Rights bodies lay blame for crisis at Delhi's door
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, May 24 2010: Blaming the Government of India for the present crisis in Manipur, Human Rights Alert (HRA) and the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) have categorically stated that it is the result of brokering with factional interests.

In a joint statement, HRA and AHRC observed that even three weeks after the Home Secretary Mr GK Pillai's discussion with the Chief Minister of Manipur, Mr Okram Ibobi Singh, the State and its people continue to suffer from the unilateral economic blockade imposed by the Naga nationalist and political organisations including Naga student political groups.

After the meeting held in the first week of this month with the Chief Minister, Pillai said, "under no circumstances shall Manipur be allowed to suffer any longer and there will be help from the Central Government to break the deadlock".

But 44 days into the blockade, essential commodities in Manipur are priced at such high levels that most people living in the State cannot afford to buy their regular household provisions from the market, that too if the merchandise happen to be available for sale.

Saying that there is nothing new about this blockade since in the past the Naga political groups operating inside and outside Manipur have enforced similar economic blockades against Manipur, the joint statement pointed out that the ongoing blockade that started on April 11 was initially organised by Naga student bodies and some Naga nationalist civil society organisations in protest against the decision of the Manipur State Government to hold elections to the Manipur Hill Areas Autonomous District Councils (ADC) .

However, sensing the political opportunity, Naga separatist leader, Thuingaleng Muivah, in the first week of May publicly announced that he wanted to visit his home village in Manipur, which the Manipur State Govt denied permission citing the volatile situation.

Within hours of the Manipur Government's decision to prohibit Muivah from entering the State, the NSCN-IM joined the blockade.

The blockade has helped Muivah to enhance his political profile.

Muivah's wish to visit his home village Somdal in Manipur is a mere exploitation of the Naga sentiments against Manipur for declaring elections to the ADCs.

Ibobi counteracted on similar fault lines of political shrewdness by prohibiting Muivah from entering Manipur.

The resultant impasse has helped Ibobi and Muivah to emerge as the leaders of Meitei and Naga nationalism.

By stirring up the issue, both Ibobi and Muivah have only contributed to deepening the divide between the two ethnic communities, the Meities and Nagas.

The Government of India has the singular responsibility of allowing the issue to escalate to this proportion.

The current situation is the predictable result of the Government of India's flawed policies of brokering with criminal elements operating in the region, like Muivah and Ibobi.

The deepening divide and the fragility of peace between the ethnic communities is also the result of unilateral negotiations that were brokered in the past by the Government of India, ignoring the collective tribal and ethnic identities of the people living in the region.

The Government of India has literally walked into a trap set by Ibobi and Muivah.

At the very minimum the Government cannot ask Muivah to restrict his movement within India, the least to prevent him from visiting his home village since over the past decade Muivah has been encouraged by the Government to accept the Constitutional premise in the country with all its guarantees including the freedom of movement.

Any attempt to restrict Muivah could probably result in a unilateral withdrawal from the peace accord by the Nagas, a costly affair for the Government and Nagas alike.

Ibobi on his count has added fire to the issue by allowing his police to kill Naga protesters in Mao town two weeks ago .

The economic blockade of Manipur and the plight of its ordinary people is the ultimate example of the failure of the Government of India and that of the State governments in Manipur and Nagaland to counter armed insurgency in the region.

The blockade is sheer exploitation of the many political power loopholes that exist in the region.

It epitomises the continuing failure in the Governments' flawed policies of using sheer force than democratic means to curb violence and secessionist ideologies rooted in complex and ethnic identity issues.

It is for a responsible Government to publically address the people living in the region, in Nagaland and Manipur in particular, calling for an end to the crisis.

For this, the Government will have to regain the lost confidence of the ordinary people, the joint statement said.

The Government must hold open and engaging discussions with the political and other democratic groups including the members of credible human rights organisations working in the region to resolve the crisis.

The Government forces stationed in the region will have to be tightly disciplined and the people must be given the guarantee that abuses of rights committed by state as well as non-state actors will face prosecution in civilian institutions.

The Government of India has not yet devoted enough intellectual and financial resources to find a peaceful solution to the crisis and to avoid the impending human catastrophe in Manipur.

The Government of India has the responsibility and the mandate to immediately intervene in the situation, the joint statement added.