TRYST WITH DESTINY: WHITHER MANIPUR?

The Sangai Express
August 13 2011

It is an annual ritual. It is that time of the year when people speed through their last minute marketing and parents anxiously wait for their children to come home before sunset. To the cops, particularly to those who have seen it all, it is yet another rerun of their annual duty where all, well almost all of them, have to be on night duty. In a few days time the country will celebrate Independence Day. The tri-colour will be unfurled on the Red Fort by the Prime Minister of the country and on the eve of Independence Day, the President will address the Nation. A fitting tribute to Nehru's Tryst with Destiny speech delivered on this day in 1947 when India won her independence from the British. It has been a long march since 1947 and while Nehru's “Tryst with Destiny” has gone on to inspire generations of Indians down the years, the deserted roads, the closed shops, the eerie silence that has come to characterise many States in the North Eastern region of India on this day every year, continue to raise the disturbing question of a group of people seeking to chart their own destiny. Whether one agrees with the question of seeking a destiny or not is a different thing, but none can refute the point that the problems associated with the North Eastern region primarily has to do with the perceived destiny of a group of people. And the question of whether the guns have been silenced or not does not have much to do with the issue of destiny. Nagaland may have come to that phase generally understood as a peaceful place, thanks to the cease fire pact inked with the IM group and K group of the NSCN, but it stands true that destiny is intrinsic to the cease fire pact as well as the ongoing dialogue between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India. Acknowledging this reality is then the first concrete step that has to be taken and sweeping this under the carpet would tantamount to brushing aside the core issue at hand. This is not to say that the stand of the militants are justified but it would do a whole lot of good to the policy framers of the country to acknowledge that destiny is the cog around which the wheel of insurgency revolves and it is the gross misinterpretation of the issue which has emerged as the fuel which keeps the wheel of militancy churning. The misinterpretation of the issue is nowhere as vividly illustrated as the militaristic approach that has been adopted by Delhi and the respective State Governments down the years and it is legislations like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which has only gone on to give a degree of legitimacy to the claims of the insurgent groups that the public of the North East States are nothing less than cannon fodders for the security forces. As the country inches towards the 64th Independence Day celebration, it is time to take note of the fact that in as much as the Nation has the right to exult in the light of being the largest democracy in the world a large number of her people continue to live in a world where the ethos of democracy can be trampled under the boots of the security forces in the name of CI Ops.

Amongst the former colonies of the British Raj, India is definitely one of the rarer countries where democracy has succeeded and not given way to martial rule. Unlike Pakistan or Bangladesh, immediate neighbours and which were under the British rule as India at one point of time, India has not yet seen any tin pot dictator calling the shots in Delhi. The country has not had an Ershad nor a Musharraf though it did have its spell of the Emergency in the mid-70s. Rightfully India has progressed from a third world country to one of the members which now make up the promising BRIC countries-the others being Brazil, Russia and China. South Africa is another Nation that has been put on level with the BRIC countries. This is a telling example of the new respect that India has earned in the eyes of the international community and this new found reputation goes well with the needs and demands of the dotcom age. However just as the idea of India stands uncomfortably next to the idea of a Bharat,  there is also a region called the North East region, where the new found status of India as an emerging economic power is yet to cast its shadow. The shadow of being the largest democracy in the world too has not made its presence felt in this region which has known more military operations than healing efforts. For Manipur, the journey from the controversial merger agreement of 1949 to being a Part C State to becoming a full fledged State in 1972 continues to hang as a testimony and in many ways this journey of the past still has an influence on the journey towards the future to quite a number of the people here. The reasons for such a state of mental make up may be many  but the uneasy feeling over the idea of an India in this region is unmistakable. Why this is so is a question that needs an honest, sincere approach without resorting to any populist agenda. It is something of a tragedy that while the rest of the country will come out on the streets to savour the day when India won her freedom from the British more than 60 years ago, when the rest of the country will tune in to listen to the President's address to the Nation, when all roads in Delhi will lead to the Red Fort to see the Prime Minister unfurling the tri-colour, Manipur as  do some other States in the North East will wear a deserted look. The cops are out on night duty and the anxious parents are already waiting for the return of their young sons and daughters. When will this story change ? 

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