Questioning Political Solution in Armed Conflict of Manipur

by Dhanabir Laishram
Imphal Free Pree
June 8 2010

Every one on earth likes peace, but not at the expense of his own fundamental freedom. It is a simple logic, which is at the centre of the scale whenever we are talking about peace. Peace is thus largely identified as a lack of conflict of any serious kind. More often the term, ‘peace making’ is associated with conflict resolution without the use of violence. Even in case of peace and violence, the major debate has been whether to define peace simply as the absence of war often called ‘negative peace’ or the concept encompasses both the absence of war and the presence of social and economic justice, often called ‘positive peace’. The masses are really in favour of the broader concept. So, they are arguing that the violent life-threatening characteristics of various forms of systematic repression and underdevelopment approach exceed the direct impact of regular warfare. It means that the Government actors should not hold traditional management strategies and dispute settlement model in the conflict resolution. That is why every attentive public talk about political solution undertaken by government agencies both centre and state.

Whenever, concerned citizens are talking about conflict resolution of armed conflict situation in Manipur, majority of them always urge to assert the political solution. But the author is difficult to understand what kind of political solution could be brought and fitted it in the rigid mind set of non-state actors, their political aspiration of historical importance and historical rights. It seems to be the genesis of conflict in Manipur.

In this regard, the author analyses their (revolutionaries) aspirations and its introspective reflections, and puts a question to the statesmen, ruling elites of both the centre and the state - what kind of political solution could be made in this armed conflict situation in Manipur ? The question itself is the crux of the discourse. So, I simply produce here only the arguments of armed opposition group but the concrete measures of solution are not in my work because it is still in the discourse, nevertheless attempts to conflict transformation in the peace building have been made.

In my paper, I confine myself to only two aspects in relevance with people’s attitude towards the existence political system and political aspiration of non-state actors in their ongoing arm struggle. In short the first part is people’s attitude and the second part is non-state actors’ arguments. After analyzing both, I simply put forward a solution to the armed conflict of Manipur in the form of a humble suggestion.

Ashis Nandy calls India as a ‘Shadow State’ with criminal overtones. In the same fashion Rajani Kothari attributes India as an anti-people state. There are two trends which make it criminal or anti-people. Over the years there is an unprecedented increase in repression by the state in day-to-day life. The best example is the indiscriminate use of TADA, which was eliminated in the last a few years. About 67,000 persons were detained under TADA, most of them were totally unconnected with terrorism. Even in Assam and Manipur, 12715 and 1601 lad been arrested under this draconian law respectively. Over and above due to imposition cf Arm Forces Special Power Act 1958, Manipur has loss many innocent lives who have been killed by Army and CRPF personal. Secondly, number of politicians with criminal background are on the rise. Thus, making the arena of polities into criminal world far away from the civilised society is being emerged. For instance in UP out of the 428 MLAs, 180 have been convicted of criminal offence and some of them are even charged with involvement in multiple murders. The same case seems to happen in Manipur, the state had lost some promising political leaders from different parts of Manipur, who are claimed as neither killed by army nor insurgencies. The corruption in politics and administration has become order of the day. The most alarming aspect is that the corruption is being institutionalised, systematic planning or strategy is worked out as to how much one should get in the hierarchy. In Manipur there is long list of corruption, like medical scandal and dress controversy.”

In the actions of army personals and ruling elites, people of Manipur are getting a lot of troubles. Beating, killing, torturing, raping, detention in the custody and using third degree method in interrogation are not seldom things in Manipur. Revolutionary youths are also attacking to any Indian Forces as guerilla fighters in any place as they like. Unskilled Indian forces can not retaliate proper encounter against them. So practically most of the victims are innocence.3 The people of Manipur have heard many words given by both military officers and central ministers that insurgency was to be solved through dialogue and political means as it could never be wiped out through military operations. But more and more additional troops have been deployed in the states. Even though the insurgency activities and clash between the Naga and the Kuki are not curving down and suppose to be returned. Many highlanders are being killed on the token of communal clash. Here both civil administration and military administration of the centre are not totally extending. The: Prime Ministers of India had tears in their eyes for Somalia unfortunately they have not tears for us.

What was happening in cold war period by the Indian elites and military officers in order to bring peace and resolve the conflict in the global arena. Major Gen. K. S. Thimaya played a key role in the peacekeeping operations in war-torn Korea, the roles of Mr. Rajeshwar Dayal in Congo and that of Maj. Gen. Satish Nambir in the initial stages of the stand off between Croats and Serbs in the erstwhile Yugoslavia. It indicates that our army officers are having good efficacy to bring normalcy even in the International arena. But for the North-Eastern States, particularly in Manipur we have got only a few words from the respected high military officers that a small state in the NE region could not exist as an independent nation. A country needs scientists, industrialists and defence service to exist independently, but none of these are visible.

From this special mention, people of NE India have doubtful tendencies that the centre should indifference from industrial development and making personalities in all fronts of the region. The doubtful tendencies cannot be checked by the recruitment of youths to the military profession. Manipur is presently seems to be under the colonial occupation of India and as one of such seven states in the so called India’s North Eastern Region. They are telling it on the ground that Manipur was forcibly annexed by India 1949 by extracting the signature of the then constitutional Ruler of Manipur to a treacherous “Manipur merger agreement”. However, the so called agreement was never ratified by the state assembly (Nation Parliament) of Manipur which was democratically elected in 1948 under provision of the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947. As such the Manipuri people have never regarded the so called merger agreement as legally and constitutional valid having any binding on them whatsoever.

The present territorial area of Manipur is 22.327 sq. km. and has a total population of 23.88 lakhs (2001 census of India).8 During the past 63 years under India’s colonial occupation, the indigenous people of Manipur have been subjected to severe economic exploitation, political and military suppression over and above the process of assimilation that is Indianisation.9 Transformation of the state from sovereign state to part “C” state, then Union territory and full fledged state is being gone. During this transformation of state, people were politically and economically suppressed. It took many years. So the state has need economic booster. But still spoon feeding of centre is being made over and the above, a captive market economy typical of colonial country, without any real work for economic development, has squeezed out all our resources and our productive forces. It can also be illustrated vividly after analysing the plan allocation of Manipur upto the 10th Five Year Plan. In this regard the economic picture of Manipur is disappointing. The First Five Year Plan stated with a token allocation of only Re. 1.55 crore followed by Rs.6.28 crore in the Second Five Year Plan. The outlay of the Third Five Year Plan was only Rs. 12.88 crore while it was increased to Rs 30.25 crore in the Fourth Five Year Plan. In short, Manipur had to manage plan programmes with only annual average of Re. 13.15 crore during the first Four Five Year Plans.

In fact, viewed against alarming fall in the value of money after the second five year plan, the plan allocation was too meager to meet rising requirements for creating capital assets. The sixth Finance commission made recommendation of Rs. 114.53 crores as grant-maid. It is the lowest amount in comparison with other states of India. So, the status of state economy of Manipur is ranking in average of 20 when all India average was 92.

India has been using all means to suppress the legitimate political aspiration of the indigenous Manipuri people of regaining their freedom and independence. To this end, India has enacted draconian laws such as Armed Forces Special Powers Act which empowers even a sergeant of the Indian Army to arrest or kill anybody he suspects and his action can’t be challenged in the court of Law. They (Revolutionary People) charged to Indian Armed forces that empowered with Draconian Laws, the said forces have been conducting a campaign of terror in the region particularly in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. These states are now virtually under Military rule. Custodial death and disappearance, fake encounter death, dehumanising torture, rapes become daily happening. It means that India may be the largest terrorist state.

The people of this region are confronting the problem of massive influx of foreigners. It threats to the distinctive identity of the indigenous Manipuri people. Today the number of people in their concerned states has been reduced In comparison with outsiders. India has been encouraging it all along because a population belt in the region having ethnic affinity with mainland India favours her security perspective. This has gravely disturbed the demography of the region and become physical threat to the very survival of the indigenous population as distinct human groups. Arguments of Armed opposition Group :

In addition the Revolutionary Organisations of Manipur have given some arguments regarding the nature of the loss of sovereignty of Manipur which are given below:

1. The sovereign status of Manipur State had been recognised bilaterally when Manipur entered into Indo-Manipuri Friendship Treaty in 1762 AD.
2. The political sovereign and independence of Manipur had been officially recognized by both Burmese Government and the British Government as per the provision of the Yandaboo Treaty 1826.
3. After the military defeat of Manipur by the British army in 1891, the British Government did not annex Manipur to its empire, this itself gives testimony to the remitting independence of Manipur.
4. Despite the British and Indian Interference in Manipur Affairs, Manipur became fully independent and sovereign on 15th August 1947 vide Indian Independence Act 1947 (Indian Supreme Court ruling 1954 to 1993).
5. Although Manipur had entered into the treaty known as the Instrument of Accession on 1 lth August 1947. Manipur did not transfer more than 3 subjects to the dominion of India which was not independent at the time of making the Instrument of Accession signed on 11th August, 1947 in between Manipur and Dominion of India had clearly giver prerogative right to Manipur to retain its sovereignty and independence.
6. Manipur State Constitution Act. 1947 was in operation at the time of signing of the merger agreement between the Manipur Maharaja (King) who lacked the capacity and authority to enter into any treaty with any power or the representative of the Government of India on 21st September, 1947 since he was not the plenipotentiary of the Independent and sovereign state of Manipur of which he was only the constitutional head.
7. The people of Manipur had not deputed a representative duly elected by the people of Manipur to the then Constituent Assembly of India. Although from the Indian Foreign Policy and colonial perspective, a foreign national was considered as representative to the Constituent Assembly of India. Any representation of Manipur people by a person of the colonial country professing to represent the people of Manipur is quite inconceivable, preposterous and accordingly null and void as lacked the capacity and jurisdiction. Hence. Manipur cannot be brought within the colonial constitutional framework of India, since it was not a part to it.
8. No referendum or plebiscite of the people of Manipur had ever been held in connection with annexation or merger of Manipur to a foreign country, the republic of India.
9. The installation of a colonial government on 5th October, 1949 in the soil of Manipur did not in terms repeal the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 although the colonial government without having any jurisdiction whatsoever had passed a colonial order under Notification No. 219-p Gazette of India, Ministry of State, dated 15.10.1949, which, illegally and unconstitutionally dissolved the popular Ministry as well as the popular Assembly (the Parliament) of Manipur on the strength of the null and void Manipur Merger Agreement.
10. There is a widespread popular awareness among the people of Manipur that the Manipur Merger Agreement. 1947, as stated above is null and void and unconstitutional from the point of view of Manipur State Constitutional Act, 1947 and also in the backdrop of contemporary norms of the International Law. The National Convention on the Manipur Merger issue was convened by tri-ethnic platform of Manipur from the 28th to the 29th October, 1993 in the capital city, Imphal; the convention has unanimously resolved in plenum that the impugned Merger Agreement with India in 1949 is illegal and unconstitutional, considering the entire process and circumstances that led to the Merger Agreement.
11. The UN Security Council in similar circumstances had proclaimed similar annexation to be illegal, void and untenable. The Security Council declared annexation of Goa by India as Illegal (vide S/5033. SCOR. 988th Meeting, 18th December, 1961). It took action against Iraq under Security Council Resolution No. 660-678 for annexation of Kuwait in 1991. The UN precedents, contemporary International Law, Jus Cogens and Vienna Convention on Law of Treaty clearly regard annexation Manipur by India in 1949 after two states falls in line with and is comparable to the Kuwait precedent in 1991 among others.
12. Considering the historical materials and records, documents and treaty, the sovereign and independent political status of Manipur which had been continuing for at least 2,000 years remains under suspension with the intervention of the Indian colonial administration, under Indian colonial political process and by the physical occupation of the Indian Colonial Army.

From the above arguments the Revolutionary People takes up arms and fights for all the dependant and colonised people of Manipur representing the ethnic and indigenous people name]y, the Meiteis, the Meitei-Pangan, the Manipuri Nagas and the Manipuri Kukis for granting and restoration of independence and decolonisation of the state of Manipur - that continues to exist since the Christian era, despite unlawful political and military occupation from the present colonial and hegemonic administrative power of the Indian State.

They also denied to name their liberation movement as a separatist movement on the ground that the movement has not asked for separating a square inch of the territory of the Government of India as it existed in 1947, before the annexation of Manipur to the colonial administration of India. Hence the Government of India cannot find out a reason whatsoever to level the national liberation movement of Manipur as a separatist movement. The people of Manipur want to honour and disclaim the exact territory of Manipur as on the 15th August, 1947, the date of its independence.

They have also given clarification to the Government of India that they are not terrorist with special reference to the International Law. The contemporary International Law clearly denounce terrorism of one kind or another and illegal use of force. The contemporary International Law also gives complete legal validity to the use of any ‘available means’ so that the national liberation movement is enable to exercise the right of the people or the colonised country to self-determination. International Law has clearly differentiated between illegal use of force for the sake of any sort of terrorism and the legitimate use of force by the colonised country and subjugated people for self preservation of the independence against the colonial army and regimes. Manipur National Liberation movement cannot be equated to terrorism.

For exercising of their right to self-determination, they have given statement that ‘We also take note that the Government of India withholds the inalienable right of the people to self determination by continuously obstructing the legitimate aspiration of the colonised country and subjugated people in several ways and methods in order to perpetuate its colonial regime for eternally subjugating the people of Manipur. The Colonial Government of India has projected to the outside world the legitimate aspiration of the people of Manipur and their struggle for the national liberation as merely law and order problem or India’s internal affair’. Thus they charged to the Indian Government that the Government violated the International Law committing so many evil deeds. They stated that the colonial, racist, alien administrative power - the Government of India - has, by its illegitimate annexation of the fully sovereign and independent Manipur in 1949, committed aggressive siege, retained occupational army till today, subjugated the people and violated its international responsibility which it has committed to fulfill and honour for the sake of maintaining peace and security in the world.

Lastly they have given message to the people of the world that “the people of Manipur through the national liberation movement have been urging for the exercise of their ‘Right to self-determination’. So that the people of Manipur by themselves can determine their own future destiny and implement their future economic and socio-cultural plans successfully without any colonial intervention from any outside power whatsoever”.

Thus the compatriots of this region thought more in terms of their region than that of India as a whole. They were with the sons of the soil and that they should care for the development of their own region rather than that of the Country as whole. In this way restoration of sovereignty s getting more and more roots and it is becoming so deep rooted that its uprooting is becoming an uphill task.

As far as peace talk is concerned, we have need to see the two views given by two major underground organisation of Manipur - Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) and United National Liberation Front (UNLF) :

In a statement issued to press on February 3, 2005, Chairman of the UNLF, Sanayaima said that the main root of conflict is the Independence of Manipur, “As such it is necessary to seek the mandate of the people by holding a plebiscite under the United Nations”. To make the plebiscite free and fair. UNLF proposed that the service of UN Peace Keeping force be utilized. Further he states, to enable the plebiscite to be held within the time frame given by the UN the cadres of UNLF will deposit their arms with the UN peace keeping force. Similarly the Indian Government should withdraw its regular army and paramilitary forces from Manipur.

Irrengbam Chaoren, Chairman of RPF and its armed wing PLA stated on the “Independence Demand Day of his party on 25th February, 2005 that it should be decided by the people. The party would observe the response of the Government of India and his orginisation will not deposit their arms to any group. But the government does not response the proposal and even the campaign done by the civil society was under ban.

After analysing al these arguments given by the armed opposition groups of the region, the people of this region are difficult to understand what type of political solution could be had in Manipur. So the people of Manipur wanted to know the political solution given by the centre and also wanted to have answers of these arguments from different ruling
elites and intellectuals of India.

As far as solution to the armed conflict is concerned, it is better to see from two angles, one from that of the people and other from that of insurgencies because the former lies within the framework of the constitution and later does no;.
For the people the following steps to be taken up.

1. Administrative measures enabling the majority of the local people to have maximum of foods, clothes and shelter, without discrimination for poverty is greater enemy than external disturbances. Also the protection of local people has to be ensured.
2. During military operations, army, paramilitary forces and the police including ‘intelligence organisation’ should act in coordination. Keeping the overall national perspective and human value in view should be in the most cordial manner.
3. Counter insurgencies operations etc. must be within the framework of the law, with human approach.
4. Physical and moral fitness and ideological orientation are essential for the counter insurgencies forces.
5. All tasks must be finished and all actions must be taken to their logical conclusion. It must be remember that there is no short cut means to counter insurgency and the action once started, must be taken to its logical conclusion.
These are not honoured and maintain by the securit} forces, the ruling government and bureaucrates. So the}’ become the anti-people. For instant after torturing and killing innocent peoples, they distribute food, clothes and other essential commodities to villagers at the spot areas. Moreover they are not moral and ideological orierted. Their actions are not based on humanitarian approach. During military operations scanty forces complete disregard the overall national perspective and human values, and thus do not act in a cordial and just manner. That is why the people ask it “Are we Indians or not?” Development for the People:

1. Increase constitutional political activities of the population.
2. Increase involvement of people in economic c evelopment and long term planning and transformation of the economy towards industrialization.
3. Induce pattern of Agricultural Changes towards permanent and better producing system.
4. Promote community and health development.
5. Ensure improvement in education facilities and increase in number of students in the public sector institution.
6. Strengthen the administrative setup.
7. Improve communication facilities.
8. Promote economic development, changes its life style, standard of living and attitude towards future.
9. Check foreign migrants rather than encourage family planning.

As a matter of fact, the benefits of these retrogressive changes hardly reach the poorest and oppressed section of society. It is clearly because the role which the state can play in promoting the radical, social development measures and socio economic justice would depend upon the class character of state power in India. The nature of the state, in turn, would depend upon the mode of production and the classes which own the means of production, and it is in the interest of the property owning class that state power is exercised. Hence it would be futile to expect the Indian state to promote land reforms, socio-economic justice and social development measures genuinely. These would only hit the very base of power of the ruling elite.

As a constitutional protection, mention should be made that land and other resources should be owned by the people, colonial understanding of land needs to be change, black law should be repealed, state boundary should not be altered by the constitution.

Lastly Right to Secede means meaningful democracy. Basically democracy has two important characteristics. They are liberty and equality. Without these, no one could say that the political system is rea democracy. So far the political issues of North-East states are concerned, the amendment of the constitution is essential to incorporate a new provision in which the unit states should unite to the union voluntarily and have the right to secede. This is the real feature of democratic constitution. It is not the question of harbouring anti -Indian. By assessing the fact that if it is so, the Government will also take proper care of all the states of North-East. They have been completely neglected by the centre for more than 63 years -since its independent. Moreover, uneven development should also be check by the centre.

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