MANIPUR: REBELS AS MORAL POLICE
Consulting Editor, The Sentinel, Guwahati
10 March 2005
Moral policing by separatists in Manipur has peaked in recent months, raising questions whether insurgent groups, through such actions, are filling the void created in society due to poor governance by the authorities, and the political class, and the ineffectiveness of civil society. Of late, an assortment of rebel groups in Manipur has taken up the responsibility of purging Manipuri society of its ills. In their zeal the rebels are going around awarding death sentence to drug peddlers, pumping bullets into teachers' legs for letting students copy during examinations and raiding restaurant cabins to look for cavorting couples.
Let us notice some recent acts by rebels in Manipur, which has some 30 insurgent groups, 17 of which are believed to be active:
Rebels of the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) imposed 'curfew' within 300 meters of the examination centres from 3 March 2005, the day Class XII exams began in the State to prevent unfair practices.
On 1 March 2005, KYKL issued a diktat making restaurants with darkened cabins out of bounds. The idea is to stop couples 'cavorting' in such facilities. While owners have been threatened with 'capital punishment', visitors to such restaurants have been warned of 'severe punishment.'
On 13 December 2004, KYKL rebels kidnapped Manipur University Vice-chancellor N G Bijoy Singh and Registrar R K Ranjan and released them five days later after pumping bullets into their knees. The rebel group justified this 'punitive action' on the grounds that both officials had acted improperly in the appointment of an official in the University.
On 26 February 2005, rebels belonging to another group, the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), abducted G J Demonte, principal of a Christian-missionary run school in Imphal. The rebels claimed that he was picked up and 'punished' for taking bribes from students appearing for their school finals. The rebels did not elaborate on the 'punishment'.
On 4 March 2005, rebels of the little-known Human Rights Protection Guild fired on the office of a Japanese-aided sericulture project near Imphal. The firing was a warning to the director and officials of the project not to indulge in 'corruption.'
By assuming the role of the moral police, the rebels in Manipur could be trying to achieve two things: getting the masses on their side by meting out instant justice and emphasizing their relevance, but also prove that they can strike at will despite the on going counter-insurgency operations.
Outfits like the KYKL, formed in 1994 to rebuild Manipuri society by cleansing it of vices like immoral activities, drug trade and corruption, is largely directing its energies on the education department to purge the education system in the State. The KYKL hopes to earn the goodwill of the student community thereby and reach out to the parents and the concerned citizenry.
Rebel groups in Manipur have also been acting as a culture police. On 6 January 2005, the KYKL imposed a dress code for girl students of Class IX and X in schools by which they are to wear only traditional Meitei dress. Earlier, the same group prohibited Meitei women from wearing trousers or saris in public, making it mandatory for them to wear only phaneks.
Again, since 2001, groups like the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), have been enforcing a ban on screening Hindi films, which, they say, has the potential to 'corrupt' the locals. Such extreme steps could also be aimed at weaning the masses away from the Indian mainstream, to help them push their sub-nationalist agenda. The ability of the rebels to enforce such diktats and play the role of moral and culture cops reinforces the general complaint about rampant corruption in all spheres of Government in Manipur.
Sample this as an example of government admission to misappropriation or diversion of development funds and their poor monitoring in the State:
On 26 October 2004, Minister P R Kyndiah announced a 'special economic package' of Rs 240 crore for Manipur. The package was meant for projects in the fields of education, health, power, transport and communication. Announcing the package - sourced from the non-lapsable pool of central resources - Kyndiah said utilization of these funds would be "strictly monitored". He added: "We are aware that funds sanctioned earlier for various projects have been siphoned out or diverted. We have reminded the Chief Minister to prevent such anomalies."
Originally published by The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) at http://www.ipcs.org/article/terrorism/manipur-rebels-as-moral-police-1667.html