The Manipur Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has suggested the state government for constituting a peace and reconciliation commission in order to address insurgencies issue and ensure lasting peace in the state.
The MHRC has asked chief secretary, DGP and special secretary (Home), government of Manipur to furnish, update and inform the commission about the initiative taken up by the state government on or before August 8 in connection with the issue of political talks or political settlement of insurgencies in the state.
MHRC Acting Chairperson Khaidem Mani, speaking to the media on Wednesday, said that the commission will take up a suo-moto case regarding the disturb area status in the state and to repeal AFSPA from the state.
Under section 12 (e) of the protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, the commission has compiled the initiatives and effort undertaken by the state government in order to address the issues of insurgencies involving human rights.
The commission, under section 12 (h), organised seminars and workshops under the theme ‘Prospect of peace and withdrawal of AFSPA’ on February 19 and noted suggestions given by participants. The commission also undertakes research in the field of human rights which is compiled according to the finding for submission to the commission, said Khaidem Mani.
Many states define terrorism in their national law and in India, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 defines terrorism, Khaidem said and added that eight armed organisations of Manipur stand declared ‘unlawful association’ and they have been listed as terrorist organisations under the schedule of the act.
He also informed that Manipur became a part of India through ‘Manipur Merger Agreement, 1949’ and was made a union territory in 1956 and a full-fledged state in 1972 and that AFSPA was, for the first time, enacted by Parliament of India in Assam and Manipur in order to bestow upon the armed forces ‘special power and legal framework’ to function in the ‘disturb area’ of Assam and Union Territory of Manipur.
The Act was extended and applied to north-eastern states following its amendment in 1972 by deleting the words ‘Assam and Manipur’, he recalled.
The acting chairperson of MHRC also stated that the whole of Manipur is afflicted by insurgency movement and the insurgents of the valley attribute all the present-day ills of Manipur to the merger agreement, which they alleged being contrary to the state constitution act, is illegal. Genesis of insurgency in Manipur valley is embedded in the history of Manipur, said Khaidem Mani.
Khaidem also informed that the army and paramilitary forces were inducted into Manipur valley in early 1980s and the valley was declared a disturbed area on September 8, 1980, under the AFSPA, 1958 to contain activities of Meitei insurgent groups. Anti-insurgency operations and development activities being undertaken to address the grievances leading to insurgency have not yielded desired results, he said.
On February 26, 2001, the general officer commanding, 57th Mountain Division, announced that the army and the Assam Rifles would cease all counter-insurgency operations against the underground groups of Manipur during the period from March 1 to 15 of 2001 and appealed to the ‘misguided youths’ to enjoy Yaoshang with their kith and kin without any fear.
Following the announcement of GOC, Manipur state cabinet, under the leadership of chief minister Radhabinod Koijam made a decision for extending a one-month unilateral ceasefire in view of the urgent need for bringing back peace in the state, he recalled.
On August 12, 2004 following a mass protest over the death of Th Manorama Devi in the custody of Assam Rifles, disturbed area notification in respect of Imphal Municipal Area was withdrawn. The then prime minister Manmohan Singh constituted a committee headed by justice BP Jeevan Reddy to review and examine the operation of AFSPA. The justice BP Jeevan Reddy Committee recommended the repeal of the AFSPA, Khaidem Mani recalled.
It also mentioned that SS Sidhu, the then governor of Manipur, in his Republic Day speech on January 26, 2006, preferred to use the term ‘dissatisfied brethren’ while referring to the armed outfits instead of using ‘misguided youths’, Khaidem further recalled.
Both the Central and state government consistently made open appeals to the insurgent groups of Manipur for a political dialogue. Very recently, defence minister Rajnath Singh called on insurgent outfits of Manipur to shun violence and came for peace talks with the centre.
According to a reply from the state government, more than thirty armed groups are operating in the state of Manipur. Both the state and central government are engaging with UPF and KNO for peaceful settlement of their demands through dialogue. Suspension of operation with the two groups have been effective and extended periodically till date.
Human Rights Committee, while considering the third periodic report of India under the International Covenant on civil and political rights (ICCPR), observed that “the committee endorsed the views of the National 1Humun Rights Commission that the problem in areas affected by terrorism and armed insurgency are essentially political in character and that the approach to resolving such problems must also, essentially, be political and emphasize that terrorism should be fought with means that are compatible with the covenant.”
The Supreme Court of India, in its judgment of July 8, 2016, delivered in Extra Judicial Execution Victims’ Families, Association and another Vs. Union of India and other”, envisioned that, “Manipur has been and is facing a public order situation equivalent to an internal disturbance. The tragedy is that the situation continued since 1958 for almost 60 years. A generation or two has gone by and issues have festered for decades. It is high time that concerted and sincere efforts are continuously made by the four stakeholders- Civil Society in Manipur, the Insurgents, the state of Manipur and the government of India to find a lasting and peaceful solution to the festering problem with a little consideration from all quarters. It is never too late to bring peace and harmony in society.”
Responding to the recommendation of the MHRC, Home Department, Government of Manipur has lifted the “Disturbed Area” status under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 from areas falling under the jurisdiction of 15 Police stations for a period of 6 months with an issue of notice on April 1, 2022.
The Commission is of the opinion that a concerted effort can be effectively made by constituting a “Peace and Reconciliation Commission”. It shall involve all the stakeholders as envisioned by the SC in Extra Judicial Execution Victims’ Families Association, Manipur, in order to address and ensure a lasting peace.
Commission follows with suggestion that to follow principles and mandates that develop best practices and mechanisms, to help ensure sustainable development and peaceful settlement of all disputes, disagreement and conflicts; serve a bridging role through constructive dialogue and bring together all relevant actors and stakeholders for a peaceful settlement of dispute, disagreement and conflict; respect for the rule of law, fundamental human rights and freedom, the sanctity of human rights as defined under Section 2 (d) of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 and anticipate and prevent use of controversial terminology and languages while addressing the parties involved, that may have negative impact or misunderstanding during the peace process.
The MHRC stated that the Peace and Reconciliation Commission shall have a clear mandate to facilitate free and fair involvement of all the stakeholders, including insurgents and women representatives, who have been in the forefront of peace and human rights of citizens of Manipur. It should be empowered in such a way that it may arrive at its own independent mandates and decisions in a transparent and effective manner. Therefore, an essential feature for an effective Committee to function independently is to allocate its due Budget accordingly.