of law), economic interdependence, and a sense of international community.

Most of the common people are in favor of this proposition that there is no peace where there is no development. So is development first. But Government and most of their agents would prefer to appeal “here is no chance of development in case here is no peace.” Hence, peace should be imposed first. Again many of us comment a simultaneous existence of both; there is no question of first or later. The argument may be correct to some extent. However, according to my experience and analysis a gigantic principal building block called “Justice” is missing in the debate.

Many among the people believe that the armed movement of the political conflict and its associate violent activities in Manipur are prompted by the issue of development—the development that Government turns off for a quite long time. Important portion of truth perhaps may be in here. On the other hand without fair acknowledgment of the root causes of the existing conflict and issue, the Government insists on, “peace must be enforced first, in fact with the militarization at the cost of human rights usually”.

The peace from the State perspective may be of the implicit notion of controlling and contending the armed opposition organizations and their activities particularly those who oppose and obstruct Government policies and undertakings. They even ignore the universal interpretation of peace that involves human rights. The peace in Manipur has been of negative implication, as the active militarization, factional violence, ethnic enmity, and “the lasting talk not the lasting peace” are on the scene. I do not rule out the partial correctness in the above debate. What I am attempting to suggest is, “Justice is the foundation of Peace and Development; in the absence of Justice there is no chance of valid and viable Peace and Development”.

Justice as I would like to define is the correct and rightful treatment guaranteed to the peoples and exercised for the wellbeing of the peoples, society and environment respecting human rights i.e. life, liberty, equality and dignity. The bottom line is the political conflict and its byproduct issues of human rights violations and other related problems that have come up due to so many injustices done to the people. Thus, the concern for violence and consequent issue of peace has come along.

Apart from the general violence, a violence referring to as a structural violence is one key contribution to the debate. This structural violence is marked by the controversial merger, subsequent downgrading of the princely State and the imposition of anti peoples’ legislations. It has emerged out of the creation of social and political structures that deprives the rights of (indigenous) peoples of Manipur in terms of safety, respect, participation, economy, identity and culture. It is considered to be the fundamental root cause for the existing Political Conflict and its byproduct Human Rights Violations.

How far justice has been done to the prolonged survival of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), and the imposition of other anti-people legislations, National Security Act, Activities of National Investigation Agency, Protected Area Permission (a brief lift recently on experimental basis), the protected impunity that encouraging the recurrent crimes by Government security forces and other criminals who enjoy Government favor. The months long deception drama of secret detention of Sanayaima, Chairman of the UNLF and India’s charade that AFSPA never violates human rights at the 1st session of Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, at Geneva, claiming the AFSPA has constitutionality; Constitution upheld the act. So, is the Indian Constitution is draconian? India lied about fact that actual happening on the ground.

What justice has been done to the world phenomenon hunger strike of Irom Chanu Sharmila? Only the Government demonstrates a racial discriminatory response to Sharmila’s decade long hunger strike against AFSPA, whereas Delhi reacts so promptly to the Anna Hazare’s Anti-Corruption Bill and Medha Patkar’s Narmada Bachao Andolan demands.

In such isolated Manipur, peoples have been protesting whatever they can; from sit in protest to general strike, from rally to mothers’ nude agitation, from effigy burning to self immolation. Notwithstanding, rights violations continue, in the year 2008-9 about 603 cases of extrajudicial executions by Indian Armed Forces and Manipur Police Commandos and about 400 of the killed by unidentified persons and non-state actors were documented. In addition to this, the tension and the suspicion among the ethnic peoples of Manipur are rising ever since the Government of India initiated peace process with some armed opposition groups. Also here is an increasing number of killings by the unidentified gunmen and organized crimes by splinter armed groups nexus with security forces indulging in killing, bombing and shooting, kidnapping and extortion.

Justice concern is demanded so much in the following matters:

* Destruction of evidence of the extrajudicial executions due to improper deposition of the dead bodies in the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) mortuary, the autopsy procedure that is noncompliance with the custodial killings, quick disposed off the body, non conduction of forensic examination, etc. have been a usual practice. The discouraging response of the Government towards the Human Rights Institution and media community is very much explicit.

* The lasting peace talk or suspension of operation that Government let some armed groups free in continuation of violent activities towards the other ethnic groups. Besides, usually people have dismay towards the forces for their active involvement in destabilizing communal harmony in the region.

* Is the expansion of job creation for local indigenous youths of Manipur in armed sector of Manipur Police Commandos, the Indian Reserved Battalions Village Defense Force, and Special Police Officers truly productive? Is the fear of fraternal bloodshed among son of soil in the name counter insurgency a peaceful vision?

* People have not seen Government’s productive policy and undertaking to meet the economic means of the peoples so there comes up the widening gap between the economic means and desire at the backdrop of the global consumerism trend which consequently causing the breed of organized crimes.

* For whom the Loktak Hydro Electric Project was built, how far has this Electric Project provided benefit to Manipuris? Why will the Tipaimukh Dam be undertaken by destroying such a rich biodiversity hot spot? Why is the Government blind to such environment friendly bio resources that can earn billions of dollars? In whose interest is the Look East Policy mapped out? The fact is the development projects and policies are laid out with either hidden agenda or without Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the people.

* Allow to remain the free float evil of the drug abuse and alcoholism unchecked and to continue the cycle of rampant corruption creating an environment of easy grow money to allure the fellow Manipuris to trap into haywire net of corruption and violence are not addressed so far.

As long as the Government continue their attempt to build peace and to undertake developments without acknowledging the injustices involved,  and the public remain insensitive to the sensitive issues, we merely witness a proven negative peace and an invalid development that prolong the suicidal action for the society.

*The article is written by Jinine Laishramcha.

*The writer is a human rights defender; MA Human Rights, IIHR, New Delhi; Certificate Course in Conflict Analysis, USIP, Washington DC and International Humanitarian Law Training, ICRC, Geneva.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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