The dialogue that never changes


    By M C Arun
    There is a constant dialogue between Government of India and Manipuri insurgents over the last forty years. The content of the dialogue is always same. The Government of India (including the one in Manipur) always says that the door for dialogue or negotiations with the insurgent groups is always open. Talks or negotiations over the table has been projected as the only option for sorting out the differences and once the talks start anything can be brought up to the table. The Manipuri insurgents reply without any hesitation and ambiguity that they will not come to any negotiating table unless the subject is on sovereignty of Manipur or something like that. One could see changes are there in the word or phrases used by both the parties without much change in their meaning. The meanings are almost the same. However, we also see insurgent groups or factions coming forward to hold talks under either ceasefire or suspension of operation arrangement. Some insurgent groups have also come under major groupings after due consultations with the Government. Yet, the Government is not really happy with these developments. Tragedy is that major (in terms of history and strength) insurgent groups keep themselves away from such governmental arrangement and they are not ready to sign ceasefire or suspension of operations. Here, a question clicks in the mind: why the peace talks between Naga insurgent groups and Government of India is not able to influence the minds of Manipuri insurgent groups? Why do the leaders of these insurgent groups consider the path of many NE insurgent groups (including the Pro-talk faction of ULFA) as an alternative way towards the conflict resolution? Is it because of their romantic fanaticism of sovereignty? Is it partly because of ineffective government approach to peace in Manipur? Many more questions are there. The hard truth behind these questions is that the government appeal is still rejected by the insurgents and the insurgent wants something more than what the government offers for talk.

    While reading the history of insurgency in Manipur, the real issue is that the people of Manipur has been exposed to a series of violent acts since 1917, the year the Khongjai Lan broke out. The Khongjai Lan is the first ever armed struggle that gave tremendous impact on the historical course of Manipur. After the Lan was suppressed with heavy military action, the State once again witnessed drama of international dimension. Manipur faced the ugly faces of WWII with killings, bombing and large military presence in the State. Just after the war, again, the people experienced a brief period of violent communist uprising in late 1940s till early 1950s. In 1960s sporadic actions of early insurgents and mass mobilization of armed conflict were experienced. Since late 1970s, the organized armed struggle of the insurgent groups becomes the daily routine of a Manipuri till date. The long exposure to violent atmosphere is studied from different angles in different disciplines – the area of study ranges from psychiatric disorders to mass brain drain from the State to other parts of the country. They cited many situations, ranging from the emergence of ‘globalized’ but unmotivated youths to hopelessness of the people.

    On the other hand, a dramatic change in the people’s political movement is observed. The substitution of State level bodies by the temporary bodies like JACs shows that the people are no longer interested in long-term political movements. They are more concerned with specific demands of compensation and immediate penalty to wrong doers, especially in the cases of human rights violations. They no longer look for the higher abstractions of such specific cases as had been seen before two decades. Are these the indicators of the people’s fatigue in long violent political movement in the State? Or is it because of the busy schedule of an average Manipuri life suffered due to his unemployed status, poverty? Have the people lost their hope in the state-level bodies? The mushroom growth of JACs for every event surely indicates “something” which should be studied and analyzed. JAC phenomenon in politics is very interesting not only in its characteristics but also the timing of its origin. When the people cannot realize their demands like the one over the death of Manorama, they started looking for immediate goals with the formation of JACs. JACs are by nature area specific and demand specific.  The local leaders have much say to JACs. Some JACs are very strong, however, as seen in case of Keithel Firing in which a pregnant woman and a former militant was killed. But, politically speaking, these JACs lack the dimension of permanency.

    The people are no longer easily moved by the political slogans, nor do they appeal to sentiments. The structural dimensions of people’s sentiments are different from that of the early 1970s. Today, the sentimental issues associated with the history of Manipur are altogether different from that of the pre-statehood Manipur. It has been so changed that the political meaning of Mayang has changed; it may be due to globalization in which the national boundaries are becoming blurred or frequent interaction with the Mayangs of different parts of the country in their soils. When the national boundaries becomes a blurred object and the over-used phrases cannot attract the minds of the youths of post-1991 India, the Mayang syndrome (as used by R. Constantine) no longer operates in the new minds. Then a question of different perceptions of peace comes up automatically. Does the connotation of peace differ in different groups or class in Manipur?

    The dialogue between the Government of Manipur and insurgent groups still continue with opposing contents. The Government of Manipur needs to change from appeal mode to pro-active role. For any peaceful solution of any conflict within or outside the system, there should be a political atmosphere in which talks over meaning and extent of peace can be held. When the State adopts repressive measures to shut mouths, the people will not be able to talk among themselves even. Let the people speak out, let different views meet each other in a cordial atmosphere, the peace may evolve out of the people’s debate.


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