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Items filtered by date: Friday, 11 May 2018 - Imphal Times - A Daily Eveninger

CM opens Annual Tribal Cultural Festival; Heritage Park worth Rs. 90 crore at Keibul Lamjao in the of fing

IT News
Imphal, May 11, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh has said that the State Government has sent a proposal to the Centre for setting up a Heritage Park worth Rs. 90 crore at Keibul Lamjao in Bishnupur district. The Park having heritage structures of all the communities of the State would serve as a permanent venue for the annual Manipur Sangai Festival, he added. The Chief Minister was speaking as the Chief Guest at the inaugural function of the two-day Annual S tate Level Tribal Cultural Festival organised by Tribal Research Institute (TRI), Government of Manipur under the aegis of Ministry of Tribal Af fairs, Government of India under the theme, ‘Tribal Culture for Peace and Unity’.

N. Biren also said that the festival should be organised in a more grandeur manner at an open space at a suitable time from the next year . Stating that the State Government is willing to sanction the additional fund for the festival, the Chief Minister also asked the Tribal Research Institute to co- ordinate with the State Government to upgrade the festival from next year so that it may become more meaningful and magnificent. He also contended that every event or activity should be executed/organised in such a manner so as to serve its intended purpose.

N. Biren Singh said that the new Government has been keeping all its promises made to the public so far , and the State has seen lots of positive changes in the past one year with hill-valley ties becoming more cordial.
On the other hand, the State has also been able to retain peace and tranquillity up to a large extent of late, however some anti-social elements have also been making constant efforts to destabilize the situation, he said.
Maintaining that every man is mortal, the Chief Minister observed that no solution can be brought by killing each other .

Urging the people of the State to go ahead together with the Government towards advancement, the Chief Minister expressed hope that Manipur would see a transformation soon if the Government continues to fulfil the needs of the public through its noble missions like ‘Go to Village’ for some more years.
With the launching of the mission, all the high ranking officials including Administrative Secretaries and Heads of Departments have started working in the field, he observed. The Chief Minister also said that no village would be left out under the mission.
Tribal Affairs and Hills Minister N. Kayisii, who graced the function as president, said that every community should preserve its culture and identity . He also thanked the participants belonging to different tribal communities for taking part in the festival despite their busy chores because of the onset of farming season at hill areas. Earlier , the Chief Minister declared the festival open and rung the inaugural gong to mark the beginning of the two- day festival that will conclude tomorrow .
Public Health Engineering (PHE) Minister Losii Dikho, Hill Area Committee (HAC) Chairman T.T. Haokip and Outer Manipur Parliamentary Constituency MP Thangso Baite also graced the function as guests of honour . Manipur Pollution Control Board Chairman and Oinam AC M LA L. Radhakishore and MLAs Y. Surchandra and S. Bira and Chairmen of different ADCs and Members also attended the festival. Presentation of colourful tribal cultural dances, folk songs and tribal cuisines were the main highlights of the festival.

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More objection comes on oil exploration works; urges immediate intervention by the Commerce and Industries Minister

IT News
Imphal, May 11,

The ongoing oil exploration being underway at various part of the state faces objection from various organisations in the state. Several environment activists while opposing the oil exploration had submitted memorandums to the Commerce and Industries Minister of the government of India urging him for immediate intervention as the consequences could be a disaster for the state. One more organisation based at Thoubal district called the ‘Youths Action Committee for Protection of Indigenous People ‘ (Y ACPIP) also submitted memorandum to the Commerce and Industries Minister Th. Bishwajit for immediate intervention of the oil exploration work. The organisation alleged that the Oil India Limited started the 2D seismic data collection in Manipur without obtaining the Environment Clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. This is being alleged as per the information from the said Ministry’ s Regional office at Shillong. Obtaining of the Environment Clearance the ultimate responsibility is the Government of Manipur , the organisation said while adding that the liability for failure in obtaining the Environment Clearance will fall upon the Government of Manipur . The memorandum submitted to the Minister also stressed on the need for seeking free Prior and Informed Consent of the Indigenous People as it is mandatory to implement any developmental projects as Indigenous people are dominantly inhabited in the state of Manipur . However , this was not taken in any developmental projects in Manipur which results in the violation of Rights of the Indigenous People as per the United Nation Rights of the Indigenous People, 2007. The organisation also stated that as per their source around 20 to 25 mine Bombs have been blasted beneath the ground for the Oil exploration work in Jiribam without obtaining prior permission from the Directorate General of Mines Safety , which is mandatory . “... this is a clear violation of law of the land and such high handedness by the Oil India Limited is Highly condemnable and also the government of Manipur for allowing the same’, the organisation stated in the memorandum.

The organisation urged the Government of Manipur , India and the Oil India Limited to stop all form of Oil exploration and extraction of Natural resources from the Indigenous People’ s land immediately in the best interest of the people

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SSUM slams Manipur Govt. alleging protection of rapist MLA

IT News Imphal, May 11, Socialist Students’ Union of Manipur , (SSUM) slammed the state government headed by the BJP alleging protection of a rapist MLA. In a press statement, the student union said that such a protection has defamed the Prime Minister ’s ambitious campaign - Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao , which was launched on January 22, 2015. The student body points MLA of Sekmai Assembly constituency as an example of how the government has been concealing crime committed against women by MLAs. The student body said that as per the clause 4, section 375 of the Indian Penal Code rape is defined in an appropriate ways no matter it is as per her consent or not . The clause 4 of the section said that “ With her consent , when the man knows that he is not her husband , and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married”. As per the definition provided in the clause 4 of the IPC it stands true that the case of Sekmai Assembly constituency is a case of rape, the SSUM added. Moreover after the 2012 New Delhi Rape case , both the houses of Parliament have amended the Indian Penal Code , Indian Evidence Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure regarding to all clauses and sections related to sexual harassment case. The SSUM said that the way the government is protecting the Sekamai Assembly Constituency MLA will not be tolerated. On the other hand the students’ body also expressed serious concerns to the Tanga Gang rape case. It said that the rapist involved are being protected by high level politicians . SSUM said that when investigated it has been found that the politician giving protection to the rapist is not the MLA of Thanga Assembly constituency . It said it is time that people find out who is the politician supporting and protecting the rapist of the minor girl from thanga area. The SSUM also blamed the BJP led government questioning why they are silent when it comes to matters related to crime against women and children. The students’ body while demanding immediate action against the Sekmai MLA and the BJP leader from Thanga Assembly constituency said that the matter will be brought up to the notice of the Prime Minister .

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Awaiting - a light at the end of the tunnel

Man, having the ability to judge and to arrange for alternatives, have taken the shortest road to development and progress. The unique gift of mental superiority over every living creature on the planet is what enables him to dominate and distinguish himself from every other creature inspite of the frailties and physical shortcomings. We take pride, and rightly so, in the fact that we can, and are still pushing ourselves to overcome the physical and mental restraints and limits. Yet ever so often, there comes a time when the collective conscience of a society seems to stop working, taken over by the wave of opinions and mob behavior .

One such instance is the period running up to elections for choosing our representatives to the government. In fact, at present, the state is witnessing an increasing undeclared war of words with various political bigwigs starting to warm up with insinuations and counter blames for the state of affairs of the society , while highlighting their trumped up ideologies and deceptively believable assurances of progress and development. It seems unlikely that most of these old players remember being in the driving seat once, but with the absence of the foresight and impetus to carry out the promises they are doling out now .

Given the fact that there is a constraint of resources, both financial and infrastructure with the state government, it is of great concern when the people in power are still hell-bent on pilfering these limited resources for themselves without the least consideration or remorse, leading the public to start questioning the motive and the seemingly earnest efforts of the government to develop the state which is evidently enjoying certain perks and assistances from the central Government due to its underdeveloped status.

The state is yet to see a radical change in the system of governance with emphasis on transparency and efficiency . The various promises and agendas which were pushed on the face of the public during the election campaigns have been shelved for good, until the next one. On the other hand, a majority of us have cheapened ourselves by offering up our suffrage to the highest bidder . To cover up its shortcomings and deficiencies behind the excuse of a less than perfect world is nothing short of shirking its responsibility and a ploy to steal the riches and benefits meant for the public. What the public wants is a government that has the gumption to take calculated risks and pave new ways to initiate development and accelerate progress, one which can translate the aspirations of the people into concrete works and utilize the available resources efficiently . A Government more accessible to the common man which can expedite its development activities and which can effectively control and motivate its employees will surely win favors from the public. The present Government should realize that the increasingly informed public is getting restive for change and growth, and only those who have shown to deliver on their promises will endure. “T o follow imperfect, uncertain, or corrupted traditions, in order to avoid erring in our own judgment, is but to exchange one danger for another”- Richard Whately , English rhetorician, logician, economist, and theologian

Sovereignty Struggles in Northeast India: Where are They Going?

(The write up published her e is the paper presented by M. S. Prabhakara on the Sixth Arambam Somorendra Singh Memorial Lecture held in Imphal on June 10, 2011)

Modestly Immodest Disclaimers?
I feel greatly honoured by the invitation of the Arambam Somorendra Trust to give the Sixth Arambam Somorendra Singh Memorial Lecture today , the eleventh anniversary of his death. I am also overwhelmed by a feeling of inadequacy . What little I know about Arambam Somorendra was gathered well after his death. Indeed, when he was killed I was not even in India. I have since then come to know that he was a distinguished playwright, a social worker and the founder general secretary of the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), one of the several organisations in Manipur engaged in an armed struggle to secure sovereignty and independence for Manipur .

I know a little bit more about Manipur, but not much, though I have visited the state many times. The first time was in 1967 when Manipur was still a Union Territory . I was then teaching at Guwahati University . I made the visit just out of curiosity about this ‘remote’ corner of the country , a fascination with the ‘geographical and cultural edge of the periphery’ that has persisted wherever I have lived. I have some vivid memories of that visit that was confined to Imphal. One, tasting for the first time an unusual dish marked on a board outside a small eatery in the Bazaar, I cannot recall which part. More memorable was meeting Maharajkumar Priyabrata Singh at his home. The suggestion that I should get him to talk to me for understanding the history and culture of Manipur was made by Smt. Devjani Chaliah / Meenakshi Basu, who I had come to know through a common friend, a colleague of her husband in the Indian Railways. In those days a person teaching at Guwahati University commanded some respect not merely in Assam but in the rest of the Northeast. If I remember right, Professor Gangmumei took me to his house, or I might have gone on my own. I remember the gracious courtesy , as also the lar ge number of dogs and puppies having a free run of the large room where we sat and talked. During that conversation he spoke mostly of matters historical, of the ceding of the fertile Kabaw Valley to Burma and, with greater feeling of Molcham village whose people had been virtually cut off from the rest of Manipur though they were very much Indian citizens. He spoke glowingly of the fertile soil and the fine quality rice grown in Kabaw Valley . He even of fered to take me there, warning that I should be prepared for a hard trek. He said nothing about himself, nothing about the circumstances of the annexation of Manipur . I did not then know that he could have told me a lot more.

After I gave up teaching in December 1975, became a professional journalist and joined The Hindu in June 1983, I have made several long visits and travelled a bit outside Imphal. Yet, I have always had a sense of inadequacy , of being an interloper, when writing on Manipur . Let me quote (and let me also confess, I have shamelessly plagiarised from my writings while writing this essay) from one of my more recent articles, “Insurgencies in Manipur: Politics and Ideology” ( The Hindu , 28 January , 2010):

Every time one travels to Manipur, one returns humbled. This has been the case since my first visit to Manipur in the late 1960s, long before becoming a journalist. Active insur gency was not even on the horizon then though some resentment against ‘India’ was evident. Between 1983 and mid-1994 (when I moved to Johannesburg, South Africa) I visited the state at lease once every year – more than once during some years. In the last eight years [that is, between 2002 and 2010] I have returned four [actually five] times. The feelings of inadequacy to confront and understand the complex situation in Manipur, the whys and wherefores of the insurgencies (the plural is advisedly used), the resilience of the ordinary people whose amazing creative energies thrive in the midst of all the pain and violence manifest in every walk of life, has only increased.

I am not posturing with false modesty; there are rational grounds for this sense of inadequacy . I stopped reporting on a day to day basis on developments in what for the sake of convenience we may call ‘Northeast India’ in June 1994, when I moved to Johannesburg as The Hindu ’s correspondent in South and Southern Africa following the election of Nelson Mandela as the first democratically elected President of South Africa. For the next eight years I did not live in NE India, though I did visit Guwahati briefly on holiday thrice during this period. My return to Guwahati in April 2002 also marked my formal retirement form The Hindu, which I had joined in July 1983 as its correspondent in Guwahati with the responsibility covering Assam and the neighbouring four states and two Union territories in the region, all of which in the heyday of ‘regional nationalism’ used to be projected as the Seven Sisters, bound together with a supposed commonality of history , culture and above all memories posited by the ideologues of that perspective as contrary to, indeed opposed to, the ‘pan-Indian’ history , culture and memories.

As some friends in this audience may perhaps know , I was born and grew up in Kolara, a small district town in what at the time of my birth in 1936 the princely state of Mysore, now Karnataka. My home language is Kannada. Between 1962 and 2010 I lived in Guwahati barring two breaks of eight years each. Though, due to circumstances partly of my own thoughtless making and partly not in my control, I had to move in March last year to Kolara, to the old house by father built way back in 1939, even now I feel more at home in Guwahati, my home on and off for forty eight years, and other parts of this region than anywhere else, barring perhaps Bombay , Johannesburg and Cape Town where too I lived for several years. One’ s heart is where one’ s passions are engaged. During this period, I have made many friends, and also some enemies, in this region, for making enemies is the true sign of acculturation and absorption. I have also tried to study and understand the political, social and cultural environment and milieu of this region, in particular the interlinked issues of identity assertions, separatism, autonomy , sovereignty , culminating in insurgency movements, all inseparable from the history of the land and the memories of its people. However, I remain committed not so much to the Indian State, which is after all a mere geographical construct, but to the ides of a genuinely democratic India of a variety of pluralist, contrary and dissenting perspectives. My only identity is that of an Indian, in an inclusive and the broadest sense of the term. It is within that framework that I have tried to understand the sovereignty struggles in the region and the issues that animate them. To put the point without any ambiguity , I am a sympathetic student of these struggles trying to learn; I am not a partisan. I do not want my inclusive Indian-ness to be diminished in any manner, Nor do I want to live in an India where my fellow Indians too feel diminished, as is undoubtedly the case with many people in the region who do feel, due to various historical circumstances so diminished, who cannot with the same confidence (or it is arrogance?) assert that they are Indians.

When I arrived in Guwahati in January 1962 to join the Guwahati University , I did not know Assamese or any other language spoken in NE India. Though I acquired a working knowledge of Assamese towards the end of my fist stint in Guwahati (January 1962- December 1975) and that knowledge has slightly improved over the years, I still have only a ‘working knowledge’, a euphemism that conceals the reality of ignorance of the language. To some extent, as is the case with many who have Assamese, I can follow a bit of Bangla. But of the other numerous languages spoken in this region I know nothing. This is certainly the case with Manipuri, under whatever nomenclature.

I have thus the most superficial journalistic understanding of current events and developments in this state gathered from English language newspapers published from Imphal, Guwahati and Calcutta; some historical background gained from literature published in English, and, above all, from conversations with friends some of them going back to my GU days. Of the complex history and culture and memories of the state and the people that are in some cases not commonly shared by all the people, the milieu that my audience instinctively knows, I know less than nothing. More mortifying to me is the fact that in my active days as a reporter, I could not negotiate my way even in Imphal without the company and assistance of friends. When I travelled outside Imphal, I was totally at sea, a mere metaphor in this land locked state, without some friend to give tongue to me, in every sense of the term. Since I am going to speak on sovereignty struggles in the region including in Manipur, I thought I would place on record these serious impediments that have affected my understanding and analysis of what may broadly be called the Nationality Question in this region, the core issue that has given rise to these sovereignty struggles. These struggles have been going on for long, in the case of the Naga people long before the state of Nagaland was constituted. In a historical context such struggles are not even unique to this region, Scepticism about the emerging Great Indian Nation, and anxieties about what would happen to the smaller nationalities were evident even in the so-called mainstream India whose people, like those of Manipur, had actively participated in the freedom movement led by Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress Party .

I propose to discuss these struggles in the context of some recent developments since April 2002, when I returned to Guwahati after an eight year absence. This is because these struggles have taken a qualitatively different form, especially in their tactics, in their reading of the wider correlation of forces nationally , in the context of the growing consolidation of what is officially characterised as ‘left wing extremism’ (LWE) and internationally , in the context of the ‘dissolution of the Soviet Union (1990-91), and the subsequent disintegration of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia after a prolonged civil war (1991-95), beginning of the declaration of independence by three constituent republics of the Federation, Slovenia, Macedonia and Croatia and, above all, the developments in Montenegro in May 2006. It is not accidental that one of the few places in India where the referendum in Montenegro and its subsequent declaration of independence were discussed at a public meeting was this very city , Imphal.

Varieties of Separatism
Though any reporting, or even serious academic discussion, of the problems of separatism in post-independence India concentrates almost exclusively on this phenomenon in this region, beginning with the Naga insur gency , the fact is that the sense of diminishment within the larger context of the Indian state that I referred to earlier is not unique to the people of this region. One of the oldest separatist movements in the country , going well back into the years before independence, is the so-called Dravidian movement in the old Madras Presidency , superficially seeming to be inspired by anti-Brahmin, anti-Hindi and anti ‘North India’ sentiments but with profound economic and cultural dimensions. This has had many offshoots. Apart from the DMK, and the AIADMK, the two ‘natural parties’ of government in Tamilnadu, there are several other clones of this mindset occupying significant political space in the state even now . Separatism itself may now be a dormant sentiment, but even at the suggestion of a possible threat to Tamil ‘national’ interests like the dispute over the sharing of the waters of the Kaveri, for instance, these assert themselves forcing even the so-called national parties to follow suit. Though the Dravidian parties in India have more or less given up on these aspirations in terms of practical politics, the vast Tamil Diaspora with rich material and intellectual resources still cherishes fantasies of some kind of a sovereign Tamil state that would include the Tamil speaking areas of Sri Lanka, this despite the fact that Sri Lankan Tamils have a low opinion of the Indian Tamils, disdaining them as contaminated by their larger non-Tamil environment, and so less Tamil than themselves.

Indeed, anxieties about what would happen to the smaller nationalities vis a vis the numerically larger nationalities inhabiting the so-called Presidency provinces, what Professor Amalendu Guha has theorised as the complex linkages and rivalries between Great Nationalism and Little Nationalism in India, revolving round religion, language and caste, and ‘ethnicity’ were present even during colonial times. These acquired a peculiar urgency in the years before the transfer of power . Those two seminal, and also self-serving, accounts by V. P. Menon, The Transfer of Power in India and The Story of the Integration of Indian States, provide numerous instances of such anxieties and rivalries, as also of the manoeuvres and plain skulduggery that accompanied the integration of states into what was designed to be a homogenous Indian nation state. People of Manipur (and Tripura) would know too well the sordid details. Menon’ s book devotes just a paragraph to the ‘sorting out’ of the problems of Manipur and Tripura in Shillong.

Anxieties about ‘fissiparous tendencies’ was not a post-independence phenomenon; they were a constant in the political deliberations of the Congress party and used to feature even in the most rambling of Jawaharlal Nehru’ s speeches. One need not go into the well-known challenges posed to the process of integration of states in the princely states of Hyderabad, Jammu and Kashmir and Junagad, all of which tried to be independent countries. One of them, J&K, still festers. The case of the so-called Khalistan is part of the living memory , though it was the creation of the ruling party itself to weaken an entrenched regional political formation in Punjab. However, there were other, probably equally serious moves to secure independence from many other princely states as well during the integration process, especially in the various kingdoms and principalities of what was then known as Rajputana. The case of Jodhpur state with a common border to Pakistan is well-known. Indeed, such sovereignty aspirations were present in the most unlikely cases like the State of Travancore in Deep South. It is not as if these arose only because of the unique and volatile conditions that prevailed in the period between the formal granting of independence, the lapse of paramountcy , and the complex process of negotiating with these princely states their position in the new Indian state. Indeed, though not as straightforward sovereignty aspirations, such sentiments about the loss of real or imagined sovereignty in a feudal past, that was oppressive and is moreover dead and gone, are even now dormant in some cases. Nostalgia for the past comes easily , especially when one is certain that the past cannot come back. For instance, since my return to Karnataka a little over a year ago I have sometimes sensed a corresponding sense of alienation vis-à- vis ‘India’, a resentment against the dominant presence of non-Kannadigas in Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka, in crucial sectors of the economy (like the IT sector) among the ‘indigene’ of Karnataka. One has only to read the Kannada language press and even more so, the numerous Kannada blogs, to sense such sentiments. While the special circumstances relating to Manipur ’s annexation/accession to the Union of India did not obtain in the princely state of Mysore, in some perspectives the ‘core’ of the State of Karnataka, there does exist a peculiar and quite unjustified nostalgia about the state’ s feudal past, even its colonial past as in Bangalore where the word ‘colonial’ especially in relation to urban architecture has acquired connotations of beauty , romance, elegance, even chivalry , though when this past is stretched farther back to cover the regimes of Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan, also feudal, other passions and anxieties prevail. In other words, separatist aspirations from within the component units of a constituted state are not unique.

Nation State: Questions, questions
India is a Sovereign Nation State. But what is a Nation State? What is Sovereignty? The traditional, one may say, the classic view, of the Sovereign Nation State is derived from a series of treaties that ended the Thirty Years War (1618-48) involving what later came to be known as Prussia and still later as Germany but in mid seventeenth century were actually various principalities and city states in Middle Europe. As taught in elementary textbooks of political science, the two prerequisites for a sovereign nation state are a clearly defined territory, with clearly defined borders, in short territoriality, and an uncompromised sovereign status, which is the founding principle of the related concept, nationalism, prefigured in the expression, nation state.
The India into which I was born might have been a nation state of the imaginations of the Indian people, though ‘the Indian people’ may be seen in some perspectives as another imagined construct; but it was clearly not sovereign. Even its territoriality, one may argue, was also the result of colonial occupation, conquest and expansionist ambitions and security concerns over a ‘border’ that the colonial rulers themselves did not clearly know and kept on pushing outwards, though there was an ‘inherent territoriality’ of Indian nationalist imagination derived from myths, literature and memories. India of my birth included what eleven years later became Pakistan. Had I been born a year earlier, that India of my birth would have included Burma/Myanmar.
Pakistan that diminished the territoriality of Indian imagination and harsh colonial reality was, less than a quarter century of its birth, was also a Nation State. But its territoriality too was diminished by the emergence of another Nation State, Bangladesh. Put simply, nation states, like every other material and intellectual artefacts are constructs of the human history and endeavour, and of imagination, and also some cunning initiatives. Nation states are real, reflecting the memories of the past, real or imagined is immaterial, of the living realities of the present and the hopes and aspirations and, in many cases, the aggressive ambitions about the future. They are also, as argued by Benedict Anderson, imagined communities that are not the less real for being constructs of human imagination. Indeed, some Indian organisations still carry maps of ‘India’ in their offices whose territory, clearly going beyond the imaginations of theorists of states as essentially imagined communities, includes not merely the modern states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh but also Burma/Myanmar, Sri Lanka and even Afghanistan.
There is nothing surprising about the elasticity of these human constructs, nor about their imaginations and aspirations. After all, what are now, or till very recently, the stable borders of sovereign states of Europe came to be recognised so only in 1871, with the consolidation of the German state under Bismarck. And we all know what happened to that German State less than fifty years after Bismarck’s death under a tyrant who imagined that his Reich would last a thousand years. We also know what is happening to other nation states in Europe and elsewhere that were viewed as inviolable, permanently cast in stone.
As a student of literature, I have found that the ‘truth of fiction’ sometimes tells me more than the more conventional historical narratives. Eric Ambler’s “The Schirmer Inheritance” (1953) spans a period of over a century of violent European history, from the times of Napoleon Bonaparte to Hitler and the Second World War. One of its themes is the plasticity and elasticity of the concept of nationhood at a time when it was not unusual for a person born in a principality or city state of Middle Europe enlisting to fight for another principality or city state at war with his ‘native state’. Nationalism was an unknown concept; there were no ‘national armies’ but only ‘professional’ soldiers, a euphemism for mercenaries, who were ready to enlist in the ‘enemy’ army, ready to die but hoping to survive, make money and return to hearth and home.
Eric Ambler’s novel narrates the story of Franz Schirmer, rather of two Franz Schirmers, both Sergeants. The first, a dragoon of the principality of Ansbach, had enlisted in the Prussian army. He deserts after the Battle of Eylau in 1806 when the army was retreating in defeat. After many vicissitudes that include changing his name slightly towards the end of his life, an initiative central to the tension of the narrative, he survives and prospers and dies in his bed in the fullness of years. The second Schirmer is his great-great-grandson, also named Franz. Born in 1917, he enlists in the German army at the age of eighteen, and after being wounded assigned to non-combatant duties that he finds demeaning. Finally, while the beaten German army is retreating from Macedonia in October 1944 by when it was clear that Hitler had lost the war, the truck convoy he is leading is blasted by a landmine planted by Communist partisans, is gravely wounded and left for dead. He is not dead, fights for his life, survives and even thrives as a bandit in the Macedonian mountains straddling Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece, with a fantastically opportunistic cover he has created for himself as a revolutionary, still fighting away for liberating Greece from the new home grown fascists of Greece.
Here is a passage from the opening pages of this novel:
The relations between this unit (The dragoons of Ansbach) and the rest of the Prussian army was absurd, but in the middle Europe of the period not unusually so. Not many years before, and well within the memories of the older soldiers in it, the regiment had been the only mounted force in the independent principality of Ansbach, and had taken its oaths of allegiance to the ruling Margrave. Then Ansbach had fallen upon evil times and the last Margrave had sold his land and his people to the King of Prussia. Fresh oaths of allegiance had had to be sworn. Yet their new lord had eventually proved as fickle as the old. In the year before Eylau the Dragoons had experienced a further change of status. The province of Ansbach had been ceded by the Prussians to Bavaria. As Bavaria was an ally of Napoleon, this meant that, strictly speaking, the Ansbachers should be fighting against the Prussians, not beside them. However, the Dragoons were themselves as indifferent to the anomaly they constituted as they were to the cause for which they fought. The conception of nationality meant little to them. They were professional soldiers in the eighteenth century meaning of the term. If they had marched and fought and suffered and died for two days and a night, it was neither for love of the Prussians nor from hatred of Napoleon; it was because they had been trained to do so, because they hoped for the spoils of victory, and because they feared the consequences of disobedience. [Emphasis added]
I conclude this section with a brief account of two other narratives of Indian nationalism, one from Bengal and the other from Karnataka. Vande Mataram, from Bankimchandra Chattopadhya’s novel, “Ananda Math” (1882), is India’s National Song. It was, and even now is, sung regularly at sessions of the Indian National Congress. As is well-known, when the issue of free India’s National Anthem was discussed in the Constituent Assembly, a strong case was made for adopting Vande Mataram as National Anthem, though many Muslims were averse to the song because of its blatant idolatry which, for Islam, is an anathema. In the event, “Jana Gana Mana” by Rabindranath Thakur was adopted as the National Anthem while Vande Mataram was given an ‘equivalent position’ (whatever it means) as India’s National Song.
Normally only the first two stanzas of Vande Mataram are sung. When I was very young, in the years before independence, we used to sing the full song, for by singing the song we were defying foreign rule, though technically as citizens of the princely state of Mysore we were only under indirect foreign rule. However, even at that age I was puzzled by these lines that follow immediately after the first two stanzas:
Sapta koti kantha kalakala ninada karale
Dwisapta koti bhujaidruta kharakarawale
Ka bole ma tumi abale
Bahubala dhaarineem namami tarineem
Ripudalavarineem maataram
What puzzled that seven year old boy was the reference to the ‘seven crore voices’ crying in unison in celebration of Goddess Durga who symbolises the Nation that was, is and will forever be India, and the fourteen crore hands bearing arms in defence of that Mother. I knew even then that India’s population was substantially higher than seven crore, for I also knew the Kannada poem, makkalivarenamma makkalivarenamma muvattu muru koti, [Are these the thirty three crore children I have given birth to…] by the highly regarded Kannada poet, Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre, and included in gari (feather), a collection of his poems published in 1932. Bendre too, in the words cited, invokes Bharata Mata, who plaintively wonders why despite giving birth to thirty three crore children she is still enslaved. In the Vande Mataram narrative, to the extent I have been able to understand, Ma Durga, symbolising the Indian nation, has about seven crore devotees to do her bidding, bear arms in their fourteen crore hands for her defence. Around the time the poem was written, the population of Bengal, east and west, and perhaps including in the Bengali nationalist narrative those inhabiting territories further to the east, would be about seven crore. In other words, the Bengali nationalist narrative is the Indian nationalist narrative. In contrast, the Indian nationalist imagination as found expression of a Kannada poet living in Dharwad, then and to some extent even now a small town in North Karnataka envisaged an India that was inclusive in every sense of the word, thirty three crore being approximately the population of India when the poem was written. I leave it to the audience to make what inferences it wishes.
I end this section with its over-solemn discussions involving very learned sounding terms like nationalist imagination and narrative with a bit of comic relief encapsulated in the two photographs above. The one at the top is from the website of a perfervidly patriotic website with explicit Hindutva orientation, [http://yuvashakti.wordpress.com/], celebrating some Indian triumph, perhaps an Indian victory over Pakistan in a cricket match, perhaps some other real or imagined Indian victory over issues more serious than Pakistan. What matters is not the context, but the image, for the image is all. The one below is the famous photograph of the planting of the US flag atop Mount Suribachiyama, the highest point on Iwo Jima, a Japanese island in West Pacific ocean, after it was taken possession of by the United States Marines during the Second World War, also a triumphal image, but the triumph is real.
The celebration of patriotic fervour in the simulated first photograph where the Indian tricolour appropriated a triumph to which it is not entitled raises interesting questions about the nature and direction of extreme nationalism, and its implication not merely for the smaller nationalities that may feel oppressed, but even for the very triumphalism of the kind represented by both the pictures, one fake and ersatz, the other all too real.
Such triumphalism creates its own victims. What happened after the end of the civil war in Yugoslavia to Serbia, the largest republic of the former Federal Republic, when Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia declared their independence, may or may not have relevance to the variety of struggles going on in this region, their aspirations covering a wide spectrum from demands for autonomy or when such autonomy already exists shifting gears and seeking independence. The inescapable fact in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was that the Great National Chauvinism of Serbia had consistently diminished the smaller nationalities of the Federal Republic and had alienated them. This combined with other factors like foreign intervention and also, one should admit, the insular Little National Chauvinism of the smaller republics like Croatia led to the unilateral declarations of independence, civil war, open and covert foreign interventions, and in the end the destruction of a sense of nationhood that had served Yugoslavia well, even to the extent of enabling Tito (not a Serbian but a Croatian) to weld a Yugoslav nationalism in opposition to the perceived oppression of Great Russian Nationalism that could not be eliminated even by Stalin in the Soviet Union.
Ideas Do Not Die, Ever I return in this section to two points made in the previous section where I have tried to deal with some events and developments of contemporary history (that many in my audience would know more about) to amplify some other features of what I call varieties of separatism. The first is that separatist sentiments, real or opportunistically manipulated, are sometimes used as a bargaining tactic in areas where the objective reality provides no rationale for such separatism. In such areas separatism dies away sooner or later. The second point, that the primary cause for the unravelling of the Yugoslav state was the overweening Serb chauvinism that led inescapably to the barely dormant chauvinisms of individual little nationalisms. This happened despite the fact that the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia formally comprised six Socialist republics and two autonomous provinces, a clear recognition that the Yugoslav state at least in its constitutional provisions was truly federal in letter and spirit, had recognised the reality of the complex ethnic mix of its population and had mandated the required constitutional provisions. However, this constitutional recognition of the uniqueness of the identities of the various constituent autonomous republics and autonomous provinces meant less than nothing in practice when confronted by the national chauvinism of the largest and most powerful of the nationalities, the Serbs. One may see some corresponding similarities in the way Centre-State relations have worked, or have not worked, in India. Interestingly, and to the extent I remember, the Chapter on Centre-State relations in the Indian Constitution does not even use the term, federal and derivatives thereof, in any of its articles, though commentators and judicial pronouncements on its provisions use the term freely.
In other words, the decisive contribution to the unravelling and disintegration of the Federal Republic came from within Yugoslavia, from the dominant Serbian nationalism that, like other great nationalisms, degenerated to Serb chauvinism. The process did not stop in 1991; it went on and eventually forced Montenegro which had not seceded in 1991 but had remained as the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro to walk away in 2006. One wonders if these seemingly obscure developments in an area so removed from India have some relevance for process of nationality formations in India, and the problems that this is encountering as much in Assam as in other parts of this region.
Separatist sentiments or aspirations in most parts of India whose people – always
meaning by the term ‘people’ about half the population or less many of whom, even while suffering from denial and oppression, have developed some stakes in the system – have little objective cause for feeling alienated or even diminished in terms of their individual or collective identities may be dead, or may only be dormant. This is certainly not a live issue. However, they came into the public domain and stayed there for awhile before dying out – or staying dormant. The reason why Tamil nationalism and separatism are not live issues is not because such sentiments are fully dead – my own reading is that ideas do not die, ever – but that they cannot be an issue to be pursued By Whatever Means Necessary (to use that cliché), because the objective situation in the land of the Tamils does not admit such extreme manifestations of non-existent grievances. Put simply, it is not possible to rouse the Tamil people into discontent on the ground that they are a despised and diminished minority that just does not count. The numbers, not to speak of the reality, are simply against such arguments. This is the case in the rest of India which is well integrated into the path of capitalist development that India has made its own, this despite the reality that is also routinely reiterated in the very structures created by the same Indian state (like the NAC) that inequalities too are growing.
This happy coexistence of a predatory class whose composition is too complex a subject to go into, but broadly comprising both the amoral and the modestly well-heeled ‘conscience-stricken’, at least for form’s sake, intellectuals, writers and artists, the NGOs briskly networking with international donor agencies and so on, maybe I should also add journalists and the media, had for long been able to contain discontent taking an explicitly political direction. The developments in recent years in what the glossies breathlessly describe as ‘abujland’ pose a challenge to this happy coexistence. It is not for nothing that the Prime Minister has been frequently speaking of LWE as the ‘greatest threat’ facing India. I am not sure this is the case. Poverty, inequalities of income and opportunities, structural discrimination against the vulnerable and defenceless, gender and caste oppression, alienation of the religious minorities, these pose the greatest challenge to even the kind of India that this alliance is trying to build even if the partners of this alliance carry different signboards. The recent setbacks to the organised left have emboldened this predatory class even further.
Could it be, therefore, that a measure of economic development, even if it were to be very modest and benefit further the pitiful ‘creamy layer’, that one has to look hard to find in this region, and a reigning in of the tendencies I have mentioned in the preceding paragraph weaken what separatist sentiments that still persist in the region? I am reluctant to make any suggestion, for I honestly do not know the ground reality even in Assam, my home for many years, let alone in Manipur where I have always been a visitor, not a resident. One is not sure of the reverse correlation between separatism and insurgency, and economic development. As that trite wisdom says, fair economic development touching the people is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition to meet the situation. After all, Punjab, a restively prosperous state also was a fertile ground for separate insurgency. The problem is that one knows so little about the correlations between the Indian State and the complex network of security agencies it has created to defend itself against forces committed to subvert this State. However, this very Indian State has also sometimes been found complicit in the creation of factions of such subversive forces, manufacturing grievances when necessary. Examples abound in this very region, not to speak of the by now well-known origins of the Khalistan movement.
Some friends have challenged such formulations, especially the one suggesting that separatism or insurgency is a bargaining counter, or that it is an instrumental agency cynically used (if not actually constructed) by those who have benefited from the Indian state, or that even the kind of development that this part of the country has seen would not have been possible without the separatism and insurgency, that there are strongly entrenched and powerful forces in the region well integrated into the patronage alliance of the Indian state who have developed a vested interest in the continuance of separatism and insurgency, only which can explain their persistence, despite many grievous setbacks. Perhaps it is possible to draw such inferences from this or that rather superficially argued articles, for I am no theorist, much less a thinker, but that ‘harmless hack, a mere journalist’. But certainly, some inference may be drawn from the very instructive trajectory of the Dravidian movement which in its origins had a strong separatist, if not secessionist component but whose two major political manifestations are now the two natural parties of government, vying with each other but shutting out all other players, including major players at the national level, from having any significant role in the politics of Tamilnadu.
Thou hast committed Fornication:
but that was in another country;
and besides, the wench is dead.
As a distant but friendly observer I have sometimes wondered about the persistence of the separatist mindset and sovereignty aspirations, even while bearing in mind the epigraph to the previous section. Yes, one admits the eternal durability of ideas, but one also wonders why ignoring the all too obvious objective reality that stares one in the face, separatism not so much as an idea but as self-destructive insurgency persists. To take the situation in this very state which I now find is utterly, totally, different from what I vaguely three or four decades ago. During my first visit to Kolara during the Puja holidays in 1963 a little over a year after I moved to Guwahati to spend some time with my mother, I was asked the strangest of questions by friends. The family doctor, for instance, asked me if he had to put extra postage stamps on the envelope addressed to me in Guwahati. A person from Guwahati was in those days a bit of a novelty even in Bangalore. Now people from this region are setting up businesses not merely in Bangalore but in other cities and towns as well. There are scores of stories I can tell about the strangest of encounters from persons of this region in the most unlikely of places and circumstances in Bangalore and even small towns in Karnataka.
This is only a small instance of a much larger process of integration of this region with the rest of the country, working both ways, though the influx of non-Manipuris into Manipur has been a process and enterprise going on over a much longer period, having ramifications going far beyond merely trade and investment, and having profound cultural implications. No need for me to spell these things out to this audience.
Sometime in 1990 or 1991 when it was clear that the Soviet Union was unravelling, I had a conversation with an important functionary of the United Liberation Front, Asom (ULFA). Talking of this and that, we naturally talked about the developments in the Soviet Union about which I could not hide my sadness. He on the other hand was very positive, for according to him, such unravelling would also ‘inevitably’ follow in India, which was all the good for ULFA’s objective of securing sovereignty for Assam. I have come across similar ‘optimism’ among others who are not actively engaged in securing sovereignty for Assam, but are sympathetic to ULFA’s objectives.
When I read about the near celebratory welcome accorded to the developments in Montenegro, which drove the final nail into the coffin of the remnants of Republic of Serbia and Montenegro, I was reminded of this perspective of sections of ULFA who too, twenty years ago, saw the unravelling of the Soviet Union as the curtain raiser for the ‘inevitable’ unravelling of India, and so a ‘good thing’ for the people of this region striving to ‘throw off the yoke of Indian colonialism’. I wonder how he sees the situation two decades later, when the unravelled Soviet Union, now the Russian Republic, and the yet unravelled India are both stronger than ever. To diminish is not necessarily to weaken, a lesson that India has learnt after actively assisting in the dismemberment of Pakistan.
Let me end this rambling discourse with an anecdote, actually something that I was an unwilling and rather disgusted witness to and participant in when I was living in Bombay, working with Economic and Political Weekly. This was during the days of the Janata Party government under Morarji Desai, sometime after the Morarji-Phizo meeting in London (June 1977). A senior journalist from Delhi dad dropped by at the office, a common event, and since this gentleman was supposed to ‘specialise’ in developments in this region, perhaps meaning that he wrote those execrable editorials in that paper that always upset me, and since I had joined EPW after working at GU for fourteen years during which period I began to write seriously on developments in Assam and the NE region, Editor Krishna Raj asked me to join him at his corner in the Office when this gentleman arrived. I was for the most part a silent listener, Raj was always the silent listener, but our visitor made up for our silence with his confident loquacity. Sure enough, Morarji Desai’s meeting with Phizo and the situation in Nagaland came up, as also the situation in Manipur whose restiveness was evident even in those days, even in Bombay. This gentleman said he had the solution to all these problems, the conversation was in the peculiar Hindi spoken by most Delhi journalists, with a strong Punjabi touch, so this account does not catch that flavour. Liberally sprinkling spittle all over me in his passionate patriotic intensity, the gentleman said: Corrupt them, yaar, corrupt them. Send more money. Corrupt them. Insurgency khatam ho jayega, or something like that. I did not even try to contradict him, though everyone knows that pouring money has never solved any problem, including what in those was beginning to be identified as Moneypour. Now few speak such language, perhaps a small advance; but whether such thinking has changed, I do not know.
Initially I had planned to speak of the sovereignty struggles in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland, and had made elaborate notes. However, when one begins to write, ideas sometimes take control of the writer who is only notionally in control of what she or he is writing. If this essay has dealt, even if superficially, only with the situation in Manipur, this is natural. For the sovereignty struggles in Manipur that have persisted so long have yet to define and resolve the serious contradictions arising out of the classic views of the land and its people, and the challenges these are facing from within. There are, as is the case with other, apparently more internally coherent Indian nationalities, varieties of Manipur and its people whose nationalist and territorial imaginations are not always in harmony. I think I will leave it at that.
Permit me, Sir, to end this disorganised discourse with a tribute to two women of this land: Thongjam Manorama, raped and killed, after being taken away from her home in the dead of night on 11 July 2004 three havildars of Assam Rifles. A few hours later her dead body was found not far from her house. Four days later was the famous public demonstration by twelve women who had bared their bodies, protesting the rape and murder, challenging the security forces to do the same to them, an event that shamed the nation (one hopes). Whatever be the procedural wrangles at the level of the government and the courts, the Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA) is now fully in the national public domain. As I write this, I read in the papers that yesterday, 24 May, there was a demonstration in Bangalore against AFSPA calling for its repeal. The dialogue from Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta that I have used as the epigraph to this section may not be actually used as part of the defence of the accused if they ever come to trial, though such rationalisation of fornication and murder would be legitimate for that odious person from Delhi that ruined my working afternoon in Bombay. Indeed, such defence could well be the most explicit validation of the demand for Manipur’s sovereignty and independence.
And what can I say about Irom Sharmila that has not been said before, that I myself have not said and written before. Persons at the highest levels of the government have expressed their ‘concern’, retired army and police officers have said that AFSPA is not necessary, for India has other laws covering the same areas and providing similar immunities to armed personnel; but AFSPA stays. Irom Sharmila, like the dead Thangjam Manorama, shames this nation state that is India, my and your India.
As in much of what I have spoken earlier, I end with more questions for myself than answers for my audience. But I am sure no one here expected me to provide any answers. I thank you, friends, for your generosity in inviting me, and for your patience in listening to me articulate my inchoate thoughts. (Concluded)
(The write up published here is the paper presented by M. S. Prabhakara on the Sixth Arambam Somorendra Singh Memorial Lecture held in Imphal on June 10, 2011)

Khemchand inaugurates drinking water project at Chingmeirong

IT News Imphal, May 11, Speaker of Manipur Legislative Assembly , Y. Khemchand Singh inaugurated a Drinking Water Project (Reverse Osmosis Plant), at Chingmeirong Maning Leikai, Imphal on Thursday . The inaugural function was organised by Bharat Vikas Parishad, Manipur , at Sinam Shyama Town Hall, Chingmeirong Maning Leikai, Imphal. The Drinking Water Project was installed under Bharat Vikas Parishad, a Non Profit Organisation, working for the welfare of the people since inception. It may be mentioned that the Parishad was started in the year 1999 in the State and had 7 branches now . The RO Plant which was inaugurated today will be maintained jointly by Chingmeirong Maning Leikai Singlup and Chingmeirong Social Welfare Association. Addressing the gathering as Chief Guest of the inaugural function, Y. Khemchand Singh said that the installation of the Plant is a good beginning. He also said that he will extend all possible help to Bharat Vikas Parishad in taking up any projects in the State which will benefit the people of the State. Suresh Jain, National Or ganising Secretary , BVP , said that the installation of the Plant in the area is a step to make the people aware of the benefit of such project. Stating that within six months, an RO Plant will be installed at Bishnupur , he asked the S tate President of BVP to submit 10 proposals to install Community RO Plants in different parts of the State. He further said that BVP will take up the project of opening of Skill Development Centre to enhance the skills of the youths of the State. He appealed the local people to render their co-operation and assistance to make the project a success. Former Chief Minister of Manipur Radhabinod Koijam, B. Birmangal Sharma, President, BVP , Manipur; Dr . Sinam Rajendra Singh, National Vice-President, NE BVP; Swadesh Ranjan Goswami, National Additional General Secretary , NE BVP attended the inaugural function as Special Invitee, President and Guest of Honour respectively . H. Balkrisna Singh, Director , Information & Public Relations, Members of the Parishad and other invitees also attended the function .

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Lecture on “drug and alcohol abuse”

IT News Imphal, May 11, 11 Assam Rifles of 26 Sector Assam Rifles under the aegis of HQ IGAR (South) conducted a lecture on “Drug and Alcohol Abuse” at Chongjang village yesterday . Total 17 locals including 7 males, 5 females and 5 children attended the lecture. The lecture was given by Company Commander Maj D V S Rathore, Company Operating Base Chongjang of 11 Assam Rifles. The lecture emphasized the adverse effects of “Drug and Alcohol Abuse” on the youth. Chongjang village, being a border village has easy availability of various kinds of drugs, which has affected the society to a large extent. The lecture was concluded by a unanimous pledge to fight against the menace of “Drug.

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Ambassador of Belgium called on Chief Minister

DIPR Imphal, May 11, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium to India Jan Luykx called on Chief Minister N. Biren Singh today in his office chamber . In the meeting they have discussed the possibilities of co-operation in trade and investment, food processing, agriculture, tourism and Smart City project etc. During the meeting, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh proposed to the Ambassador Jan Luykx to extend Belgium’ s support in developing a Football Academy in the State. Chief Minister said that such a Football Academy would hone the skills and ability of young and aspiring footballers of the State. While informing about the people’ s passion for football in the State, Ambassador Jan Luykx was surprised to learn that out of 21 footballers selected for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, there were 8 players from a small state like Manipur . Chief Minister also proposed to Jan Luykx about sports exchange programme especially in the field of football as it would help the native sportspersons to get international exposure and training. Later , Ambassador Shri Jan Luykx gave his assurance that he would pursue the proposal of the Chief Minister in different Ministries of the Belgium Government.

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State security situation reviewed, manhunt for those responsible in Koirengei blast underway

DIPR 

Imphal, May 10

Chief Minister N. Biren Singh has said that an active manhunt is underway to nab the culprits behind the series of blasts that recently rocked the State Capital.

He was speaking to media persons on the sidelines of Hill Leaders’ Day at the Durbar Hall of the CM’s Secretariat today. Biren Singh said that he had reviewed the situation in a security meeting held at Chief Minister’s Secretariat yesterday.

During the meeting, the Chief Minister said, it was felt that certain technical difficulties faced by the intelligence units of the State Police Department must be addressed at the earliest.

As such, updated technology would be acquired as soon as possible to counter different security threats, said N. Biren, who is also the in-charge of Home Department.

Stating that common people may face some inconveniences during the course of search operations conducted by the police/security agencies, the Chief Minister urged the public to bear with this inconvenience and extend co-operation to the security personnel to arrest the culprits.

Maintaining that it is the bounden duty of the Government to book the anti-social elements and protect the life and property of the common people, the Chief Minister asserted that the ongoing manhunt would go on until the perpetrators are nabbed.

If peace prevails in Manipur, the State has the potential to become one of the most developed States of the country as there is no dearth of resources and talents, he opined.

Regarding Hill Leaders Day, the Chief Minister expressed hope that the number of visitors of this day would automatically come down when the ‘Go to Village’ mission is expanded to more villages, he added.

The Chief Minister said that provisions of providing allowance to Government officials taking part in the mission and acquiring necessary vehicles would be discussed by the State Cabinet soon.

Regarding dredging of riverbeds, the Chief Minister lauded the people who were residing within the limits of the flood plain zoning areas of Imphal River and Nambul River for removing their shops, houses and other structures on their own extending co-operation to the ongoing dredging exercise. Biren further said that a high level powerful committee comprising high ranking officials of NHPC and the State Government had already been formed to jointly tackle flash floods. Hence, there would be no unnecessary delay any more in the opening of sluice gates of Ithai Barrage when required, he added.

The Chief Minister also said that development of infrastructures of the newly created districts is in active consideration and the construction of the new bridge near Nung Dolan on NH-37 (Imphal-Jiribam road) is nearing completion.

In today’s Hill Leaders’ Day, N. Biren Singh attended to 350 complaints and met around 1000 people from different hill districts of the State from 9 am to 1 pm.

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The Kuki-Zomi Insurgency in Manipur Nearing Settlement

Introduction

Suspension of Operation (SoO) with the ‘Kuki’ and ‘Zomi’ armed groups in Manipur was preceded by ‘Cessation of Operations’ agreement with the union government which comes into effect from 01 August 2005.  Later in July 2006, Shri OkramIbobi, the incumbent Manipur Chief Minister (CM) on 15 July 2006 while clarifying that the state government was unaware had stated, “I am totally blind in this matter and more so on the conditions maintained between the concerned underground group and the army.” (‘CM unaware of another Ceasefire with UG group’, Imphal Free Press (IFP),  Imphal, 15 July 2006.)

It mirrors the murky manner with which SoO began as the state government was being sidelined and not taken into confidence though law and order is a state subject. It was the army which initiated the move of suspending the operation against the Kuki and Zomi armed outfits. Previously Ceasefire under SoO was between the Indian army and central paramilitary forces and some armed groups belonging to Kuki and Zomi communities. The Ministry of Defense in a press release dated October 7, 2005, disclosed that eight ‘Kuki’ and one ‘Zomi’ militant group in Manipur had entered into an informal ‘ceasefire’ with the Union Government. ‘Cessation of operations’ agreements was concluded with these groups with effect from 01 August, 2005. (‘Insurgency & Peace Efforts in Manipur’, G:/CDPS, Manipur Insurgency.htm, assessed on 21 June 2010). In connection with it, the Manipur CM stated that the ceasefire between the “Indian security forces and some Non-Naga insurgents” was not acceptable as it lacks the state government’s consent. Further he stated that the state government would form modalities and concrete ground rules for holding dialogues with insurgents groups operating in the state.(‘Indian Army-UG Ceasefire without State Govt’s consent’, IFP, 25 February 2006). 

Pursuit for State Recognition

Kuki National Front (KNF) had issued a threat that “if the ruling state government did not apply the SoO (Ceasefire) pact in the state between Kuki revolutionaries with Center there shall be no room for Congress (I) in the forthcoming state election (Ninth Manipur Assembly Election, 2007) in the Kuki dominated hills in the state”. The outfit spelled out that it would ban any Congress (I) workers, candidate and campaign in the Kuki dominated areas.( KNF to ban Congress, IFP, Imphal, 12 August 2006). The Kuki Liberation Army (KLA) /Kuki Liberation Organization (KLO) also had stated that despite entering into SoO with the Indian army and the central security forces, the congress led state government refused to recognize and endorse the SoO agreement. KLO also alleged the state government for not taking any initiative of approaching the centre to start a peace talk. On these grounds, the KLO had imposed ban on the candidates of the ruling alliances who were contesting the elections. (‘KLA na Congress ta athingbathamkhre’, Poknafam, Vernacular Manipuri Daily, 8 January 2007). The outfit also carried out bomb attacks at the residence of Minister, Ph. Parijat and the President of Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC), MrGaikhangam. The Kuki and Zomi armed outfits which entered into the said informal ceasefire include Kuki National Organization (KNO)/Kuki National Army (KNA), Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA) / Zomi Revolutionary Organization (ZRO), KLA/ KLO, Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA), Kuki National Front – Zogam (KNF-Z), Kuki National Front- Military Council (KNF-MC), etc.

Signing of SoO Agreement

The SoO between the conglomerate groups of KukidndZomi outfits namely, the United Peoples’ Front (UPF), and the KNO, State Government and the Central Government was signed at Delhi on 22 August 2008.  The state Cabinet presided over by the Chief Minister gave its approval to the said SoO agreement signed within the framework of Indian Constitution after the State Government rejected demand of the Kuki outfits for Kuki homeland or Zalengam to ensure the territorial integrity of Manipur. (Cabinet nod to SoO deal, TheSangai Express, 24 August 2008). Since the signing of the SoO, it continued to extend from time to time. The latest one being the signing for extension of another one year which came to effect from 31 August 2017.

Profile of the Armed Outfits

While the KNO represents 11 groups, the UPF represents eight outfits. After a series of turns and negotiations and brain storming sessions, the ground rules for the suspension of operations between the Government and Kuki armed groups were signed on 22 August 2008. In it, Joint Secretary in the Union Government in charge of Northeastappended his signature on behalf of the Government of India (GoI) while the state government of Manipur was represented by Principal Secretary (Home). Eight members each from the UPF and the KNO also signed the SoO.

KNO comprises of 11 different Kuki and Zomi armed ethnic outfit. They are Kuki National Army (KNA), Kuki National Front-Military Council (KNF-MC), Kuki National Front-Zogam (KNF-Z), United Socialist Revolutionary Army (USRA), ZouDefence Volunteer-KNO (ZDV-KNO), United Komrem Revolutionary Army (UKRA), Zomi Revolutionary Force (ZRF), Hmar National Army (HNA), Kuki Revolutionary Army (Unification), Kuki Liberation Army (KLA-KNO) and United All Kuki Liberation Army (State Govt authorizes Principal Secy to sign SoO agreement with Kuki militants, IFP, Imphal, 4 Aug , 2008). While the UPF represents eight outfits which include Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA), Kuki National Front-P (KNF-P), United Kuki Liberation Front (UKLF), Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA), Hmar Peoples’ Conference/ Democratic (HPC-D), Kuki Liberation Army (KLA/KLO), Kuki National Front-S (KNF-S),etc.( SoO with Kuki groups, IFP, Imphal, 6 September 2008).

The main objectives of the KNO/KNA is to bring together all the Kuki-inhabited areas separated by ‘artificial boundary’ created in 1935, specifically in the Kabaw valley of Myanmar and the Kuki inhabited areas in the hill districts of Manipur under one administrative unit called ‘Zalengam’ (Land of freedom). In case of the eventuality of such integration not materializing, the KNA aims at the creation of two Kuki states: one within Burma i.e. ‘Eastern Zalengam’ and the other within India, ‘Western Zalengam’.  The KNA has an estimated strength of 600 cadres armed with an array of weapons like AK-Series, G-series, M-series and 60mm mortar (Kuki National Army, www.satp.org, assessed on 26 June 2010). ZouDefence Volunteer (ZDV) was said to be formed in 1997 however its existence came to be known in 2003. ZDV strives for maintaining their intermediary “Zou” identity without aligning to either the “Zomi” or the “Kuki”. KNF was founded on 18 May 1988 with the objective of the demand for Kukiland which consisted of the districts of Churachandpur, Chandel, parts of Tamenglong and parts of Senapati and to defend the Kukis from the atrocities and brutalities of the “anti-national Naga activists” (Aide-Memoir to the Prime Minister of India Shree AtalBehari Vajpayee for Immediate Creation of Kukiland, submitted by Kuki National Front on 8 April 1998).  KNF split in 1995, with one unit identifying itself as the “presidential faction” and the other as the “military council”. The former again split into Samuel faction (KNF-S) and Zougam faction (KNF-Z). The total cadre strength of the outfit (inclusive of all factions) is estimated to be between 400 and 500 (Kuki National Front, www.satp.org, assessed on 26 June 2010). United Komrem Revolutionary Army (UKRA) was formed on 23 October 2004 to protect the interests of the Komrem community (‘Manipur Outfit rears head’, The Telegraph, Calcutta, 26 october 2006).

KRA was formed in December 2000 by a group of disgruntled cadres of the KNF-MC faction with purported objective of securing a “separate State” for the Kuki tribe within the Indian union. It has approximate cadre strength of 250. National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) was instrumental in training and arming the KRA cadres (file:///G:/CDPS,%20Manipur%20Insurgency.htm, assessed on 20 June 2010). KLA was formally re-established in 1993 with the sole objective of safeguarding the political interest of the Kukis and their inhabited areas which purportedly claimed to have inherited from the Kuki ancestors (‘KLA celebrates anniversary’, IFP, 18 December 2007). Hmar People’s Convention-Democratic (HPC-D) is an offshoot of the political party, HPC, which came into existence in 1986, spearheading a movement for self-government in the north and northeast of Mizoram. The Mizo Peace Accord of 1986, failed to address their demand of a ‘Greater Mizoram’ integrating all areas inhabited by Hmars in Mizoram, Assam and Manipur under a single administrative unit. Since April 1987, the HPC waged an armed struggle for autonomy. However in 1992, HPC representatives and the Government of Mizoram mutually agreed signed a Memorandum of Settlement (MoS) at the Mizoram capital Aizawl on July 27, 1994, for establishing the ‘Sinlung Development Council’ and subsequently, 308 HPC militants surrendered along with their arms.  HPC-D was formed by a section of the HPC cadres who were dissatisfied with the implementation process MoS. The purported objective of the outfit over the years has changed from an autonomous district covering the north and northeast Mizoram to an independent Hmar State (Hmar Ram) consisting of the Hmar inhabited areas of Mizoram, Manipur and Assam. The cadre strength of the outfit is estimated to be between 100 and 150  (www.satp.org).

ZRA was formed in 1997 as an armed wing of ZRO which was formed in 1993. The purported objective of the ZRO/ZRA is to protect the interests of the Paite community from the ‘onslaught of any community or group’. It further attempts “to bring all the Zomipeople, divided by artificial State boundaries in various countries, specifically in Myanmar (Chin State), India (Manipur and Mizoram) and Bangladesh (Chittagong Hills Tracts), together under one administrative unit, a ‘Zogam’, which means ‘land of the Zomi’ under the Indian Union” (ZRA, www.satp.org, assessed on 26 June 2010). ZRF was formed by a group of Paites defected from ZRA. USRA was formed by Vaiphei cadres who defected from ZRA to uphold the dignity and identity of the Vaipheis. United Kuki Liberation Front (UKLF) was formed on March 29, 2000 with the purported objective of upholding the interests of the Kuki community and forming a separate Kuki state called ‘Kukiland’.

The Negotiation Process

In the later part of December 2008, after the completion of four rounds of meetings on the SoO between the Kuki and Zomi ethnic outfits led by the KNO and the UPF, the JMG of the government finalized the process for issue of Identity Cards to around 1745 cadres out of a total of 2519. At a meeting held on 19 December 2008 a list of 500 cadres of KRA, 377 cadres of KNF-P, 419 cadres of UKLF, 111 cadres of KLA, 717 cadres of ZRA, 250 cadres of KNF-S, 110 cadres of HPC and 45 cadres of ZDV have been proposed by the Kuki groups for official recognition. 23 numbers of designated camps operating under different Kuki militant groups have also been proposed for official identification.  The said meeting between the JMG and the KNO and UPF was attended by the State Principal Secretary Home, Deputy Director of Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB), Colonel Sanjay Gupta of GS (HQ) Inspector General Assam Rifles (IGAR)-South; Mr.Rakesh Dhakarwal, Commandant, Central Reserved Police Force; Lieutenant Colonel D Mishra, GSD (Int), 57 Mountain Divison; KMS Rao, Assistant Director, SIB; Major S Jung, HQIGAR (S) and seven other representatives from the KNO and UPF (1745 Kuki undergrounds to be given I-cards, 23 camps proposed for official recognition,IFP, 22 December 2008).

With the signing of the tripartite agreement, SoO came into force initially for a period of one year with the provision that it could be extendable on the basis of mutual agreement and understanding. The KNO spokesman, Dr. SeilenHaokip took SoO as a pre-requisite to political dialogue’s commencement.( Kuki solution should be within Indian Constitution, NorthEast Sun, October 15, 2008). While voicing on behalf of the KNO he stated that the tripartite agreement was a structural necessity. He exemplify by stating that the Joint Monitoring Group comprising representatives from GOI, KNO and the Government of Manipur will be dealing with issues related to the field or the ground rules. JMG are going to be responsible for monitoring the activities of KNO’s cadres and the security forces. JMG is an administrative body, which will take decisions pertaining to the camps and ground issues; it is not going to be responsible for making political decisions. However this was not KNO’s preferred model. Instead KNO would want GoI to engage in dialogue with them and referred to the Manipur state government any relevant issue as and when necessary. A Joint Monitoring Group headed by Principal Secretary (Home), with a representative each from the UPF and the KNO had also been formed. Issuing of identity cards to all the cadres of the two groups by the government, payment of Rs. 2000 to each cadre monthly for maintenance as well as identifying and building the designated camps. The cadres will not be allowed to move out of the designated camps with arms and all the designated camps will be located at a good distance from the national highways as well as international boundaries, and strict adherence to the rules so laid down are some significant points of the ground rules. As per the agreement, the enforcement of the ground rules would be the responsibility of the state government with the help and assistance of the central police organizations, Assam Rifles and Army deployed in the state of Manipur (SoO signed enforced, IFP, 23 Aug 2008).

The agreed “Ground Rules” demands all the parties to stick to the conditions that admit them into the SoO group. Exercising any sort of military might, particularly by the armed groups, is bound to be seen as violation of the contract that they have mutually entered into. On the part of the armed groups, it appears that none would immediately choose to stand in the way of the peace process in their quest to walk the talk towards securing “political solution”.  In this connection the KNO spokesman stated that the main purpose of SoO was to engage in political dialogue to find a political settlement for the Kukis within the constitution of India. Calvin H, member of the UPF also asserted that “despite the stand of the Government of Manipur” for territorial integrity, “there is no binding clause in the constitution that says the boundary of the state cannot be changed” 

(‘KNO, UPF and the SoO: Long Walk to Talk’, www. Kanglaonline.com, assessed on 29 June 2010).

UPF’s convener of the Joint Monitoring Group (JMG) TL Jacob Thadou stated that the armed groups are adhering to the agreed conditions of the “Ground Rules” in good spirit. He said that the armed groups have been pragmatically engaged in a learning process that requires them to make peace, build confidence and resolve differences. Further he said, the preparations, thus far, have been held in a positive atmosphere with certain progress, though without definitive agreements for the political talks. Commander of 59 Mountain Brigade, stated on 27 November 2009 that the tripartite SoO pact signed between the Central Government, the State Government and Kuki militant groups were still in transitory phase and no political dialogue has been initiated as yet (‘SoO in transitory phase’, TSE, 27 November 2009).

Violation of SoO and Internecine Wars

The Kuki and Zomi ethnic armed outfits despite being in SoO with the State and the Union government continued to engage in extortion, fratricidal turf wars and internecine  factional clashes, kidnapping for ransom, intimidating the civilians, interference in developmental programmes, and influencing the outcome of the Autonomous District Council (ADC) election 2010 results through sheer coercion. An amount of Rs. 21,48,095 was released for the purpose of payment of compensations to the land owners affected by the land acquisition for the construction of the ICP at Moreh. From the compensation amount, KNA/KNO maintaining cease fire trust under SoO imposed diktat that they will cut 57 percent of the compensation amount received by the land owners. Out of the compensation amounts KNA/KNO had collected Rs 17, 76,000 (HueiyenLanpao (HL), Imphal,1 May 2010). In this connection the Integrated Check Post - Joint Action Committee (ICP-JAC) had earlier on 04  April 2010 demanded the Chandel district administration that distribution/payment of compensation should be delayed until the KNA was permanently driven out from ‘Moreh’ and Chandel District. The KLA on 17 November 2009 while declaring its decision to no longer go along with the KNO/KNA alleged the later of repeatedly violating the ceasefire ground rules in the name of KLA in the form of levying taxes, extortion, kidnapping, etc. to blacklist the KLA .( IFP,Wednesday, 18 November 2009).

On April 2010, there were reports of villagers of BungbalKhullen, Seichang and Suongthel areas in Senapati District fleeing their respective villages following continued clashes between suspected rival Kuki militants under SoO. A particular outfit under SoO had on 27 May 2010 spelled out that contractors who have violated the outfit’s instruction of seeking prior permission would not be entertained for undertaking works under the Pradhan Mantri Gram SadakYojana. The same outfit abducted the chief of Kom village, Thayong in the Senapati District and imposed a fine of Rs. 100000 for not attending a meeting of village chiefs of the area and eventually released on payment of Rs. 80,000. KLA despite in a SoO agreement locked up the Imphal-Guwahati passenger bus from outside at a place near Dimapur and set it on fire with 32 passengers still inside on October 2008 because of the bus owner’s failure to pay their “tax” demand. It resulted in the death of two passengers (Inter-state bus services suspended over burning down of state bus in Assam; Two charred to death inside locked bus, IFP, 25 October 2008). On 2 June 2008, the United Committee Manipur in a memorandum submitted to Manipur Governor, blamed the SoO agreement signed with the Kuki militant outfits for the rising crime and unchecked violence in some parts of the State. It stated that due to the improper implementation of the truce details there were unrestricted and open extortions being carried out along with abductions for ransom which had become routine further adding that the Imphal-Moreh Sumo service was suspended due to monetary demands imposed by the KNA on the transporters. Cadres of the Kuki and Zomi armed outfit under SoO was found in the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs.4.54 Crores of public fund in between 03-14 October 2010 from the Churachandpur branch of United Bank of India (‘SoO group found to be behind UBI bank fraud case: 57 Mt Div’, IFP, Tuesday, 03 November 2009). KNA allegedly intimidated the voters belonging to Kom community in Sagang and Tuibuong areas in Churachandpur District and at Moreh area in Chandel District and disrobe them of their right to vote in the Autonomous District Council (ADC) held in May 2010. During the year 2013 to 2017 (till 01 October), internecine clashes involving the outfits under SoO have resulted to 19 death casualties and three injured (Compilation from ‘Internecine Clashes among Kuki Outfits in Manipur: 2005-2017’, http://www.satp.org , accessed on 26 October 2017).

SoO Groups coming to Common Political Objectives

On 25th November2015,the KNO and UPF have unanimously decided to pursue common political objectives which would be nothing less than a ‘State status’ within the constitution of India. They also together forewarned against the formation of any new outfit and stated that any such move should be countered collectively (‘KNO, UPF agree on common pol road map, warn divisive forces’,  TSE, Imphal, 30 November 2015). On 2nd March 2007, while speaking for the election meeting at ‘Churachandpur’ (‘Union Home Minister, Shri Rajnath promises pol solution for SoO groups Assures integrity of Manipur’ TSE, Imphal, 03 March 2017.). ‘Churachandpur’ is the most populated hill district of Manipur and also the bastion of the ‘state’ demanded by both the conglomerate groups under SoO.  Union Home Minister, Shri Rajnath had assured of ‘political solution’ for the groups under SoO. The new Manipur Chief Minister, N Biren Singh, also gave his assurance in the floor of the assembly that both the Centre and State governments would start dialogue with Kuki militants under SoO agreement and finding a solution to the armed movement within a time frame. With it, the solution seems to be within sight. In connection with it, he stated, “The people of Manipur, particularly in hill districts, have had enough of the militant activities due to the prolonged extension of SoO or cease fire. So, we will make sure that a solution to the problem is brought at the earliest ...” The GoI also finally appointed former Director of IB, Dineshwar Sharma as interlocutor to expedite the early settlement (Leivon Jimmy, ‘Kuki Armed Movement Nearing Settlement’, The Northeast Times, Popular English Daily, Guwahati, 18 October 2017).

Conclusion

The state and the central government shall ensure that those Kuki and Zomi outfits under SoO did not inconvenience the civilians. The KNO as well as the UPF took SoO as a significant step in the right direction and a prerequisite to the commencement of political dialogue. While engaging in SoO, grassroots democracy should be strengthened and the strong presence of state administration should be made felt which otherwise have for so long remained as ungovernable grey areas because of difficult geographical terrains and thriving Kuki and Zomi insurgency. It is hoped that holistic solutions which will not be in collision with the interest of the other communities that could potentially trigger another form of conflict would come into sight in the very near future. To add a caution, if any form of autonomy is to be granted, it should not be community exclusive as the guiding spirit should be that of peaceful co-existence and not of extending sovereignty to one particular ethnic group. Since SoO is the first ever peace initiative involving the state government, it should pave way for substantive dialogue towards durable solution of the Kuki and Zomi hydra-headed insurgencies. Successful resolution of the Kuki and Zomi insurgent problems through SoO would invite the willingness of other armed outfits which are still eluding the offer for peace talks.

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