By: Seram Neken
Everything may be fair in love, but not in war. Targeting innocent children, women and farmers, and sacred temples amounts to war crimes. During war, even ambulances are spared. However, in Manipur what have happened during the last eighty days are indeed horrific crimes. After a long period of 78 days since May 3 last, the Indian Prime Minister has broken his silence in the form of angry reaction to one of the many horrific scenes occurred in the course of the ongoing Manipur conflict. The viral video of stripping women naked is quite irritating and incident highly condemnable and unpardonable. But this is not the only crime happened here.
Hundreds of horrific and barbaric crimes happened. Many of them remain unrecorded and unexposed. Nearly two hundred people have been killed. Many individuals remain untraced. Numerous houses torched. About a lakh people have been displaced. Inhuman tortures such as dugout of eyes, chopping of the flesh, live burning of humans, molestation and rapes perpetrated by the armed militants of a particular group have been reported from the battlefields. From the very beginning, the unarmed Meiteis have been in a tolerant defensive mood, and now they are only retaliating to the merciless aggression.
It would have been appreciated if the Indian Prime Minister mourned the deaths of numerous unarmed villagers who died defending their villages from the onslaught of externally aided armed aggressors. It would have been applauded if the Prime Minister denounced the armed militants under SoO, who targeted innocent citizens barring women and children, who burnt down houses only to establish area domination over valley villages, who attacked farmers working in the field. Though late, his reaction would have been meaningful if the Prime Minister mentioned a single word to stop the enduring gunfight and to establish normalcy in Manipur. Why has Narendra Modi angrily reacted to only a single event in this whole 78-day conflict with series of horrific incidents?
Manipur conflict is bizarre in many ways. First, amid the presence of lakhs of security forces in Manipur, still the villagers are left to defend their villages in the periphery. The ongoing battle is between armed militants with sophisticated weapons from the hills and the unarmed villagers at the periphery in the valley. Where is the protectionist role of the state as innocent citizens are put in the warfront? Why the Indian security forces are not utilised to drive the aggressors out? Is it not condemnable?
Second, some of the Indian security forces specially the Assam Rifles have been charged with siding with Kuki militants while many others remain indifferently watching the fight in the battlefields. In the valley too, some unruly security personnel were seen involved in vandalising properties, attacking innocent citizens and even attempting to torch shops. Are these untoward acts of Indian security forces condemnable or not?
Third, women all over Manipur valley have been toiling in the streets for the last 80 days only to save the integrity of Manipur and the nation. They are demanding peace, they are standing resolute for a united Manipur. Does the Government of India acknowledge the pangs of separation of mothers and wives of those mercilessly killed during the conflict? Does the Government of India feel the grief of the families of missing individuals? Does the Government of India sense the agony of those whose houses have been torched to ashes? Are these condemnable or not?
Fourth, even the farmers in the fields have been attacked with guns and bombs. In their separatist attempt to occupy surrounding villages, Kuki militants spared none. Even the animals have been attacked. Is it not condemnable?
Fifth, India still remains untouched even after knowing that external forces are involved in the conflict. Armed militants from the hills wear ‘Lungi’, the traditional attire of Myanmarese. They use sophisticated weaponry apparently poured in from neighbouring countries. Even the Governor of Manipur recently revealed the involvement of foreign aggressors in the ongoing conflict. Why is the Government of India still tolerating such an external aggression which threatens the unity and integrity of the nation? Is it not condemnable?
Sixth, any section of the population can place its demand to the Government of India in constitutional ways. Why those individuals demanding Separate Administration have resorted to killing and displacing Meitei villagers? Ten legislators including ministers of the ruling BJP are actively encouraging violence in Manipur. No action has so far been taken against the defiant MLAs either from the side of the ruling party or from the side of state legislative assembly. Is it not worthy of condemnation?
Seventh, India is the largest democracy in the world. People elect their leaders to represent them in governance. In the depth of the prevailing crisis, there is dire need to discuss the situation in state legislative assembly and take effective legislative resolutions to defend the state and the nation. Why the Government of Manipur is still reluctant to convene the assembly session at this critical juncture? Where is the meaning of representative democracy in Manipur? Is it not condemnable?
Eighth, everyone knows that the genesis of the present conflict is widespread poppy cultivation associated with deforestation and illegal immigrations from neighbouring country. It is high time every right-thinking people across the globe condemned the dangerous poppy cultivation and deforestation in this part of India. Will not the Prime Minister of India condemn poppy plantation and deforestation in Manipur hills?
Sidelining the bigger boiling issues at hand, the most responsible person of the nation has picked up and addressed only a single viral event. The genesis of the whole issue must be taken into account while reacting to the happenings in Manipur. The parental role of the Government of India and its Prime Minister calls for a fair and judicious diagnosis of the problem.
The foremost agenda before the majority community Meiteis is to keep the integrity of Manipur intact with no separation of territory or administration. The composite character of Manipur, as a civilised nation having over two thousand years of written history, should not be broken into pieces. Since the very beginning, Meiteis have been playing the cohesive role among other indigenous communities. Still today, Meiteis are shouting for unity and integrity.
‘Stop war’, ‘Bring peace’, ‘Abrogate SoO’, ‘Withdraw Assam Rifles’, ‘No to separate administration’, ‘Peaceful co-existence’, so on and so forth are people’s demands. Then who can stop the firing; who can enforce ground rules of SoO; who can abrogate SoO; who can withdraw Assam Rifles; who can give or ungive separate administration? It is none other than the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is able to bring solutions to the current unrest. At this juncture, his words are vital and his actions are valuable. Prolonged negligence of the Manipur issue by the Government of India may become a Himalayan blunder, which might subsequently lead to disturbance of harmony of the nation. After 78 days of the crisis, the Indian Premier is awake now. But his conscience over the impending havoc is yet to be seen.
(The writer is senior columnist available at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By: Seram Neken