Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009 : A Disappointing and a Wasted Year

The world is stepping into a new year in just four days from now. Very soon, 2009 would become a history. What an eventful but a disappointing year we have gone through. 2009 saw a black man of Afro-American origin assuming the charge of the White House for the first time in its history. And soon, President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just after two months in office (He was elected the 44th President of the United States on November 4, 2008, and sworn in on January 20, 2009). What a paradox ! He is now sending more troops in Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai, President of the US backed Government of Afghanistan was re-elected amid some controversies this year. The US claimed it a victory of democracy but tense violence is still raging in the country almost daily where US and other foreign military presence is openly resented. On economic front, the year saw the severest recession of the 21st century. Tens of thousands of people working in corporate offices and private companies were sacked and thrown out. In the Indian peninsula, Sri Lankan forces secured a costly and bloody military victory over LTTE. With the annihilation of the LTTE and unceremonious fall of Tamil hero Velupillai Prabhakaran in the battlefield, the dream to carve out a separate Tamil state from the Sinhalese dominated island country also evaporated into thin air. Across the western border, the world’s dreaded terrorist group Al Qaeda made alarming advances toward Islamabad which responded with full scale military offensive.
Disappointing failure of Copenhagen Summit
Climate-wise, 2009 was recorded as the hottest year in the last four centuries, prompting heads of states across the world to make some hectic political negotiations. But the much expected Copenhagen Climate Summit just broke down this month without achieving anything concrete. The summit was also marked by violent protests by environmental activists coming from different parts of the world. In the words of Fuqiang Yang, director of global climate solutions, WWF International, "the negotiations in Copenhagen ended without a fair, ambitious or legally binding treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this, what emerged was an agreement that will, at the very least, cut greenhouse gases, set up an emissions verification system, and reduce deforestation".
The Copenhagen accord, the text that came out of the talks, leaves a long list of issues undecided, most prominent being the emissions targets industrialised nations will accept, and how much ‘climate finance’ they would offer. To environmentalists across the world and those really concerned with the hostile climatic change, the Copenhagen Summit was a summit of despair. The accord essentially allows countries to set their own greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals for 2020.
Bryony Worthington, climate campaigner with, who helped draft the UK climate change bill remarked that Copenhagen was a spectacular failure on many levels. The non-result from Copenhagen calls into question the ability of leaders to deliver what is needed. Citizens around the world will need to elect more ambitious leaders and embrace new, low impact technologies.
Rise of Maoists
Within the country, 2009 saw no terror attack planned across the border like the Mumbai attack of the previous year nor there was any large scale communal riot. But the year witnessed maximum and more lethal attacks on Government machinery and state establishments from Maoist militants. The Maoists succeeded in consolidating their position in vast areas across several states. The threat posed by the armed movement was felt so acutely this year that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh went on to say in record that "the country was losing the battle against Maoist rebels".
Much earlier in 2006, the Prime Minister had called the Naxalites "the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country." For the first time, the Government of India set up a National Investigation Agency (NIA) on the lines of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to tackle terror exclusively and strengthened provisions in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, making it tougher for terror suspects to obtain bail.
The vacuum left by absence of terror attacks in the security situation of India was quickly and more alarmingly filled up by heightened Maoists’ militant activities spanning over seven states. Notwithstanding the Government’s planned massive and multi-dimensional offensive against the Maoists, the guerillas are operating more daringly, striking against state forces at will. Till November 15, over 770 civilians and security personnel were killed in Maoist violence. This was the largest number of casualties in the last four years. The aggressive nature of the Maoist guerillas and their military prowess was demonstrated on many occasions this year itself. One outstanding instance was that of Gadchiroli (Maharashtra) ambush where the Maoists gunned downed 17 policeman all belonging to the elite C-60 anti-Maoist force raised by the state government. Three months earlier, in one of their most audacious attacks on the security forces, Maoists killed 30 policemen, including a superintendent of police, in three separate incidents in Rajnandgaon district of Chhattisgarh.
The Maoist rebels are fast expanding their presence and they have already established their strongholds in 182 districts mainly in the states of Jharkhand, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal. The area affected by Naxalism stretches from the border with Nepal to Karnataka in the South. This year, the intensified Maoist activities have superseded the volatile security situation prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East region as regards security concerns of New Delhi.
Eventful but a wasted year
At home, 2009 could not have started on a more ominous note. In February, a young MCS officer and his two staff were murdered in the most barbaric manner at Taphou Kuki village, Senapati district. Dr Thingnam Kishan, A Rajen and Y Token were hacked to death using spade after they were abducted from Ukhrul by a group of NSCN (IM) cadres led by one Lt Col Hopeson Ningshen. The triple murder was so brutal that condemnations pour in from all quarters cutting across communal and ethnic lines. There was massive protest movements not only in the valley but in hill districts too. As usual, the State responded by imposing curfew for days. With this incident, students started losing precious academic days due to bandhs and state-imposed curfews. As regards the public outcry for justice, the State was totally impotent until NSCN (IM) handed over the main culprit, Lt Col Hopeson Ningshen to Indian authorities. Though the gruesome murder was ostensibly communal, the people of Manipur reacted quite maturely and directed their wrath to NSCN (IM) in general and Lt Col Hopeson Ningshen in particular but not to any community.
Midway through 2009, Prof Islamuddin of Manipur University was shot dead within the sanctum of the university in the aftermath of an imbroglio regarding elections to Manipur University Students’ Union. The killing caused serious disturbance to the academic atmosphere of the university. It also gave an opportunity to the State Government to open a police picket within the university campus, otherwise accepted as the highest seat of learning. With Assam Rifles already occupying the Langthabal hills, within MU campus and all entrances except the main gate facing NH 39 sealed, the Government has virtually fortified the university in total contradiction to the very purpose of a university.
Then came the infamous July 23 Khwairamband killings which ignited one of the longest civil protest movement in the contemporary history of Manipur. Five months since the twin killings, the protest movement is still continuing in the form of indefinite class boycott because of which around 120 invaluable school days have gone waste. Between February and September 9, the day indefinite class boycott was launched, academic activities of schools and colleges were disrupted quite often in regular intervals because of different protest demonstrations and bandhs, majority of which were directed against the Government, not to speak about curfews.
Before Tehelka’s exposure of July 23 BT Road fake encounter, there were many incidents where security forces were accused of staging fake encounters. One case that clearly corroborated the fake encounter theory was that of Loitongbam Satish of Singjamei. How he and a companion were picked up from Sajiwa Jail crossing and how he ended his life in an ‘encounter’ with a combined team of Thoubal police commandos and 23 Assam Rifles at Laikoiching on May 18 was well documented in the local media. The companion survived because he promised not to divulge the ‘truth’ to anyone which he broke soon after release by court. People could not find a rallying point to launch a massive protest movement because there was no photographic evidence. The simmering public angst exploded when Tehelka came up with the damning photographic sequence of BT Road fake encounter. In the midst of the voice of public dissent against the Government and simultaneous outcry for a solution vis-a-vis the indefinite class boycott, Yaiskul by-election came and went away; the result reflecting something totally different from the voices of dissent ignited and fuelled by Tehelka’s photographs. Here Yenning cannot help asking if the by-poll result was any indication of the absence of any better alternative to the incumbent.
What an eventful year ! Murders of Dr Kishan, Rajen, Token, Prof Islamuddin, Satish, Rabina, Sanjit et al; the massive protest movements of February-March and again in July-August and then the Copenhagen Summit. But still there is no solution, no justice and no class for four months. What a wasted year !
Yenning hopes human values get elevated and human rights given due respect in Manipur from next year, 2010.
This article was posted on The Sangai Express on Sunday, December 27, 2009

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