Militarization as the only alternative to resolve ills of the Hills of Manipur

Published on August 5, 2009

By Ngamjahao Kipgen

 

In the past few weeks, Manipur has witnessed bandhs and strikes called by many hill-based organizations demanding revocation of Manipur Government’s decision to deploy IRBs and Police Commandos in the hill districts of Manipur on the pretext that there is no law and order problem in the hill districts. It is imperative to cross-check the hidden agenda of the SPF government pertaining to the scheme of deploying state forces (IRB and Commandos) in the hill districts.

 

When the whole state is raising voice against the withdrawal and repeal of AFSPA from Manipur, the intention of the state government in this regard raises eyebrows and it is a matter of serious concern, which needs a thorough diagnosis. What is the motive behind deploying the state forces in hill districts? Is it another way of strengthening the AFSPA (an old wine in a new bottle), when every civil organisation/intellectuals/human rights bodies seek for the repeal of the draconian Act? Is militarization seen as the only viable option left for developing and modernizing the backward hill areas?

 

Apart from this, let’s have a quick look at some of the core issues raised by different hill bodies (both student and other civil bodies) pertaining to the problems encountered in the past few years apart from the recent voice raise against the deployment of state forces. Some of them are: (i) Reservation policy: The Manipur University Tribal Students’ Union (MUTSU) has long urged upon the state Government to follow state Government reservation policy in matters relating to admission to various courses of studies in Manipur University citing the UGC guidelines. They also clearly pointed out that with 7.5% reservation policy in admission etc, only about 80 ST students who are lucky enough will find themselves into the portal of the university. Before its conversion to Central varsity, the university intake strength ranged from 320 to 370.

 

The Centre’s decision to convert Manipur University into Central University had done substantial harm to tribal students’ vis-à-vis higher education. The All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) has also strongly raised the reservation issue by criticizing non-reservation of posts for SC/ST and OBC category candidates in the recruitment to the State Assembly Secretariat. The issue raised by ATSUM is just a single case out of many such problems faced by the minorities in Manipur.

 

(ii) District Council election: It may be here recalled that elections to the Autonomous District Council constituted under the Manipur Hill Areas District Council Act, 1972 were first held in 1973 and the Councils were constituted on 1st august, 1973. However, elected District Councils were suspended and their administration was entrusted to District officials of the District concerned starting from 1990. Since then, elections were not held to the District Councils on the expiry of their five year term of office. The Hill Areas Committee set up under article 371C of the constitution unanimously resolved on 20-12-1990 that elections to the District Councils should not be held until and unless the Provisions of the VI Schedule are extended to the present District Councils of Manipur.

 

After a long hibernation, the state cabinet in its meeting held on 28-03-2001 decided that the state government had no objection to the extension of the provisions of the sixth Schedule to the tribal areas in the Hill Districts of Manipur with certain local adjustment and amendments in line with the resolution of the Hill areas committee. GS Oinam in his article (Why not early Autonomous District Council Election in Manipur?) has articulately revealed that the annual allocation under the 12th Finance Commission of Rs. 4.96 crores pertaining to the Hill Councils has not been released as elections has not been conducted.

 

During 2006-2007, the state plan assistance to the local councils consisted of Rs. 970.00 lakhs only, inclusive of Rs. 300 lakhs as Special Plan assistance. He further contends that why no tribal elected leaders rise up for early election of Autonomous District Council before the Assembly Budget Session, which is very unfortunate for our hilly people. Therefore, without much hesitation one can strongly concur that holding elections to District Councils at the earliest would speed up development of the hill districts of Manipur.
(iii) The Kuki Chiefs’ Association and Kuki Students’ Organisation, Chandel district strongly opposed SPF Government’s decision to deploy police commandos and IRB personnel in hill districts.

 

Further, expressing strong reservation against the recent State Government decision to deploy Police Commandos/IRB personnel in the hill districts, Senapati District Students’ Association (SDSA) has demanded immediate revocation of the said decision. In a joint memorandum submitted to the Chief Minister, the Chandel Naga Peoples’ Organisation (CNPO), Naga Students’ Union, Chandel (NSUC), Kuki Chiefs’ Association Chandel and KSO Chandel district asserted that the Government’s decision is uncalled for as there are enough Assam Rifles, Manipur Rifles and Manipur Police personnel in the hill districts. Deployment of commandos and IRB in Chandel district will lead to human rights violation as is seen in the valley districts, they asserted.

 

Commandos and IRB personnel are better known for lootings, tortures and killings on mere suspicion rather than maintaining law and order, they alleged. It is certainly true that what nobler work/act do we ever heard/read about the so-called Commandos other than the caption in the newspaper “Cdos gun down two suspected… etc in a reported (fake) encounter”. The recent Tehelka clips of BT road shoot-out is a living witness of their modes of operation. No doubt, they have excellently done well in maintaining the encounters tally.

 

Taking all these cases into consideration, one can put a query as to whether there is any affinity/correlation between the problems raised by the hill tribal organisation and to that of setting up an IRB/Commando battalion in hill districts. Any sane individual would come up by saying that the decision is illogical and rubbish the idea. No wonder the Ibobi-led Government/Ministry holds a record for recruiting battalions of MR/IRB and Police personnel in the past few years. It won’t be a mistake to say the SPF has not taken up any Ministry other than recruitment of State armed forces/personnel in Manipur.

 

The SPF-led Government is taking an undue advantage of the current situation in the hill districts by planning to deploy the additional State forces in the name of bringing/maintaining law and order problem. When the law and order situation in the Capital city is in a state of abysmal, will the deployment of State forces in the hill districts could be better off? Or is it just a face wash to please the godfathers and babus in Delhi. Or is it another lame excuse/plan for recruiting fresh battalions again. Any recruitment in Manipur is seen as an easy way of making big bucks by our so-called elected political leaders.

 

Who is Ibobi anyway? Who has given him the legitimate right to decide the fate of the hill tribals without considering and knowing well what people at the receiving end wish? Does he really care to the needs of the hill tribals? Why does he want to repeat the same blunder committed by Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler more than half a century ago? Militarizing the hill areas would bring no solution to the law and order problems nor any development, but more bloodshed, hatred, mistrust and enmity amongst the State forces, non-State forces and the civil societies.

 

As a law abiding loyal citizen of democratic India, I would suggest that the State and Centre Government should follow a more humane approach and carefully use the present SoO (with the Kuki insurgent groups) and Ceasefire with the Naga insurgents as a yardstick to bring a peaceful solution rather than mobilizing forceful muscle power to dictate the interest of the general public.

 

Only sincere negotiations and mutual respect can bring forth a lasting political solution in the region (particularly in the hills of Manipur). One should not forget that things half-cooked often spoils the stomach!

 

The writer is a research scholar at Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, India.