PUCL Bulletin, July 2001

Violence in Manipur

-- By Y. P. Chhibbar

Those of us who do not know that part of the country can't fathom the magnitude of unrest and protest in the mind of the Meitei Manipuri. The North-East, other than Assam, is a totally different and complex scene.

The genesis of the present unrest is in the cease-fire agreement with the NSCN (I-M) that the government has been observing for the past few years. Our organisation has been in favour of the extension of the time frame of the agreement. Two senior members of the PUCL had gone to Bangkok to meet Th. Muivah who is in jail there, to try to see that the date of the ceasefire agreement could be extended which was due to expire. They had met the government representatives here also. There are many groups working for the protection of Civil Liberties and Human Rights who are interested in establishment of peace in the North-East.

The wave of protests started when it was announced that the government of India and the NSCN (I-M) had arrived at an agreement not only to extend the date of the ceasefire, but also that the agreement would now become operative in all the States where Nagas were living. The Manipuri Meitei fears that this aspect of the agreement is ultimately going to lead to the acceptance of the demand of the Naga people for the creation of a Greater Nagaland, embracing all the States where Nagas live. This means that Manipur will cease to exist.
The large-scale violence is directed towards the government of Manipur and the government of India. All the legislators of the State are reported to be in hiding in Delhi. It is noteworthy that the protestors have not touched the large number of Nagas living in Imphal. This is one of the unique features of the culturally diverse fabric of Manipur. The number of Nagas in Manipur is more than that in Nagaland but in the small valley of Imphal they are in a minority. According to the Manipur PUCL, there is no panic amongst the Nagas in Imphal.

The protestors in Imphal are angry that the important leaders of the ruling NDA have not cared about the loss of human lives and of the methods of the Central Security forces during the unrest. It is reported that the young persons who had jump in to the mote around Kangla Fort were shot down there. An official of the government in Delhi is reported to have remarked that if firing had been resorted to two hours earlier the situation could have been saved!

During the last elections, the Prime Minister was shown touching the feet of the mother of an NDA partner while visiting Kolkatta. In the present situation the Prime Minister has not had the time to make any meaningful gesture of sympathy with the victims of firing in Imphal.

It is still not too late. The Prime Minister should personally assure the people of Imphal that the present territorial extension of the ceasefire agreement is not the beginning of the territorial disintegration of any other State. It is for the government to decide how to restore the confidence of the people. The affairs of the six North-Eastern States of Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Mizoram, and Meghalaya are too sensitive and important to be left to bureaucrats. The situation needs wise political handling.

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