Friday, August 28, 2009

Manipur has turned into ‘wild east’

DATELINE Guwahati/Wasbir Hussain

Want to have a first hand experience of anarchy at its best? Visit Manipur. Supercop Ved Marwah, a former governor of the State, has described Manipur as the ‘Wild East’, and rightly so. If gang members of armed militant groups round up innocent migrants from various parts of India, and blind-fold them before pumping bullets onto their bodies just to discourage them from coming to the state, policemen or security personnel of other hues are found indulging in acts of lobbing grenades on behalf of rebels or extorting money. If men in uniform can indulge in such acts as lobbing grenades or extorting money from civilians, they can also indulge in fake encounters, of which there are plenty of instances. And assisting the uniformed men in such actions are draconian anti-terror measures in place like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act that makes it mandatory for special clearances before members of the armed forces can be tried on charges of excesses or rights violation in the name of countering insurgency.

Take a look at this recent timeline: On July 1 this year, five Manipur Police Commandos were placed under suspension for extorting money and mobile phones from civilians in Imphal West district, a fact confirmed by the state police top brass. On July 23, a former militant Chongkham Sanjit (27) was shot dead after security personnel caught hold of him in the wake of a shootout in Imphal. Now, media exposes have said Sanjit was found near the place of shootout, dragged by security men to a pharmacy nearby without resistance and sometime later, his body was brought out from the drug store. This incident has put Manipur aflame with protesters showing no sign of relenting, forcing Chief Minister Ibobi Singh to almost accept the popular version of the incident and order a judicial probe. Again, on August 21, five people were injured in a grenade blast in front of a hospital in Imphal’s Tnangal Bazar. Believe it or not, police arrested a rifleman, T. Munal, from the 2nd India Reserve battalion (IRB) on suspicion. And yes, the rifleman admitted to his interrogators that he had indeed lobbed the grenade because the separatist Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) had paid him Rs 5,000 to do so. The man disclosed he had indulged in two similar acts in July.

Take a look at what the Prime Minister said at the August 17 meeting on internal security with chief ministers in New Delhi: “Assam and Manipur account for a disproportionately large number of violent incidents reported from the Northeast with the latter’s share being as high as 30 per cent…” If the 17 odd active militant groups are keeping everyone in the lawless state on tenterhooks, the action by the security forces, more often than not on the wrong side of the law, is providing the much needed oxygen of life to the militants. In fact, actions like the cold-blooded rape and murder of Manorama Devi by the paramilitary in 2004 or the recent killing of Sanjit, who was alive as he walked in to the pharmacy with the security personnel, enables militants to reinforce their argument that Manipuris can live in dignity only when the state acquires freedom. In fact, such actions even bring people who detest the militants or militancy out on to the streets in protest against state action.

To add to the anarchy is poor political leadership by the political class in Manipur, lack of unbiased or credible civil society initiatives at peace making, a close nexus between politicians and militants and large-scale corruption. The state needs a revolution by the silent or dormant masses who are not aligned with either militants or the existing political class. That, of course, may not happen anytime soon because the masses are part of the same society or the same system. As many as 362 incidents were recorded in the first half of 2009, a rise from 324 incidents in the corresponding period last year. As many as seven security personnel and 51 civilians lost their lives until June 30 this year. Significantly, Manipur accounted for almost half of the total 752 violent incidents and one-third of the 161 civilian casualties recorded in the northeastern region in the first six months of 2009. The Manipuris must rise in revolt against the prevailing system, throw out corrupt politicians, make life miserable for the uncaring and corrupt bureaucrats, and defy the militants. After all, the militants and the symbols of the state have lost their credibility in the state. THE SENTINEL

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