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Dialogue With Insurgents

In the peace making process Manipur remains in the eye of a catastrophic situation since no one can say who are losers in peace and victors in war and no one spares a single minute to recognize the obligation to match the national strength with the national restraint. The counter insurgency operations including military operations, sometimes united command carried on by the Indian security forces with the full coverage of intelligence network in Manipur to flush out the insurgents on the one hand and the present day design of encounter of the latter against the former on the other are, no doubt, nothing but the cat-and-mouse game. The dangers of this game hanging over the State threaten its existence. Every day we have seen a large number of reports through the press on the activities of both the security forces and the insurgents across the State. We believe that the Indian security forces have no plans to invade the insurgents of Manipur by subversion and we see that there has been no review of justification from time to time for the insurgents to take up armed revolution against India. The people seem to lose their strength to point out the major area of potential irritation between the Government of India and the insurgents. They have no courage to put questions as to which countries or world leaders are exporting revolution for Manipur insurgents against Indian and which insurgent group borrows revolution against India and why no one is so serious about revolution.

The misfortunes of the people of the State are numerous and grave contamination of the environment is increasing in all the sectors of the society, but practically nothing is being done to resist it and no essential change in the situation can be discerned. The nervous and psychological condition of the contemporary members of the state is critical. Mutual misunderstandings among various groups in society and the resulting friction and general social tension are increasing. The government machinery are corrupt through and through and have lost all effectiveness, even in those areas to which the government itself gives extraordinary importance, the machineries can achieve almost nothing.

The national political situation of India is relatively stable now, nevertheless in recent years Manipur has had one failure after another. The standard of living of its people remains low and is improving very slowly, if at all. Most important, Manipur is losing its old ideals along the pace of development of India but receiving nothing in exchange. Hence dissatisfaction and demoralization, leading to moral dislocation, crime and alcoholism, are increasing. Manipur is in a state of bewilderment and grief. Before one’s eyes Manipur is moving toward a breakdown.

Considering the root causes of all this, the goal of each section of the society is to find out solutions and not to hurl charges against the other. Clearly the task all the sections have set cannot be carried out by one small group. Its realization requires more or less concerted action on the part of serious social forces. Hence without delay they should begin their work full of hope that in the final analysis they will not be alone. Indeed, it is believed that however much the people need to accomplish, even a little push in this direction will have a definite benefit.

The independent liberal activism that has manifested itself in the state in the last few years shows that social consciousness is aroused. This process is inevitable, and even the most desperate measures

cannot reverse it. Neither the militarism of the Indian security forces nor the extremism of the insurgents can stop the liberation of thought for the people of Manipur.

The imperative question is who will take the leadership so that he may bring the state to the goal. The times have cried out for leadership. In the electoral process the leader of the house of the State is the leader of the State. So the Chief Minister of Manipur is the leader of Manipur. He has mandate from the voters.

Every Chief Minister has to establish with the various sectors of the state what is called ‘the right to govern’. Just being elected to the office does not guarantee him that right. Every Chief Minister has to inspire the confidence of the people. Every chief minister has to become a leader, and to be a leader he must attract people who are willing to follow him. Every Chief Minister has to develop a moral underpinning to his power, or he soon discovers that he has no power at all. The movement when he grasps the reins of power, he should do so without delay. Any hesitation or wavering, any false step, any sign of self doubt, could have been disastrous throwing the state back several decades with fatal consequences for the ruling elite.

In fact the burning problem facing the Manipur government is the insurgency issue. It is signaling to the rest of the country what kind of man the chief minister is and what sort of policies he intends to carry out. It is equally important for the people of Manipur to understand that Manipur government should have its established policies to resolve insurgency problem permanently and an effort to thaw the insurgency movement on the other.

The mood of the people of Manipur is full of the hatred and bitterness and uncertainty due to extortion, abduction, kidnapping and violence in the name of insurgency and everyday killing of not less than two or three persons by the security forces in the name of ongoing counter insurgency operations. Manipur government should have its established policies to resolve the insurgency issue within a time frame so that the successive chief ministers may intend to continue the same with their commitments if the present incumbent is unable to affect the policies during his time.

Even though one chief minister goes away from his seat the established policies will not go with him. Both the government of India and the insurgents have to be convened that the policies of the state as regards the insurgency issue are going to be continued.

One chief minister should not consider himself the caretaker of the other chief minister while he is carrying on the established policies on insurgency issue with the unavoidable responsibility up to his last day in office. In fact every chief minister is the trustee and custodian of the established policies of the state administration in this regard. In this context every chief minister has to secure the cooperation of the people who are the natural leaders of the state. The autocratic administrative leadership can no longer satisfy the present need of the society. It is essential to forget partisan politics so that Manipur can weather the crises in the state in which all the people are involved and unite the people. It is the undeniable fact that insurgency issue is not the cause of the insurgents alone. It has become the people’s cause. So Manipur chief minister is to lead and champion the cause to bring its settlement. So far the chief ministers of Manipur we can count as follows : 1. F.F. Peasrson, 2. M.K. Priobrata Singh, 3. M. Koireng Singh (3 times alternately), 4. L. Thambou Singh, 5. Md. Alimuddin (2 times consecutively), 6. Yangmasho Shaiza (2 times alternately), 7. R.K. Dorendra Singh (4 times alternately), 8. Rishang Keishing (5 times alternately), 9. R.K. Jaichandra Singh, 10. R.K. Ranbir Singh, 11. W. Nipamacha Singh (2 times consecutively), 12. Radhabinod Koijam, 13. O. Ibobi Singh (2 times till date).

After independence the political status of Manipur was reduced to the Indian Part C state when it was merged into Indian union on October 15, 1949. There was a long agitation of the people of Manipur demanding for a full-fledged state legislative assembly in place of a chief commissioner’s rule. In 1957 Manipur became one of the union territories under the Union Territories Act, 1956 having a Territorial Council of 30 members. In 1963 the status of a single district union territory was granted to Manipur with the Legislative Assembly of 30 elected members. This decision of the government of India was contradictory to the wish of the Manipuris who were longing for a full fledged statehood. The then helpless political leaders were compelled to enjoy power and rule the union territory of Manipur with such a status.

However during sixties some handful of resourceful youth of the state started to contact foreign countries for help in the waging of war against India. They could establish their base camp in the then East Pakistan. The closeness between the then East Pakistan and the Manipuris was not surprising. The roots lay deep in history, for the forefathers of a large number of Manipuris had settled down in Dacca, Sylhet, Bhanugas and other adjoining places before the birth of the Indian Empire in the last part of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century as a result of the frequent wars between the Manipuris and the Burmese. The Manipuri revolutionaries took the advantage of such settlement of the Manipuris in the country. Around 1968-1969 under their enthusiastic organizations a sizable number of youth from different areas of Manipur went to East Pakistan to take training of guerrilla warfare. In 1971 there broke out the Bangladesh war. Ultimately with the liberation of Bangladesh, those youth returned home by grouping several batches through different regions like Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam and they were arrested by the concerned police stations. In Manipur several youth were picked up by the police from their own houses and put into jail in connection with the cases of allegedly waging war against India. Thus the plan of the revolutionary movement of the Manipuri youth against India was foiled for the first time incidentally with the birth of Bangladesh.

Initially the movement remained as a neglected problem in the state. Manipur government was not serious at all in this regard. However the government of India on the other hand, was so serious with regard to the sentiment of the then youth of Manipur. It lost no time in expediting the steps to take decisions in granting the full fledged statehood to Manipur and accordingly Manipur state was inaugurated on January 21, 1972.

Md. Alimuddin was the Chief Minister of the first Manipur state legislative assembly. But the assembly did not last long. It was dissolved untimely. He was again sworn in as the Chief Minister of the second Manipur legislative assembly on 4.3.74. Next to him Yungmasho Shaiza was the chief minister from 10.7.74 upto 5.12.74. Then came R.K. Dorendra Singh as a leader of the congress party. He was sworn in as a chief minister on 6.12.74. R.K. Dorendra Singh had opted a policy initiating a dialogue with all the revolutionary leaders who were in jail and according to the settlement with them, general amnesty was given to all who took part in the waging of war against India. There were also rehabilitation policies in different fields for those who were set free.

Subsequently some revolutionary youth had consolidated their groupings and went to Bangladesh and Lhasa, capital of Tibet for taking armed training and help. But R.K. Dorendra Singh was unable to cope up with the new developments as he was replaced by Yangmasho Shaiza as a leader of the Janata Party on 29.6.77 and Mr. Shaiza was the Chief Minister upto 14.11.79.

There were sufficient intelligence reports on the movement of the revolutionary organizations and it was open that in 1978 revolutionary youth of Manipur had launched the armed struggle against India. But the governments both at the centre and in the State had neglected the new development of this movement. Had there been even a little sense of seriousness about the far reaching consequences of the armed struggle in the state, there would have been another history of the insurgency movement of Manipur.

Around 1979 and 1980 a rampant infighting among the members of different insurgency organizations with the target of killing each other was witnessed and it had given shocks and pains beyond measure to all sections of society of Manipur. However R.K. Dorendra Singh, being the chief minister for the third Manipur legislative assembly had intervened the killing spree of the rival factions against each other within People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) with the special arrangement of the All India Radio, Imphal program for its leader R.K. Tullachandra Singh who was in jail to deliver a consolatory speech to all the members of the party.

After the step down of R.K. Dorendra Singh on 26.11.80 the policy of the government to tackle the insurgency movement was only the subversive measures. It continued for a long time. Only when R.K. Jaichandra Singh became the chief minister on 4.3.88 there was the interruption in this subversive government policy. He had adopted a policy for a term of settlement through dialogue with some of the leaders of the insurgency organizations by sending emissaries to their base camps. Despite the positive response for dialogue from those insurgent leaders, the plan had remained incomplete. Since then there had been long silence as regards the peace making process with the government treating the insurgency issue as the law and order problem of the state.

But R.K. Dorendra Singh had broken the long silence putting the proposal for dialogue before all the revolutionary organizations in his chief ministerial speech on the Independence Day celebration at the Ist Battalion Manipur Rifles ground in 1993.He said : ‘Today it is known to all that there exist several revolutionary organizations in the valley areas of Manipur. But the people do not know under what objectives they are formed and what goals they are cultivating for. The history of the world for thousands of years has witnessed that no revolution was successful without the cooperation of the people and committed involvement of the dedicated people in the movement. Thus some extremist youth with the grouping of 20 or 30 of them will do nothing with their claim as such- ‘˜We have formed this organization. This is what we demand.’

In the long run they alone will be losers. Their parents, children and relatives will be suffering immeasurably. In fact it is necessary to stop such revolution which is not relevant at all. In the present political structure, keeping in view your discontentment on the political set-up of Manipur or her relation with India, if you assert in such a way- ‘˜This is what we want. These are our inherent rights we have to keep. We should be protected’- I ask you all to come forward and participate in the dialogue. During the dialogue revolutionaries will be provided opportunities so as to maintain their self-conduct. During the peace-talk there will be no arrest and harassment. If agreed it is better and if not agreed they will be allowed to go back. However talking to each other once with the full expression whatever both sides like is justified.

In spite of the claim that they are carrying on revolution with the formation of a revolutionary group in one village and insurgency group in another taking the acts of killing as the means to show their existence, the people will not give their favor to such inconsiderate organizations.

Once again I appeal to the youth of today to come forward and take part in the peace talk within its possible core. Particularly it is necessary for the insurgents of the valley areas to shun violence.’

R.K. Dorendra Government could not turn its policies into action as regards the insurgency problem since the congress prime minister Narashimha Rao had dethroned R.K. Dorendra Singh, the Congress Chief Minister on the last day of 1993.

Another development of the Government policies to deal with the insurgents was seen during the period of Chief Minister Radhabinod Koijam from 15.2.01 to 01.06.01. The Chief Minister had declared a policy on unilateral ceasefire to make a conducive atmosphere for dialogue with the insurgent outfits. But the period of R.B. Koijam as a chief minister was too short to make his policy effective.

Now the people are looking forward the effectiveness of the policies of chief minister O. Ibobi Singh in dealing with the insurgency issue. Commemorating the state’s 34th anniversary of statehood on Jan 21, 2005. Chief Minister O. Ibobi Singh made an impassioned appeal to all insurgent groups to eschew violence and sit for talks with government.

‘Bloodshed will not bring about solutions to the problems we are facing today. We should sit together and hammer out solutions to these problems and accelerate the pace of development,’ said the chief minister. He further stated, ‘We all are citizens of this great country. We enjoy all the rights being enjoyed by the people of other states. If we approach and present our cases with justification before the centre, it will listen and redress all our grievances.’

It is the hope of the people that Chief Minister O. Ibobi Singh is gearing up his utmost effort to be careful if the assurance of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will fall through as a traditional rhetoric. Replying to the supplementary question posed by the opposition Federal Party of Manipur MLA, S. Ibohal Singh in the State Assembly, March 21, 2005 on what about the proposed peace-talks with the underground outfits including banned UNLF, PLA, PREPAK, KYKL, etc. the Chief Minister O. Ibobi Singh reiterated his appeals to the insurgents for peace-talks with the Center stating that he was ready to resign from his present post if he were the stumbling block in the initiation of the proposed talks.

He further said that meaningful dialogue for restoration of peace was the only way for prosperity of this insurgency infested state and the insurgent outfits could have expressed their views and options in the peace-talks which would be made with the government at the centre for which his government was ready to arrange the initiatives. He also called for unification of all underground organizations under one umbrella so as to strengthen the outfits in pressing the Central Government in the talks.

Speaking on November 20, 2004 while laying a foundation stone of the multi crore Jiribam-Imphal railway and addressing on the same day the public meeting at the historic Kangla, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had assured, ‘Doors are always opened for meaningful dialogues with all insurgent groups.

The existing problem could not be solved through military action and a solution will come only through political dialogue within the framework of the Indian Constitution.’

After the brutal assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, India takes time to restore the committed leadership which was built up by the two great leaders. The people of the state are also growing seasoned with the experiences of India’s commitments in the Shillong Accord, the Assam Accord, the Punjab Accord and the Mizo Accord as well as India’s maneuvering towards the peace-talks with the NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K) and India’s attitude to ULFA.

In the peace making process the urgent task facing the Chief Minister O. Ibobi Singh is to secure the cooperation of the people who are the natural leaders of state. He must keep full trust to them. Because these people are bound to put aside their selfish aims in the larger cause of the state’s interest. Moreover they must start trusting each other, communicating with each other and working together.

We may remember an eventful fact that when the American president Lyndon Baines Johnson assumed office after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, there were a few former high Government officials, elder statesmen, and long time advisors to presidents who only wanted to offer their services. Among them were three former presidents, two of whom belonged to another party. Each pledged his loyalty, his support, and his help in any way he could give it. Herbert Hoover, although ailing sent word to President Baines Johnson through the mutual friend Richard Berlin of Hearst newspapers, ‘I am ready to serve our country in any capacity from office boy up.’

Baines Johnson intended to continue the Government’s established foreign policies and maintain the alliances of Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. President Truman gave him many good suggestions and wise counsel from his own experience of being suddenly thrust into the presidency. He said that his confrontation of those international challenges, particularly in Korea had been horrors for him politically, bringing his popularity down from a high of 87 percent to a low of 23 percent. But he said it represented one of his proudest achievements in office. He told Baines Johnson always to bear in mind that he was the voice of all the people.

On request of the President Baines Johnson, President Eisenhower made several recommendations covering the following two points among others.

a) ‘Point out first that you have come to this office unexpectedly and you accept the decision of the almighty, who in his inscrutable wisdom has now placed you in the position of highest responsibility of this nation.

b) You are sworn to defend the Constitution and execute the laws. In doing so you will follow the instincts, principles and convictions that have become a part of you during many years of public service. No revolution in purpose or policy is intended or will occur. Rather it will be your purpose to implement effectively the noble objectives so often and so eloquently stated by your great predecessor.’

In fact Manipur Government should have its own established policy to solve the insurgency problem. The transitory and temperamental policies of a chief minister in this regard will not serve the purpose. It is not a game of mystery and the Chief Minister should lessen the hurdles as far as possible in the continuation of the policy so that his successor can bring its positive result. In the parliamentary democracy a Chief Minister is like one of the players of a team in the game of relay race and he should always be as energetic as those players who are more careful to win the race. He need not worry to be a champion in solving the insurgency problem since the post independence political history of India had many examples of armed rebellions ending through negotiations.

In a democracy, the Government and its opponents including the insurgent organizations can and should have much to talk about among themselves. It should be a particularly welcome development if armed insurgent groups decide to talk instead. Most governments in the world have talked to groups which once seemed irrevocably sworn to violent means. There should be no problem for the Prime Minister at the Centre and the Chief Minister in the State to respond positively to the offer of talks of Manipur’s armed revolutionary organizations.

It is clear that the insurgent groups are ready to negotiate if Indian government agrees to discuss the issue of Manipur’s sovereignty, the proposal to conduct plebiscite, withdrawal of the Indian army and paramilitary forces and negotiate in a foreign country under the aegis of the United Nations. If India is proud of its indomitable strength and incomparable dynamism of democracy, it should be responsively prepared to hold dialogue matching the insurgents’ strategy of talks.

In similar situations, Indian policies of ceasefire agreements with the Naga rebels have been more definitive and transparent. Even though the rebel groups have used ceasefires in order to rebuild their organizations and rearm themselves, the Govt has accepted the challenge carrying on the ceasefire agreements. After all, even a bad peace is better than a good war.

In the case of Assam, the Centre is firming up a strategy in consultation with Dispur to initiate talks with ULFA. Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai revealed in the 58th meeting of North Eastern Council held on 9 February 2010 that exhaustive discussions were held with Assam Chief Secretary P.C. Sharma and Director General of Police Shankar Barua on how to proceed on the ULFA talk front. Pillai said, ‘We are in the process of firming up a strategy to deal with ULFA. There are several options before us. We will submit these to the home minister who will then discuss these with the Assam chief minister before they take the final call on the talk issue.’

Pillai’s revelations indicate that the Centre is unlikely to move ahead on the talk front without taking the state leadership into confidence and that official-level consultation between the centre and Dispur are complete. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said that his Government would do everything possible to facilitate talks with ULFA and that there were no differences between Delhi and Dispur.

Now the people of Manipur are in the dark as regards the state government policies to create situations for dialogue with the insurgent outfits. But they know a fact without concealment that the centre knows very well the ins and outs of the Manipur insurgency issue and since the insurgents have taken armed struggle, there can be absolutely no question of letting the guard down and thus the centre will not afford to call off the fight against them. But this is not the solution. This is against the wish of the people who want the end of the rebellion in the pursuit of development of the State.

However, the people are helpless because the state politics is at the mercy of the Centre. In short, the fate of a person of the state while in power is determined by the ruling elite at the centre. Now, there lies the question: who will overcome these situations. Indeed the perspectives of the peace hunt in the state will be of no use if the chief minister thinks of himself as genius.

*The article is written by L Memo Singh.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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