A cry for survival visavis An appeal for unity
By Radhabinod Koijam
31st October 2018 is a memorable day. This will remain as an epoch making day in the annals of modern Manipur. It was on this day that Manipur rose as one for protection and safety of its integrity - historical, social, cultural, economical, political and shouted at the top of its voice that it should be allowed to live and survive in peace with others without malice against any one. The mass rally organised on 31st October 2018 at Imphal, the capital city of Manipur by the United Committee of Manipur @UCM supported by many other civil society organizations and by almost all the known political parties in the state was an exhibition of a soulful cry of Manipur for survival and a solemn appeal for internal unity and preparedness to face the looming dark challenges together.
The rally took place against the backdrop of a ‘Run for Unity’ in the morning organised at Imphal by the BJP, Manipur Pradesh to commemorate the birth centenary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Iron Man and Architect of United India, and the faint rumblings of the bandh called by the United Naga Council @UNC in the hills.
Turn-out of people from different areas and sections of people - men and women, young and old, religious and non-believers were spontaneous, impressive and huge. Every nook and corner- far and near of the state - responded with alacrity. They marched through the main city of Imphal carrying play cards and banners with their different demands converging on the integrity of the state and shouting slogans that reverberated through the length and breadth of Manipur. The students in their school uniforms came out in large numbers. Womenfolk as usual took the lead with their huge presence and shouted slogans with gusto. This time the men folk seemed determined not to be outdone by women folk in number and alacrity in the service of their beloved motherland. Even many elderly persons with crutches and walking sticks were seen joining the lines of rallyists. Tribals and pangals of both sexes decorated the rally like shinning pearls. The march of the rallyists through the city with their high pitched slogans produced an electric effect on the people nearby inducing high voltage patriotism. Presence of large number of volunteers of Universal Fellowship Organisation @ UFO in their dark black uniform among the rallyists electrified the atmosphere. People felt highly charged.
Two messages of the rally were loud and clear.
The first message sent out by that peaceful and disciplined rally was that Manipur felt cornered and manipulated to the edge against its centuries-old history and proud existence and is desperate for survival. The will and primordial animal instinct for survival of the gathered mass spoke loud to the world that Manipur wants to survive and yearns and seeks for peaceful co-existence with everyone and is not against any community or group of people. But, should it be compelled it is ready to fight to the last man and reminded the world of the June 18, 2001 episode and sacrifices.
The second message was a call to all citizens of the state that there is a likelihood of things being manoeuvred to bring Manipur to the brink of extinction by obliterating its history, culture, civilisation, society, peaceful co-existence of its different communities and groups and it was time for all Manipuris to close ranks and to prepare for any eventuality.
Various speakers, who are leaders of different civil society organisations of different communities of the state as well as the President, United Committee Manipur, Shri Sunil Karam have solemnly and firmly declared to the gathering at Khuman Lampak Hockey Stadium that integrity of Manipur - geographical, historical, social, cultural, economic, political is inviolate and further made strong appeal to everyone to forego differences, if any, at this time of crisis and to stand united to face the looming challenges. No price would be too high for Manipur, they thundered, to pay to oppose division of Manipur in any way.
The overflowing gathering at Khuman Lampak Hockey Stadium adopted unanimously the following three resolutions:
a) The age-old relations, unity and identity – historical, social, cultural, economic, political between different communities and groups in the state should not be disturbed. No arrangement of the government should try to impose application of Article 371A of the Indian Constitution or any similar thing on Manipur and no autonomous regional councils, etc should be created without the consent of the state government and the people;
b) No one should try to disrupt the centuries-old unity and peaceful co-existence between different communities and groups in the state;
c) Should there be any attempt from the Government of India to break up Manipur the people of the state shall take measures to protect and safeguard their motherland and to decide its destiny.
Manipur felt slighted and gravely hurt with the way it was annexed to the Indian Union and the ignominy of the treatments it received thereafter. Major community of the state, Meiteis today feel embittered and embattled by the Naga identity discourse which threatens balkanization of their ancient state.
On the 3rd August 2015 the Government of India signed an agreement with the NSCN (I-M). Signing of the accord was announced by both the parties with fanfare but with different versions. However, surprisingly the contents of the accord were never brought to the public domain creating confusion and suspicion. The accord came now to be known as the Framework Agreement.
Government of India through its interlocutor, Shri R.N. Ravi stated publicly that the territorial integrity of none of the states in the North East would be affected by the accord with the NSCN (IM). NDA Government at the centre went even further to declare that no state would be formed on ethnic line as it would be against the spirit of the Indian Constitution. However, the NSCN (IM) speaks otherwise. The outfit also floated various ideas of ‘shared sovereignty’, ‘supra state’, ‘alternative arrangement for governance’, etcetera as the political status aspired by it in lieu of sovereignty. It is also claiming, among many others, a separate flag for Nagalim and application of passport for entry into it by outsiders.
Interlocutor R.N. Ravi is reported to have submitted his report on the Indo -Naga talk to Government of India. Manipur surely has as serious a stake as any in the Naga conflict, declared Sanjib Baruah, Senior Fellow, Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social and Development, Guwahati, Assam and Professor of Political Studies, Bard College Annandale-on-Hudson, New York and author of ‘Durable Disorder - Understanding the Politics of Northeast India’. He maintained that whatever institutional structures are designed to resolve the Naga conflict will have to coexist alongside Manipur and not at the expense of Manipur.
The dialogue of Government of India with the NSCN (IM), which was opaque, should have been made open, transparent and inclusive. All the stakeholders should have been invited to the dialogue table and a consensus on points of agreement should have been built. To establish a lasting wholesome peace and harmony in the region a holistic approach to the dialogue process should have been adopted. Discussions should be open, free, unbiased and friendly within a broad framework. Efforts should have been to build harmony and peaceful co-existence among stakeholders and not to appease a group or groups against others.
The final settlement arrived at should be broadly consensus. All stakeholders in the region should be afforded sufficient opportunities for intra as well as inter group reconciliations before the final settlement. No settlement should be on ethnic lines.
(Radha Binod Koijam is a senior Advocate & former Chief Minister of Manipur. He is the President, Research & Strategic Development Organization for the North East.)
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