Sunday, March 30, 2014

Holy Alliance between UNC and NPF

NSCNs Manipur project, which is being implemented by the United Naga Council (UNC), alleged several times as frontal organisation of NSCN (IM) by dependable sources including the Government of India, for a way out for the Manipuri Nagas from Nagaland has been losing ground in Manipur particularly in the hill districts in the last few years. UNC ‘press release’ movement in the name of 'Naga People Mandate’ has been tested many times. The press release is also a proof that it is not Naga people’s mandate but a dictated statement of the concerned Manipur NSCN Project officials. (For details on the project, see Yenning, The Manipur Project of NSCN-IM, January 19, 2013, The Sangai Express.) The Autonomous District Council, the Manipur Legislative Assembly and the Member of Parliament elections point to the losing ground of the project. Victory of Congress or rather defeat of UNC sponsored candidates is commented by the President of Congress Party, Mr. Gaikhangam, himself belonging to Kabui community as a mandate for a “United Manipur”.
The reason for the failure of the project is multiple but credibility of the UNC is one major factor. Credibility of UNC has gown down to such a level that they cannot engage in any activities except calling bandh/blockade which also can be done by any organisations in the hills district. UNC needs somebody or organisation to put their issues. It is in this background that the ‘Alternative Arrangement’ re-emerged in Manipur. The movement for ‘Alternative Arrangement’ has been a failure as nobody among Nagas responded to the movement including the family members of UNC. The lack of conceptual clarity on ‘Alternative Arrangement’ was also a major factor. (For analysis, see Yenning, Alternative Arrangement and the Nagas of Manipur, The Sangai Express, December 11, 2011.) However, after the 7th round of 'tripartite talks' involving Government of India, Government of Manipur and the UNC that UNC announced that the talk has been upgraded to the level of ‘political talk’ and was a success. Yet, what one fails to understand is the relevance of the ‘political talk’ or for that matter any name given to it as NSCN (IM) is in the process of the ‘political talk’ since 1997 at the highest level. UNC seems to undermine the capability of Government of India. There had been instances where people who were caught in Bangladesh were officially declared as caught in Bihar or people caught in Nepal as caught in Bihar. In such a situation, what is to be so happy of elevating the talk to that of political level? The claim of the UNC on the talk may be a process of their survival.
What is important is the rationale behind engaging UNC, who has no grounding and no capability, by the Government of India? The engagement is not because of the seriousness of the issue but because of the necessity to have an uninterrupted electoral process to project India as democratic state. Further, UNC even go to the extent of announcing to form a committee that too when the election code of conduct came into operation. At the same time, the ‘Naga Issue’ has become a slogan for every political party, unfortunately, for electoral purpose only. Misuse of ‘Naga Issue’ is not limited to the Delhi Based politician but also of the Naga’s particularly NPF and Joint Legislature Forum floated in 2012 by the 60 MLAs of Nagaland Legislative Assembly cutting across party lines. The latter had a short live span, till the end of state assembly election.
As such, NPF’s objective of seeking to achieve the integration of ‘Naga inhabited areas’ to one political unit continues to exploit the sentiment of the Nagas and thereby strengthened the party. NPF was supported, in Manipur, by UNC as NPF have no political base and no cultural affinity inspite of claiming to be for the Nagas. Yet, association with NPF by UNC is with a vision to strengthen the master plan of Manipur NSCN project. However, NPF has its own agenda. The agenda is reflected in the selection of candidate for the outer parliamentary constituency of Manipur, Soso Lorho, who happens to be the Minister of Health, Manipur when the infamous Oinam massacre took place. An individual, as per a health worker report, who ‘despite repeated requests by the villagers and people; never visited the people or offered any comfort to them’. According to Vassum, he did not know ‘why was his response this way? I cannot answer but hearing this from the people we interviewed and their pain and their tragedy although innocent was really saddening. I wonder what prevented Mr Lorho to make a visit when even the then CM Mr Rishang Keishing took a stand to confront the Army and the Central Government and eventually had to give up his post as Chief Minister” (Neson Vassum, The Sangai Express,25 March, 2014).
The intervention of the NPF is projected as a saviour of the Nagas of Manipur through the election process. But there are core reasons beyond such an understanding which are stated below.
First, the NPF was roped in by the NSCN (IM) to create a political space for the Manipur Nagas within NSCN (IM) to return to Manipur. They have realized that the peace process with the government of India is confined only in Nagaland and many in Nagaland have openly stated that Manipur Nagas will not be accepted as leaders in Nagaland. They are considered as Katch Nagas or Impure Nagas. They consider the issue of Manipur Nagas as the issue of a neighbouring state. 
Second, the NPF was compelled to work out the exit of the Manipuri Nagas from Nagaland as they were helped in forming the government by the NSCN (IM). With little information, they landed in Manipur. We can see that as their campaign is only confined to the issue of greater or integration when they themselves know that it is not going to work. It is befooling the Nagas in the name of Nagas. So they have spending of 30 crores for the Manipur election. When some sections of its citizen is not getting developmental share (read as Frontier Nagaland).
Third, it is a fact that a state with no revenue generation of its own has little chance of ruling a state without the blessing of the ruling party in the centre. As such, Manipur experience president rule for nine times. On the other side, the ruling NPF is surviving in Nagaland. It is not because of their better governance but because of the blessing from NSCN (IM). The Government of India is doing everything to make them happy except their demand of sovereignty and integration. So supporting NSCN (IM) in their activities is a one way for NPF.
Fourth, It is a fact that the Naga movement in Manipur is diminishing and people are realising that the future of the movement in bleak with the endless peace process. LNarger sections of Nagas of Manipur are bearing the brunt while few are enjoying their life in the name of the movement. The defeat of UNC, which goes even to the extent of exploiting the Naga People Mandate, supported candidates in elections is a case in point. So, UNC take the opportunity of the talk to revive the movement. What they have not understood is that even Mr Muivah of NSCN (IM) has failed to revive the movement. The lost of NPF to Congress in the recently concluded election in Chingai the village of Muivah, is a proof. Similarly, emergence of United Naga People Front (UNPC) and Manipur Naga Revolutionary Front (MNRF) can be understood in term of the diminishing influence of NSCN or UNC.
Fifth, this point is linked to the earlier ones, NPF with the next election in mind needs to mobilise a strong armed group for the election process which they had done in the last election. So, if NSCM (IM) backed out, they realised that their days will be over. So they are doing the balancing act of helping the NSCN (IM) and in return they are expecting the support for the next election.
Six, it could be an attempt to divert the issue of Frontier Nagaland. The issue was getting intense with the memorandum submitted to the Government of India by the Eastern Naga People Organisation (ENPO). The issue needs to be diverted or subsumed by a large issue as they are the one claiming to be the champion of Naga cause.

Lastly, with new initiatives of natural resources exploitation in Manipur even with the guidance of UNC, the leaders of NPF who are close to NSCN (IM) forsees a future of their involvement, may be not in terms of sharing but in terms of involvement and earning benefits from it. So, the whole drama of NPF coming to Manipur is a well calculated move, which only benefits them. The Nagas of Manipur particularly who are associated with the developments, either within or outside Manipur, are all aware of it.

This article was posted on The Sangai Express on Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sino-Indian Rivalry, Myanmar & India’s Look East Policy

So far India’s Look East Policy (henceforth LEP) is fairly successful in generating much excitement, hitherto unimaginable expectations, dreams for sudden economic growth and highly improved connectivity between India’s remote North East corner with the outside world. Uncritical of the sweet sounding policy, many see LEP as a launchpad for the region’s economic growth. In short, many view LEP as stairway to a bright new world. This picture (of LEP) is what is projected by its protagonists (sic. Government of India) and visible to casual observers. Indeed LEP holds a lot of promises for India taken as a whole. It was conceptualised in the early 1990’s when the Indian economy, then in serious crisis of debt, was forced to open to foreign capital and investment particularly to the thriving economies of South East Asia. This strategic move successfully vouched the ailing Indian economy. But a critical study of the policy with special focus on the region in general and Manipur in particular reveals myriad implications and ramifications, which may prove suffocating, contrary to all the expectations. For the North East region, if not for the whole country, LEP is not all about economic liberalisation or better connectivity with the outside world. It comes with a heavy baggage of military doctrines. Apart from its stated objectives of coupling the Indian economy with the thriving economies of South East Asia, LEP has been transformed as an effective instrument for engaging Myanmar, perhaps the most isolated country on earth till the last couple of years and thus, counter China’s growing influence in South East Asia.
Sino-Indian rivalry and Myanmar
The rivalry between India and China, befittingly called Asian giants on account of their huge populations, territories and fast growing economies, is rooted in their diverse geopolitics and intersecting economic interests. This has created a seemingly irreconcilable dichotomy between the two powers even though their geographical expansion patterns throughout history have rarely overlapped or interacted with each other. The two countries fought a limited war in 1962. Before that, they have little long-standing historical or ethnic animosity.
Buddhism spread in varying forms from India, via Sri Lanka and Myanmar, to Yunnan in southern China in the third century B.C., but this kind of profound cultural interaction was more of an exception than the rule. Moreover, the dispute over the demarcation of their common frontier in the Himalayan foothills, from Kashmir in the West to Arunachal Pradesh in the East is ostensibly a source of serious tension in its own right. The simmering tension was there since the colonial era but it is not the primary cause of the new rivalry. The principal factor for the new rivalry is the disappearance of distance as a result of advancement in military technology.
In April 25, 2012, the Global Affairs observed:
Indeed, the theoretical arc of operations of Chinese fighter jets at Tibetan airfields includes India. Indian space satellites are able to do surveillance on China. In addition, India is able to send warships into the South China Sea, even as China helps develop state-of-the-art ports in the Indian Ocean. And so, India and China are eyeing each other warily. The whole map of Asia now spreads out in front of defense planners in New Delhi and Beijing, as it becomes apparent that the two nations with the largest populations in the world (even as both are undergoing rapid military buildups) are encroaching upon each other’s spheres of influence – spheres of influence that exist in concrete terms today in a way they did not in an earlier era of technology. And this is to say nothing of China’s expanding economic reach, which projects Chinese influence throughout the Indian Ocean world, as evinced by Beijing’s port-enhancement projects in Kenya, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar. This, too, makes India nervous.
Despite significant improvement in bilateral relations, geopolitical rivalry for influence and domination is intensifying between the two Asian giants in the post-Cold War era. Nowhere is this contest for regional hegemony between China and India more evident than in Myanmar, which occupies a critical strategic position between the two countries. China’s inroads into Myanmar since 1990, specially the build-up of naval facilities in the Bay of Bengal and its possible use by the Chinese military, are, from New Delhi’s perspective, serious encroachments into India’s sphere of influence. Indian strategists now see China as a threat in the East as well as in the North. The growing military nexus between China and Myanmar has prompted the Indian Government to reassess its policy towards Yangon and to emphasise the complementarily of interests between India and the United States, India and ASEAN, and India and Japan in containing China’s growing economic and military influence in the Asia-Pacific.
India’s determination to develop a degree of regional dominance comparable with China is another factor fuelling the rivalry. The underlying power rivalry between the two Asian giants and their self-assumed image as natural great powers and centres of civilization and culture, continue to drive them support different countries and causes. China is striving to emerge as an independent power centre in the evolving multi-polar world. On its part, India is equally anxious to assert its power and expand its sphere of influence in order to counteract similar moves by other regional powers, particularly China. Both countries remain suspicious of each other’s long term agenda and intentions, and both see themselves as emerging great Asian powers whose time has finally come.
Since independence in 1948, successive governments in Myanmar have battled with half a dozen insurgencies and separatist movements based on ethnic identity around the country’s periphery. Not surprisingly, then, the sole pre-occupation of the Myanmar armed forces, the tatmadaw, has been the maintenance of the country’s territorial integrity from threats within rather than without. Isolationist policies pursued by the Ne Win regime had helped perpetuate Myanmar’s status as a buffer state between India and China. But this is not the case anymore. Since September 1988, when the military brutally suppressed pro-democracy protests and killed thousands of people, the country was run by the military’s State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) until general election was held in 2010. But the SLORC regime had effectively put an end to Myanmar’s neutrality by moving closer to China. China is reported to have so far supplied more than US$ 1.5 billion worth of arms to Myanmar including fighter aircrafts, patrol boats, heavy artillery, tanks, anti-aircraft missiles and guns. Most of the Chinese weaponry (including Chinese-made HN5 anti-aircraft missiles) are now reportedly deployed on the Indo-Myanmar border, with the number of battalions on Myanmar’s border with India and Bangladesh going up from five in 1988 to 31 in 1992. These insights are given by defence analysts such as P Stobdan, and Bertil Lintner.
India, on the other side is not sitting idle. India started engaging Myanmar rigorously since the past two decades. In fact, Myanmar is projected as a crucial partner of India’s LEP. Projects executed by Indian companies in recent years cover a variety of sectors such as roads, railways, telecommunication, automotive, energy and remote sensing. Construction and upgrading of Tamu-Kalemyo-Kalewa road has been completed. RITES have been assisting Myanmar in improving its railway transport system. ISRO set up and subsequently upgraded a data processing centre for remote sensing applications. Tatas have set up a turbo-truck assembly plant with assistance from a line of credit by the Indian government.  Earlier, a project for high-speed link in 32 Myanmar cities was completed by the telecommunication company, TCIL. Three leading companies – OVL, GAIL and Essar – have been active in the energy sector. Another company has recently won an onshore oil block. Further, the Trilateral Highway project, with the objective to link Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand through Myanmar, has been under discussion/investigation for quite some time. These are some un-mistakable testimonies of Myanmar’s strategic importance to China and India.
Strategic location of Manipur
Manipur and the entire North East region occupy an even more crucial position from the strategic and military point of view of India. Strategic importance of Manipur in the eyes of geopolitical powers can be gleaned from the all-out war fought between British forces and Japanese army for control of Manipur during World War-II. The faith of the Japanese position in the South-East Asia was so much dependent on the outcome of battle at Imphal and it was reflected with no ambiguity in the Special Order of the Day issued by General Mutaguchi:
This operation will engage the attention of the whole world and is eagerly awaited by 100,000,000 of our countrymen. By its very decisive nature, its success will have a profound effect upon the course of the war and may even lead to its conclusion. Our mission is thus of the greatest importance and we must expend every energy and talent in the achievement of our goal ( quoted in Evans, Geoffrey and Antony Brett-James 1962. Imphal, a flower on lofty heights. London: Macmillan).
In fact, the decisive battles of Imphal and Kohima during World War II have been voted the greatest battles fought in the history of the British Army in a contest organised by the National Army Museum in England in April 2013. Given these facts, one can safely conclude that Manipur was given maximum geo-strategic importance by the imperial powers. But strategic significance of Manipur’s location often turned out to be bane for her people rather than a boon. It was this geo-strategic significance which made Imphal one of the most heavily bombed town in the entire South and South East Asia during the war. Again, geo-strategic importance is one primary factor for making Manipur one of the most militarised State in India today.
Although LEP is sugar-coated and often presented as an entirely economic policy of liberalisation and commercial engagement with South East Asian countries, it also carries a heavy baggage of military incendiaries as far as Manipur and the North East region are concerned. India’s LEP vis-a-vis Myanmar is a two-pronged strategy. One is aimed at checking China’s growing influence over the neighbouring country and other is to tap the rich natural resources of Myanmar for Indian industries. India’s engagement with Myanmar and beyond through its LEP has so far only accelerated militarization of Manipur all in the name of securing highways, railway (currently under construction), providing security cover to construction workers, infrastructure projects, trade facilities et al. Government of India has been trying to vindicate this policy of militarization by pointing its one hand to the presence of armed opposition groups demanding restoration of the ancient kingdom’s sovereignty, and the other hand dangling an imaginary trophy of economic prosperity that would be purportedly won by its LEP.

This article was published in The Sangai Express on Sunday, January 5, 2014.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cutting of the Northeast Melon: On Globalization and Global Finance Capital

Forces bombarding against the entire Northeast region today is akin to certain historical events that took place earlier and elsewhere. Inability to forge a united resistance was in a way responsible for the downfall of China, for instance, and another tragic element was the very manner in which colonialism not only raised its ugly head but also swallowed up hitherto existing “backward” (industrially or otherwise) regions of the world by the so called advanced nations of the West and Japan. It is generally agreed that along with the “end” of colonialism and imperialism after the World War II, industrial capital has had its own death, and that the world has become safe for democracy. But by the 1990s, a new realization dawned, and thus a new force emerged not only as a rival to colonialism but also to recover every degenerate qualities of colonialism itself and brings to bloom the insipid ideas that colonialism could not fully nourish. Some say, looking at the logic of capitalism as propounded by Marx and others, the phenomenon was bound to take birth. Some others point their fingers to the geo-political changes taking place in the form of the disintegration of the Berlin Wall and subsequently, the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Still others reason out looking at the waves of democratization taking place across Africa, Latin America, Islamic worlds and others, that there is a necessity of inter-linkages. After all, the information technology revolution dictates that the world has become a closely knit globe, and thus, globalization is inevitable. One cannot simply escape from the integrating clutch of technology. So the advice is: mitigate risk and become a partner in the new process. The unsaid part was/is that globalization is a new force in which liberalization and privatization of economy are the central unchangeable configuration. In place of the colonial industrial or finance capital, hitherto considered to be exploitative, today stands the global finance capital. In regions where there is lack of financial and banking institutions, it has tremendous risk factor. It does not stop here. Virgin lands and their resources remain to be exploited, and when these are exploited the natives do not stand to be benefited. Resisting such a force is a Herculean task, some say even next to impossible.
This bizarre introduction to our edition may sound odd to our readers. A poser may even crop up if we have encountered any experience with global finance capital in this part of the world. To begin with let’s look back to the approach adopted by the Indian State as far as Northeast is concerned before the 1990s. The Nehruvian model, as it was known as before India undertook structural adjustment programme in the early part of 1990, was based on two edifices, security and political-economy. From the security, Northeast was regarded as a strategically important region by virtue of it bordering many countries such as China, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. And thus the dictate was, it has to be a part of India and maintained through the deployment of security personnel for national security. On the other hand, the political-economy approach dictated that the people of the Northeast need preservation (like engendered species of plants and animals) as they are primitive people. Fallout of this approach was that no financial institutions were allowed to be established or institutionalized because of the apprehension that sudden implosion of modern forces of economy can wipe out the people of the region. In other words, the understanding was that economic needs should be driven by the culture of the primitive people.
Contradicting the economic logic was the modern political logic. Although the people were regarded to be primitive and leading primitive ways of lives, modern political forces were unleashed against them in an unabated manner. Modern political institutions such as political parties and modern political processes such as the periodic elections became the encountering mode of existence for these people. These forces razed to the ground traditional societal structures and institutions, if not altered its meaning altogether. Constant political mobilizations converted the primitive people into modern ones who are supposed to understand the notions of secularism and democratic norms such as tolerance, right to dissent and value for human lives. Inability to have completely converted them into desired political entities, perhaps, might be because of the constraining model of development chosen and implemented in the region. On the economic front, they remained primitive and their hunger quenched only through dole outs from the Centre making them dependent and parasitic.
At the time when India started its structural adjustment programme, which ultimately paved the path towards globalization, liberalization and privatization, the approach adopted towards the Northeast also changed. A High Level Study under the advice of the Prime Minister was undertaken in 1991, to reform the Northeast. The second edifice of the Nehruvian model was dismantled while continuing with the first one (security). Since then we have been hearing about Look East Policy, and as a part of it Indo-Myanmar Border Trade, Trans Asian Railway and Highway passing through Manipur, India’s Free Trade Agreement with Thailand and others in the South East Asia. Opening up of the Northeast certainly bring up few issues to the centre stage. Looking at the Nehruvian model adopted, one obvious issue that crops up is the question of entrepreneurship and the know-how of competitive business sense, which are the highlight of any global business. Then there are the institutional problems of institutions of finance and banking. The Northeast lacks them. Even if the latter is rectified as it is being done now, the former problem of the people taking part in the process of LEP is questionable. Few may prosper but the majority cannot, perhaps on account of lack of capital and asset or business sense. The new approach also dictates that we should be part of the knowledge economy as we cannot produce and in turn become consumerists.
LEP might have taken time to materialize but in terms of flow of global finance capital, the region is not new. Meghalaya’s episode with Lafarge for mining of coal and direct export to Bangladesh, capital from Asian Development Bank for the exploration of the Brahmaputra River Basin for oil and natural gas and for development of agriculture in the Northeast occurred simultaneously along with the opening up of India. Today, Reliant Energy is investing in Manipur for the exploration and extraction of oil and petroleum from Manipur, and the World Bank is funding the development of Trans Asian Railways and Highways. Germany is not far away, so is the USA. The Northeast as an unexploited region is a haven for investment in minerals, hydro-power, oil and natural gas. In all these dealings, the benefits due to the indigenous people of their land and resource are never discussed. They were neither consulted as ILO demands, and the Central Government clinches the deals without even letting the State Governments know (about the deals) at all. Thus, the issue of profit sharing has been cancelled right from the beginning.
The latest on the show is New Delhi’s declaration to drop Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim from a World Bank loan (Rs.11,000 crore) proposal to avoid running into Chinese objections over multilateral financial aid to projects in the border areas. This reminds us of the Chinese experience when western powers divided China for their own benefits.
“Cutting of Chinese melon” was a term used during the heightened phase of colonialism in the 19th Century to describe imperial powers’ division of China (territory) and keep portions of China under each other’s influence. Decision pertaining to who has to control a certain portion of China was arrived on the table over coffee or drinks among the western colonial powers and Japan, and China’s interest was never discussed or represented. As such each colonial power refrained from interfering into the affairs of another. Mutual respect for each other and silent understanding was the hall mark of the whole arrangement. And indeed, the imperial forces concentrated in extracting the most from the occupied colony. China as a whole did not benefit anything out of such an arrangement, and in-fact was marked by colonial backwardness. Overall, there was deindustrialization, interpolation of feudal characteristics in the so called semi-capitalist society and China remained an insipid agrarian society.
The loan proposal from World Bank is to strengthen electricity transmission and distribution in the northeastern region. After excluding the two states, the loan amount stands at around Rs.8,115 crore. The projects in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim are to be financed by the government. The funding has still not been approved and the finance ministry is finding ways to work around raising the headroom for Government of India. For economic development, power is regarded as a primary requirement. But the issue is power for whom. In 2009 there was a row between India and China over a $2.9 billion ADB loan. China protested against the inclusion of a water management project in Arunachal in the lender’s country assistance strategy for India. The 2009 row forced ADB to introduce a disclaimer in its project documents which, while stating that it has no position on territorial disputes, effectively discourages the applicant from pushing for assistance for projects in disputed areas. This obviously reminds us of the cutting of Chinese melon, and similarly the Northeast as a collective entity should resist against exploitation of its resources by the global finance capital.

This article was published in The Sangai Express on Sunday, August 18, 2013 

Recognise the Armed Conflict in Manipur

“Recognise there is armed conflict in Manipur!” This has been the voice of the people in every walk of life for ages – be it the civil society bodies, human rights groups, academics and others except for the political class. But this voice is trampled upon and repressed by the State. Even if the first generation educated elites of Manipur remained quiet when Manipur was forcefully merged with the Indian Union, Merger Agreement became a fresh issue of debate for the second generation people after the World War II. A common consensus was arrived that Manipur was forcefully merged with India and by virtue of this very historical reason among others, besides being a distinct nation in terms of culture and race, the erstwhile kingdom deserves a shot for its own independence. Vehement opposition against this kind of ideology ensued only from the political class, which have accepted the guiles of electoral democracy. Take for instance, the State Assembly sessions, which are devoid of debates, have become rituals, say of passing bills to project a democratic face, which in fact was crafted by the Centre. The packaged form of democracy, in fact delegated, they believe, gives them enough space for wealth creation and accumulation as the whole superstructure is grounded in capitalism. Moreover, a political unit which has been designed to be completely dependent on Delhi, gives the potential of amassing more wealth as long as they remain loyal and faithful. Manipur Government as well as the Assembly is the tool for implementing the democracy project. Over and above, existence of armed conflict or the very notion of existence of conflict gives them more room for political and financial bargaining and even for camouflaging corruption in its name. However, the political class is prohibited for declaring or taking a stand that there is armed conflict. Instead, they are taught to repeat like parrots that it is a problem of law and order. Thus far, the story is a familiar one.
But what is of significance is that until and unless, the existence of armed conflict is recognised by the political class and the core issues identified, there cannot be peace in the state. Simple truth is, the State cannot continue to practice the present format of “peace talk” through surrenders (drama or real), as a proportional number of armed opposition group will replace the so crushed ones – the ones who have “returned home.” So our proposition is that as an initial step the core issues need to be identified both by the armed opposition groups and the concerned Government and bargaining has to be started based on the commonly identified and accepted terms.
Core of the Armed Conflict in Manipur
This brings us to the issue of what constitutes the core. Believe us, it is not the most complex political entity, although determined by an ideology and state structure in terms of its manifestation. Take for instance the core of the Indian State, which is politically and legally understood is ingrained in the Constitution as the basic structure. And sovereignty is a key vital element. Any modifications of the basic structure would render India stateless or meaningless to exist as a sovereign nation-state. And these are, according to the makers of the India Constitution, are derived from the collective history and ethos including the culture, tradition, ways of life, etc. practiced by the “people” of India. Looking from this perspective, core is a very unique entity, just like the soul of the body. That’s why, India makes the habit of keeping a pre-condition before entering into negotiation or treaty or pact, “It has to be within the guidelines provided by the Constitution of India”. Such an understanding is applicable as far the matter is deemed to be internal and does not apply to external affairs. This forced, for example, even Th. Muivah of NSCN-IM to plead, “Accept in principle the sovereignty of the Nagas.” Perhaps, in spite of having a powerful stockpile of arms and cadres, NSN-IM could not convince that the Nagas (sic. under its command) are unique. The rest, again, is a familiar story; constitutionality contained conflict with the NSCN-IM.
What about the core of Manipur? This is not to be confused with the everyday forms of issues, such as unavailability of water and electricity, etc. These are, nonetheless, important but without treating the core, the other multiple issues will remain as such. Thus, if history has to carry any meaning, or help in providing a solution, then there has to be an inevitable acceptance of certain historical facts. History would reveal whether a nation was once sovereign or not, and whether it deserves to be one. The former is relatively easier to reveal and the latter is mired and over-shadowed by the acts of the political class. Even the term colonial has become a contested one to describe the actuality of the latter period. In India, particularly in the Northeast and Kashmir, academics and activists are banned from using the term, to the extent of making them imprisoned under subversive and seditious acts.
That Manipur was independent and sovereign before 1891 is not contested by India. The contestation begins after the British departed in 1947 both from British India and the Princely State of Manipur. Denial and allegation about the fate of Manipur can be traced during the intervening period 1947–1949. If we can accept that Manipur was a political heirloom inherited from the British by India, then the issue need not proceed further more. But even in this logic, the core issue is, what happened to the soul of Manipur. Even if the body has transmuted, we believe, the sanctity of the soul remains unchanged, and constantly struggles to free itself. The process of imprisonment of Manipur by India can be understood as colonialism. To cover up, it has been constantly undertaking the democratization project through the compradors, using any available tools and resources, including the military, funding for modernization of police, imposition of AFSPA, and others.
But the question is, will India be in a position to accept its own set of practices and declare that it has swallowed up the core of Manipur, and come to the negotiation table with the armed opposition groups, who are demanding restoration of its sovereignty? On the part of the armed opposition groups, they describe their movement as one demanding right to self-determination. They have asserted their rights as “restoration of sovereignty of Manipur.”
Their claims have already been placed at the international level, particularly, at the United Nations. Most significant documents include the following:
(i) RPF/PLA memorandum entitled “For De-Colonisation of Manipur from Indian Colonialism and Alien Racist Regime, Enlisting Manipur in the List of the Non-Self-Governing-Territories of the United Nations and, Restoration of Independence and Sovereignty of Manipur” and
(ii) (ii) UNLF/MPA presentation at UNHRC “Why Manipuris Fight for Right to National Self-Determination.”
These documents are easily available online and the United Nations must have forwarded the documents to the Government of India. It is believed that many of the concerned government officials have recorded and analysed the documents. However, what is unfortunate is the response of the Government.
Counter Insurgency Measures
In-spite of engaging it militarily with repressive powers such as AFSPA for the last many decades, they have treated it as a law and order problem. In order to undermine the liberation movement in Manipur, the Government has availed the services of retired military and bureaucratic officers (self-claimed experts on the conflict in Manipur). However, to be frank, their views are limited to military and to some extent economic. Habituated in taking orders, and trained in the art of governmentality, they see anyone who resists against the Indian State as anti-national. Their claims of expertise benefit the Government of India and the retired fellows see the opportunity to re-engage themselves with the Government for any assignment such as Governor or Lt Governor, etc. These military and bureaucratic turned irresponsible writers are responsible for creating a controversial image of the situation of Manipur. They are part of the counter-insurgency operations.
The military budget itself indicates the complexity beyond the issue of law and order problem. Besides the Modernization of Police Force and Scheme for Reimbursement of Security Related Expenditures of Manipur, the budget for Military Civil Action was increased from Rs. 700 to 1,319 crores during the year 2006-2010.
Modernisation of Police Force (in Rs. Crores)
Scheme For Reimbursement of Security Related Expenditure (SRE)**

Note: ** Timeline same as above.

Assembly Resolution for Conflict Resolution in Manipur & Stand of the Ruling Class
The state assembly has been operating for decades but it operates merely to support the democracy project. As a result, none of the members could effectively move at any of the assembly sessions except passing references. Few governors such as Ved Prakash Marwah, Oudh Narayan Shrivastava, and SS. Sidhu in 2005 and 2006 have raised the issue but the inaction of the government failed the initiatives. 
Now, with constant movement for human rights in Manipur supported by the benefits of information technology, the United Nations has already taken note of the conflict in Manipur. The visit of UN Special Rapporteurs such as Christof Heyns of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and Rashida Manjoo of Violence against Women is an indication. In such a situation, it is unfortunate that the ruling class of Manipur is silent over the issue as if they are not aware of it. Their inability to explain the decades old conflict in Manipur questions their intentions as public representatives. It is also true that they cannot challenge the central leaders as they are more like a bureaucrat (taking orders). In such a situation it is suggestible that the ongoing assembly session should take a resolution to resolve the conflict in Manipur. This will act as their political will to address the situation. Merely treating the surrendered cadres as par with active armed cadres and portraying peace process is obsolete. The Assembly should constitute a state level committee to define the conflict situation in Manipur as the State and Non-state and UN have their own understandings and definitions of the conflict. It will be a futile exercise to address the issue without defining the issue. It will benefit only the people who are interested in the business of the conflict. They are also the spoiler in the process.

This article was published in The Sangai Express on Sunday, June 30, 2013

Curtailing academic freedom: State’s idea of sensitivity

In recent years, the Government of Manipur has taken up several measures as a proof of its “concern for the welfare” of the teaching community at the college level. But a scrutiny of these measures taken up so far reveals half-heartedness and blissful ignorance of certain ground realities that mar higher (middle level) education in the state. Further, we witness a certain form of colonial governmentality in circulation which inhibits academic freedom of the teachers as well as perpetuation of freakish control mechanism and above all formation of alliance with capitalist firms in the name of extracting accountability from the teachers. These recent measures have been justified on the grounds that the age of superannuation have been extended and teachers are paid the UGC pay-scale (all in line with the UGC recommendations), which they believe is much more than what the teachers in Manipur actually deserve. The assumption is that as the Government has acceded to the demands of the teachers, (although the salaries of the teachers are without travel allowances and special compensatory allowances), now it is the turn of the teachers to give back to the society (to put it mildly) or in other words, go by the whims and fancies of the Government who are their employers.
Reproduction of Colonial Governmentality: Earned Leave & Station Leaving Permission – Prior Government Permission
In continuation of the Government letter No. 14/1/2012-SE dated 30th November, 2011 an order was issued (under Priority section) on 29th April, 2013 by the Secretariat: Higher Education Department on the subject “Earned Leave & Station Leaving Permission – Prior Government Permission”. The order was addressed to the Controller of Technical Education and Addl. Director, University & Higher Education, Government of Manipur and copy to PPS to Hon’ble Minister (Edn./CAF & PD), Manipur, the P.S. to Commissioner (Hr. & Tech. Edn.), Govt. of Manipur, and all Principals, Govt. College, Manipur for information to all staffs for compliance with the Government instruction.
While there have been norms and procedures for availing leave and station leaving permission and that taking prior Government permission was a must, what is new in the recent-most circulation is the inclusion of the clause “avoid unauthorized tours / particularly on sensitive matters where the focus of the comp./international conference may lead the State / Government in negative ways/approach”. The circular adds, “This shall be strictly complied and action taken report may be intimated to the Government in the negative ways/approach”, and finally, “Tours of the college teachers/employees without prior permission of the Government shall be seriously viewed”.
Prevention of misuse of earned leave and station leaving permission is one thing but curtailing academic freedom is a gross violation of intellectual rights and freedom.
What constitutes “sensitive matters” is debatable. In fact, what cannot be sensitive that lies in the realm of the episteme. Almost every teacher from any discipline/subject can be barred from attending conference or seminar if we go by the dictum of the Government. Take for instance, a history teacher will be barred from stating the fact that Manipur was once a sovereign kingdom and was annexed by India in 1949. A sociology teacher cannot talk about the oligarchic form of government that exercise authoritarian power in Manipur today. There are Human Rights, Defence Studies and Political Science departments in the Government colleges but the teachers cannot attend any international seminar and conference on human rights because human rights violations and extra-judicial killings are sensitive issues in the State. The teachers will be barred from telling the truth that state police are notorious for fake encounters as recorded and revealed by the Supreme Court-appointed special commission which probed into some selected cases of extra judicial killings in Manipur in March-April this year.Ironically, the same killing machines are being conferred Gallantry Awards by the Government every year. Furthermore, an economist will be barred from attending international conference on human security because she/he shall be speaking on how the Government has colluded with private firms in the name of development and are displacing thousands from their lands. The Kabo Leikai experience and oil and natural gas exploration and drilling in Tamenglong and Churachandpur are notable cases. Or otherwise, none of the teachers will be allowed to speak on bastardization of the Loktak Lake by the Government and private firms, which have not only led to death of the Lake but also led to forced eviction of the phumdi dwellers.
Characteristic feature of colonial governmentality is maintaining law and order by using any means. And they are anti-people and cannot tolerate opposition or criticism. What we are witnessing in Manipur in any sphere of life is the penetration of this form of government at the expense of freedom. But the more important issue at stake is, if the teachers are denied their intellectual freedom, who can take up the role of disseminating knowledge not only to the students but also the larger society? One is reminded of the Maintenance of Internal Security Act implemented by Indira Gandhi during the emergency days, and how she used the Act to finish off opposition. Numerous teachers from Delhi University and others were jailed. Is the Manipur Government toeing the same line or are we witnessing extension of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to the academic institutions? Well, in the name of law and order!
Installation of Bio-Metrics in College to Check Teachers’ Attendance
Installation of bio-metrics in college to check teachers’ attendance is merely an act of making money. If Mr Okendra could come up with this solution to check teachers’ attendance, Yenning fears this is the ultimate death of rationale. Perhaps, the 30 or so lakhs (ruppess) and the kick-back involved were too tempting to be ignored.
When Mr Okendra took up the helms of education, his relentless rattles on improving the quality of education converted the un-believable into believing that certainly there can be positive change and improvement. People started having faith in the emancipator power of education. Everyone thought there would be regular Principals in colleges to run a proper administration with authority including checking of attendance of teachers and students, infrastructure development including improving the health of the libraries, women-friendly lavatories, decent classrooms, etc, filling up of vacant posts not only of the teaching staff but also non-teaching staffs such as sweeper, hostel warden, librarian and others. At the same time, expectations ran high as with the implementation of certain norms. Take for instance, introduction of internal assessment by the college (including term paper, book review, open book examination and presentation, etc) instead of blindly following the rot-learning semester examinations conducted by Manipur University. If this is followed, then the chances of classroom attendance both on the part of the students and teachers will be obviously high.
Tinge of doubt started overcastting minds of the people when the Hon’ble Minister proposed channelizing the funds from UGC for college development through the Government. Obvious reasons, people mulled, could be to deduct certain percentage or allow his stalwarts (thikadars) to undertake the development works of the colleges. Then, out of the blues, comes the news of introduction of biometrics.
Principals who attended the training on bio-metrics at DM College, Imphal returned home disappointed. The failed attempt to introduce the same at the Tata institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai somewhere in 2009 was fondly remembered by them. When installation of bio-metrics was mooted at TISS, the first voice of opposition was why emulate the corporate style and destroy the integrity of the teachers by creating an atmosphere of distrust. The other reason of opposition was - those who stay nearby or in the campus can punch the machine in the morning and return back by evening and punch again. In between, they could do whatever they wanted to do and there could be no surveillance on them. Finally, the whole idea was scrapped. In the case of Manipur, too, such similarities are not too far. Take for instance, Imphal is such a small place and majority of the colleges are here. Any teacher can come in the morning, go away and do whatever they desire and return by evening and punch the machine. The case of the far-flung areas is another matter of concern. First of all, there is problem of electricity. Even if generators or solar power are used, then again there will be the problem of transmission of data from the colleges to the Directorate office at Imphal. To sum up, money and kick-back involved was the main motive behind the introduction of the bio-metrics in colleges. We can only wait and observe if the system can bring about a positive change.
Are We Really Serious About Education?
Rhetoric apart the reality points to the opposite. Yenning’s opposition to certain measures taken up by the Government does not necessarily mean to say that the teachers are full of integrity and genuinely practice their trade. Our criticism of the Government again emanates from the fact that it often misplaces its priorities and taken for a ride by private firms (suppliers and builders, etc). Larger society too is the same. We have encouraged corruption, malpractice and have discouraged our children from developing the capacity to be a thinking person. Even the institutions of justice have contributed to the downfall of education. Take for instance, on May 28, 2013, Manipur High Court took up a Public Interest Litigation on the incident of young students who fainted inside a school van of Northeastern English School located at Khewa Bazar along Tinseed Road after inhaling poisonous gas on May 23, 2013. This happened at a time when the private schools are attempting to induct their own carriers at the expense of the van operators. Our contention is that around this time more serious cases are in front of the Hon’ble High court such as the issue of Integrated Child Development Scheme and mid-day meals. The National Human Rights Commission has issued notice to the Chief Secretary, Manipur calling for a report into irregularities concerning these. However, none has filed a report including any form of PIL.

This article was published in The Sangai Express on Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Peace Talks as Counter Insurgency Measure

The history of armed movement in Manipur has been getting increasing attention since the last two years. But unfortunately the attention is not of resolving the conflict but of conflict management which increases the human insecurity and sustaining conflict situation in Manipur. Besides the militaristic approach, one visible strategy is the surrender policy which is projected as peace talk. It is difficult to understand how the surrender policy and the issue of peace talk are linked to each other as what kind of peace talk can be done when all the cadres including their arms are surrendered to the government. It cannot be peace talk but creating a cadre of surrendered men and women under a banner to claim that they are concerned about the conflict situation. Once surrendered, the surrendered cadres have to follow the orders and their mobility is restricted beyond their designated camp. They are considered as misguided unemployed youth which becomes difficult to link themselves with the armed movement. This question comes in as fake surrenders were reported just to increase the count of surrendered cadres which means more money flow. For instance, in the recent MoU signing programme (May 24, 2013) with UPPK, Principal Secretary Suresh Babu said that “New Delhi has released Rs 14 crores for necessary expenditures of the groups which have come to the path of peace”.
This is evident when the surrendered cadres (UPPK and other) in the name of peace talks have not come out with their charter of demands. If they are in a peace talk then why are they unable to spell their demands?. Who is stopping them and for what reason? It is sure that they cannot raise the issue of sovereignty but what are the other issues they raise or is it they simply surrendered themselves and their organisation as a sort of retirement plan. It has created a concern to the general public whether the people surrendered are really armed cadres who fight for their right to self-determination or government created cadres. It can be recalled how the surrendered ULFA of Assam (SULFA) were involved in the “silent killing” of Assam which was considered one of the worst years in Assam. Is the government planning a similar strategy? We have experiences of ZORO in the Army and Assam Rifles camps when we go to any place where it is manned by Army or Assam Rifles. Moreover, all these surrendered cadres particularly the valley based are put up in Assam Rifles camps.
It is not doubt that surrender policy is a counter-insurgency measure but the state government using the surrendered cadre to initiate peace dialogue is very unfortunate. What make the government think that they can do peace talk with the surrendered cadres? For instance, in the UPPK surrender function, it was dominated by the official claims but the position of the UPPK was not clear. They could not share what they want and what are the points they are negotiating. The situation is same with the United Revolutionary Front (URF), KCP (Lamphel) and KYKL (MDF) who surrender to the government in the name of Peace Talk.  With no attention and apathy, they even threatened to withdraw from the same process which they cannot do. For instance, “URF’s Ruhini, KYKL (MDF) president Meisnam Athouba and KCP (Lamphel Group)’s general secretary Haobijam Dilip alias Taibanganba asserted that they would not hesitate in returning to the jungles for resuming the military offensive against the Government if plight of the surrendered cadres is not accorded importance”.
The government process of polluting the platform of peace talk has created a situation that peace talks means surrender. This is also evident when any of the surrender function is organised, they write as Peace Talk. But earlier, they used to write as Home coming ceremony. The shift can be understood if we analyse the policy of the government which is largely influenced by the real politik propounded by Kautilya (aka Chanakya), who helped King Chandragupta Maurya to build India’s first trans-regional empire just after Alexander’s invasion of India. Kautilya advocated Sham (conciliation), Dam (Bribe), Danda (Forces), and Bhed (Split) as the four options of statecraft to be used in effective combinations rather than as single, standards options. If the AOG (armed opposition group) insist on sovereignty or adopted positions unacceptable to Delhi, military operations were resumed with renewed vigor and intelligence worked overtime to split the recalcitrant AOG. Nagas, Mizos, Assamese or other tribal insurgent groups have all ended up in split, mostly during or after dialogue with the federal or the state governments.
Peace talk is something that can be done between two groups which are not dependent to each other. Further, the government must be aware that peace talk does not necessarily mean surrender. There can be peace talk to negotiate their claims and if they are not happy, they can continue with their processes. Likewise, the government should always remember that peace talk cannot be done with the Government and the AOG alone. They can talk to each other but since they exist in the name of the people, every peace talk should involve the public including women in any of the process. Negating the public has led to failure in earlier peace process in Northeast India which is not expected to repeat by the government. The change of policy from homecoming to peace talk should be reviewed if the government is serious about any peace process in Manipur.
Constitute an Independent Commission for Conflict Resolution
We can assume that the state government is concerned about the peace process in Manipur. But unfortunately the peace process is initiated as a counter-insurgency measure rather than as a genuine initiative. It may be because of military oriented advises or lack of expertise or inability to reach out to the expertise. Whatever the motives, there are certain compulsory measures or processes which need to be worked out before a peace talk or negotiation takes place. The process should not be considered as surrender by the government and also by the AOG. For instance, even after more than 60 years of armed conflict in Manipur, the government and the armed opposition groups are moving in parallel directions in terms of defining the problem or identifying the root cause(s). The government has not accepted the position of the armed opposition groups. Similarly, in spite of engaging international cooperation (military or otherwise), particularly with Myanmar and Bangladesh, to suppress the armed movement in the state, the government continues to claim that it is a law and order problem, and most recently, terrorism.
However, it will be impossible to start a conflict resolution or transformation process without defining a common problem. So, if at all the government is interested to resolve the conflict in Manipur through peaceful and democratic means, then the first and the foremost step is initiation of a process for identifying the common problems, which are acceptable to both the conflicting groups, through an inclusive mechanism. Mere appeals for peace talks from time to time along with military engagements cannot bring about any tangible solution and least of all, addressing the problem. The United NGOs Mission-Manipur charter of demands submitted to the President of India during his recent visit could be recalled to explain the pre negotiating measures to be adopted by the government. The selected points are (i) “Constitute an Independent Commissions for Conflict Resolution in the state; (ii) develop a framework on pre-negotiation, negotiation and post negotiation with special monitoring mechanisms with due representation from civil society, NGOs and also by engaging International Community as a Third Party to settle the long standing political conflict in the state”. It is not necessary that government has to take up all these processes at one time. The most important one is to constitute the committee to identify a possible common meeting point within a time frame. Similar studies were conducted at Jammu and Kashmir by the government of India but members of the Manipur committee should to be selected in such a way that they have the capacity to reach out to the major AOGs.
However, the process of constituting the committee should be done under the Prime Minister Office or Ministry of External Affairs with the state government particularly the Home Minister and/or elected legislators as facilitators. This will increase the commitment of the government to the AOG. The involvement of PMO office is necessary because the proposed committee might come up with various recommendations such as (i) within the Constitution of India; (ii) Within the Indian Union and (iii) Beyond the Indian Union. The state government cannot discuss any of these issues on its own, so constituting the committee is a compulsion. Moreover, the major AOGs have represented as leaders (of a country) in different platforms. So merely degrading them at the level of the state will be an insult which might deter the process. The other issue of elected legislators of state as facilitators is because, bureaucrats deputed by the Government of India for various peace talks are merely good in taking orders which they have been doing for decades. However, if the committed elected legislators are involved, they might think ‘out of the box’ unlike the bureaucrats who only wait for their next assignment from the government. Initiating the process of constituting a committee could be a major breakthrough for the SPF government which has created history in getting the attention of two UN Special Rapporteurs.

This article was posted in The Sangai Express on Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Challenges of Peacebuilding in Manipur

Three major ethnic groups viz; the Meiteis, Nagas and the Chin-Kuki-Mizos (CHIKIM) are into political movements for separate politico-legal arrangements from the Indian State. While in the case of the Meiteis its political demand is articulated under the integrity of Manipur. Nevertheless it is a case of sovereignty and independence from the Indian State, if one goes by the decades old insurgency and its ultimate goal. In the case of the Nagas, after entering into a political dialogue with the Government of India, it has scaled down from its earlier demand of sovereignty to Greater Nagaland (under Constitution of India) comprising of the Naga inhabited areas in India to that of a separate alternative political arrangement only for the Nagas of Manipur outside the Government of Manipur. And in the case of the Kukis, it is a case of demand for statehood for the Kuki ethnic group (supposedly representing CHIKIM tribes of Manipur) and equally backed by armed groups. But the situation of contradiction among the communities cannot be simply understood from the ethnic perspectives alone. The political vacuum created in (1949-1972) and (1980-2010); ‘politics of isolation and engagement’ to address ethnic-centric demands and the development perspectives which are inherited through the territorial claims are major stumbling block for peacebuilding and conflict resolution in Manipur.
Political Vacuum and Territorial Aspirations
The centralized administration (1949-72) of Manipur after her annexation to India created a political vacuum in Manipur particularly in the hill areas. The vacuum was created as the sole responsibility of administrating Manipur was confined to the Government of India (GoI) appointed Chief Commissioner based at Imphal. Manipur was granted statehood only in 1972. During the 23 years of direct administration, the GoI not only failed to deliver the administration but also disturbed the economy of the Manipur. For instance, Manipur—which was the net exporter of huge rich surplus during the colonial days was turned into a net importer after the annexation in 1949. Similarly, the centralized planning during the time neglected agriculture, which was its productive base, and industry. Manipur is now a dependent state that serves as a captive market for products coming from the rest of India. Most of the industrial plan failed even before the insurgency became active in the late 70s. In addition, the administration could not utilize the limited amount sanctioned for the state.
Whatsoever the situation, the collective movement was witnessed during the first decades of the controversial merger. For instance, during the height of annexation, the Kuki Chiefs sent 250 warriors to guard the palace gates to keep away Maharaja Budhachandra from signing the merger agreement. Tangkhul leader, Yangmaso Shaiza was leading the movement for independence of Manipur under the Manipur National Union in the early 50s. The Nagas of Manipur have ignored the movement in the Naga Hills (Kamei 1993). Similarly an all-tribal delegation went to Delhi in May 1970, demanding statehood of Manipur (Koireng 2007). But absence of governance and development for decades started degenerating the collective movement and the tribals of Manipur who were supporting the integrity of Manipur have started mobilizing for territorial aspirations. Similarly, the non-tribal particularly the Meiteis intensified the movement for right to self-determination.
 CHIKIM Experience
The first ethnic aspiration for territoriality during the political vacuum was visible during the height of Mizo National Front (MNF) of Mizoram. The CHIKIM groups of Manipur under MNF raised the demand for integration of CHIKIMs inhabitant areas to form the Greater Mizoram. It was an immediate outcome of the Mizo rebellion under MNF of Laldenga. The tribals of Manipur particularly the CHIKIM was of the impression that the armed movement was a joint CHIKIMS affair encompassing the territories of Manipur, Assam, Tripura and border areas of Burma. The 1963 conference at Churachandpur, Manipur resolved MNF to integrate all the Mizos areas of Northeast into one administrative unit. Churachandpur was one of the base camps for the MNF movement. By the late seventies, the MNF’s had weakened and spate of surrenders from its rank had been engineered by Mizoram Chief Minister, Thengpunga Sailo. He formed the People’s Conference party that went on to win the elections. The MNF started negotiating with the government of Assam/India. When Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister of India, he worked out a peace agreement in 1986, amendable to the Mizo peoples and the MNF. The Mizo Hill was granted statehood and MNF was accommodated in an interim power sharing with the congress that was ruling at that time. The settlement between the GoI and MNF has not taken into consideration the greater Mizoram issue and those who are involved in the movement particularly from Manipur.
Naga Experience
The movement in the Naga Hills influenced the Nagas in Manipur and a few of them even joined the movement in the late 50s. Simultaneously, few sections of Nagas of Manipur formed the Manipur Naga Council in 1960 to support the movement. But the aspirations of the Nagas of Manipur were ignored with the creation of Nagaland State in 1963. They were not considered during the negotiation as the movement was concentrated in the Naga Hills and there was no significant involvement of the Nagas of Manipur. However, in 1964, the cease-fire extension to the three sub-divisions of Manipur encouraged them again. But the cease-fire was unilaterally revoked by the GoI in 1967. But the question of territorial expansion was not very significant as the movement was concentrated in Nagaland. It was only during the formation of National Socialist Council of Nagalim/Nagaland (NSCN) that the territorial aspiration was visible and more clearly after the split of NSCN into NSCN (Isak-Muivah) and NSCN (Khaplang) in the late 80s which coincided with the Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) going into a long period of hibernation in the hill districts of Manipur. There are six ADCs in Manipur with 144 constituencies (24 per ADC). Thus, it was the best opportunity for the NSCN to penetrate to the hills areas as well as to consolidate their cadres and movement. Though, the government institution was not functional, the development funds were surprisingly flowing which became one of the sources for their movement. This situation gave the opportunity to raise the fund as well as manpower by blaming it to the other community particularly the Meiteis for underdevelopment. But, the decision to hold election for ADC by the government of Manipur was shocking for the NSCN (IM) which by now becomes weak and fragile. Some of the important reasons include the fear of filling up the political vacuum which they have been enjoying for decades. Not only filling the vacuum but the process of creating grassroots leaders which will create conflict with their interest.
Politics of Isolation and Engagement
The armed opposition groups (AOG) that belong to the three major communities are in contradiction with the state at various intensities as indicated earlier. However, the state is presently engaging with the other groups except the Meiteis at different capacity. The CHIKIM with Suspension of Operation (SoO) and Nagas are in ceasefire with the GoI with their base in Nagaland.
 Naga Experience
The GoI after signing the ceasefire agreement in 1997 is engaging the NSCN (IM) to resolve the issue but so far, after having more than 60 rounds of talks both in India and abroad, the issue is yet to be resolved. Some even pointed out that, it is not able to discuss the core demands effectively. The issue of sovereignty has been negotiated to autonomy of Nagaland within the constitution of India which has been more or less accepted by the NSCN (IM). The present problem is the settlements of Manipur Nagas who have sacrificed their manpower and resources for the movement. But with the failing of negotiation, the history is repeating itself like that of CHIKIM after the MNF was forced to settle with Mizoram state.
The worrying factor is that the armed Nagas of Nagaland have declared to resolve the movement by and for the Nagas of Nagaland. In the whole process of negotiation, the state and the NSCM (IM) willingly or unwillingly did not give any space to the civil society either from Nagaland or Manipur. The state continues to engage with them, even after knowing that the issue will not be addressed without the involvement of other Nagas AOG. This results in difference among the Naga AOG that led to factional killings among themselves. Presently, the major AOG in Nagaland are NSCN (K), NSCN (IM), NSCN (Khole-Kitovi) & NNC. Besides, the AOG in Nagaland, the GoI have never consulted Government of Manipur in the whole process of the negotiation since 1997. But, when the NSCN (IM) demands are to be confined within Nagaland, the GoI consulted the Government of Manipur in 2012 when they are not able to find an honourable exit for the Manipur cadres of NSCN (IM). This situation portrayed Manipur Government particularly the Meiteis as stumbling block to the NSCN (IM) demand. Similar situation was created by the GoI in 2001 when they unilaterally extend the ceasefire with NSCN (IM) to Manipur. So the GoI has successfully diverted the attention and transformed the issue to that of inter-community conflict. For instance, on February 6, 2013, Chief Minister of Nagaland Neiphiu Rio openly declared “Chief Minister of Manipur is one of the biggest enemies of the Naga people” in an election campaign at Dimapur, Nagaland.
 CHIKIM Experience
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. The Manipur CM stated that the ceasefire maintained between the “Indian security forces and some Non-Naga insurgents” was not acceptable as it lacks the consent of the state government. Subsequently, the SoO between the conglomerate groups of CHIKIM outfits namely, the United Peoples’ Front (UPF), and the KNO, State Government and the Central Government was signed at Delhi on 22 August 2008 by ensuring the territorial integrity of Manipur.
However, their aspiration for the state was pressed through the Kuki State Demand Committee (KSDC). But it was not sure whether they really want statehood or was it some pressure tactics. The KSDC demanded to hold political dialogue with the Kuki AOG by resorting to indefinite blockade. The KNO even threatened that they will not sign the agreement for extension of SoO until GoI gives in written for initiating political dialogue. As a process of it, the GoI appointed former Intelligence Bureau (IB) director PC Haldar as interlocutor on February, 2013 (Huiyen Lanpao News, 2013). However, the demand of the KNO via KSDC was a direct challenge to the United Naga Council’s (UNC) alternative arrangement in Manipur. This has upset the UNC as the territorial claims are conflicting with them and at the same time the GoI as per the demands of UNC is also preparing to hold talk with the UNC. This clearly indicates that the GoI is engaging both of them at the same time but in isolation and for the same space as we all are aware that there is no district in Manipur which is exclusively inhabited by a particular community. Such is the entangled web of issues challenging any peace-building initiative.   

This article was published in The Sangai Express on Sunday, May 19, 2013