In Quest for Peace
By Chungkhokai Doungel
The appeal by senior citizens for Society Manipur to the government of India to initiate unconditional talk with Manipur valley insurgents is a welcome move as it appears to be an expression of actual concern about the turmoil in the state. Further efforts, however, will have to be made if mere appeal does not bring any progress.
A first step may be to confidentially find out one or more persons trusted by them to contact and try to convince them that the proposed talk is purely in the interest of the people of the state. There is no need to have a committee which will not only be redundant but may only prove to be an added burden. Unconditional talk means that the agenda for discussion can include anything such as sovereignty, plebiscite etc. as the entire historical reality of the past and present would be taken into account.
In fact, a clarification made by Revolutionary Peoples’ Front (RPF) in response to a call a few days later is an indication that they are listening and applying their mind to the call. It may not be wise to enter into any polemics about the causes of insurgency as the intention is to find a solution. Civil society can at best act as a facilitator. Whatever issues they desire to raise has to be discussed by them with the government of India if and when the stage is reached.
As matters will have to be thrashed out at the final stage as mutually agreed upon by the negotiating parties, government of India should not have undue reservations or misgivings. Unconditional talk possibly was suggested to maintain some parity with National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) whom government of India had placed on such a high pedestal and to show that equal treatment is called for.
Fortunately, Kuki groups in Manipur and some other groups in Assam have accepted surrender or deposit of arms under joint custody with government as precondition. Reposing faith in the government of India is no doubt to be considered as a good gesture. However, their cases, at the same time having been reduced to captive negotiation, the talks have to be confined within the parameters drawn. All we can feel happy about is that "all is well that ends well."
In clarifying their stand, the RPF has commented about the absence of a responsible government in Manipur and their corruption ridden functioning. This undoubtedly provides some food for thought and should be taken as a wake-up call for doing some introspection. For, corruption may be as old as creation, but its open practice and acceptance vitiates every action, thereby not only damaging the image of the government but also reducing its credibility. That those in authority should uphold justice is defeated.
It may be recalled that for reaching the Mizo accord, Lalthanhawla voluntarily resigned from chief ministership, and likewise, Laldenga was able to carry all Mizo people along. Lalthanhawla has now come back. Do we have leaders of such stature in Manipur or Nagaland willing to sacrifice even less or are our leaders even afraid that the ultra leaders will pose serious challenge to them in coming elections if settlement is reached. We have to rise beyond a certain level if we desire the well being of our society and state.
Claims of success by security forces in counter-insurgency operations are yet to incapacitate valley insurgents. That, there are no more open camps in Manipur now does not mean that their backbone is completely broken, rather there is urgency for negotiation and settlement because belligerency of China is neutralising and winning over Burma which is now very much dominated economically by it. Burma always assures India that it will take action to flush out Indian insurgents, but are unable to carry out what is agreed upon for this reason.
Further, Kachin Independent Army which is sheltering many insurgent groups in areas where the Burmese junta’s control hardly exist have spread their tentacles as far as Yunnan province of China where there is also a sizable Kachin population. It is thus easy to revive links with China. Indeed some are said to have already started.
Upgradation of India’s Air bases in Northeast with missiles striking capacity is said to be still below that of China. Being aware of India’s limitations, China feels that she has room for taking more calculated risks in their design to create more satellites and foment trouble. Burma is also taking the chance to play India with China.
As for revolutionaries’ bold statements about their stand is all right to drive home some points but it should be remembered that it equally takes courage to sit down and thrash out problems through talks. It is pertinent to recall in this connection, the argument used by Chinese ambassador to Chingez Khan who said to him “Are you afraid of spoken words?” If continued fighting and violence is not affecting people and bringing peace do not concern the people of Manipur, none will take the risk of getting involved.
In fact, even negotiation has to be evolved in such a way as to represent the pluralistic inhabitants of the state as also understanding the ethos of composite culture. It should also be borne in mind that we are at a crossroad since the present generation is questioning old traditions and concepts and trying to break away from the morass. This is causing an added social unrest.
But, howsoever elusive pursuit of peace be as its connotation varies according to the person seeking it or accepting it or settling it, that cannot be an excuse to deter good citizens from doing what is right in the interest of the people of Manipur.
The writer is a former minister in the Manipur government.