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SACW (03 July 01)

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire 03 July 2001 http://www.mnet.fr/aiindex ... #1. Sri Lanka: The question of the death penalty #2. Sri Lanka: Emergency, comes for the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2001
      South Asia Citizens Wire
      03 July 2001


      #1. Sri Lanka: The question of the death penalty
      #2. Sri Lanka: Emergency, comes for the continuance of war
      #3. ANICC for an International Crimes Tribunal for Situation in Afghanistan
      #4. Pakistan & India as Buddies: A letter by Isa Daudpota
      #5. An Open Letter to General Musharraf & Prime Minister A[tom] B[omb] Vajpayee
      #6. India: Rashtria Secular Manch [ A National Secular Platform ]
      #7. India: Manipulative Ethno-Politics - Why Manipur is burning?



      The Island (Colombo)
      Tuesday 26 June 2001


      Statement issued by the Joint Standing Committee of the Diocese of Colombo
      and Kurunegala of the Church of Ceylon.

      We are deeply concerned with the Government's intention to reactivate the
      death penalty through judicial hangings.
      As representatives of the Christian Church we believe that all persons are
      made in God's image and that all life is sacred. The Creator God bestows and
      terminates life. Premeditated killing, whether homicidal or judicial is an
      infringement on the purposes of God.
      Christ did not condone social sin. "Go and sin no more" (S. Johns Gospel
      8.11) was His stance on sin that dehumanized the lives of others. Murder is
      wrong. It destroys life and community and cannot be viewed lightly. It is
      often committed due to hatred, anger and revenge. Some offenders require
      psychological help: at time the immediate offender is a paid accomplice while
      the real offender remains hidden. Often murder is a symptom of wider social
      crisis. Consequently, offenders must be prevented from continuing to be a
      threat to society and at the same time reformed. In this way the interest and
      need of both society and offender are dealt with. But the death penalty is
      not the solution to murder. It amounts to calculated murder co-ordinated by
      the State machinery, and is more inhuman than the offence in its prescription
      of date and time. Its irreversible nature does not allow for human error.
      There are other more effective, acceptable and civilized ways of dealing with
      offenders and controlling crime.
      We share the deep concern of several Sri Lankans regarding the recent
      unprecedented escalation of violent crimes in the country. Every day we hear
      of tragedy, horror, death and loss. Among such heinous crimes there is a need
      to highlight the many brutal acts of rape, with the victims sometimes being
      murdered in order to prevent the identification of the perpetrators of these
      acts. Very often the victims are children. We hear of pending investigations
      but rarely hear of convictions. We also hear of the belief that the
      reactivation of death penalty will remedy this situation.
      In this context the 1995 ruling of the South African Constitutional Court in
      which all eleven members unanimously held that the death penalty was
      unconstitutional, is clearly relevant to us as well. It said "The greatest
      deterrence to crime is the likelihood that offenders will be apprehended,
      convicted and punished. It is that which is lacking in our criminal justice
      Arguing that punishment should be commensurate but not identical with the
      crime the South African Court added: "The State does not have to engage in
      cold and calculated killing of murderers in order to express its mortal
      outrage at their conduct". The expression of Sri Lankan moral outrage should
      not blind us to the serious short coming in our investigative system and
      hastily offer the death penalty as the final and only deterrent to murder.
      We therefore submit that:
      a) The soaring cost of living political, business and criminal rivalries, the
      atmosphere of war weapons and deserters trained in the use of arms to kill
      contribute to the increase in violent crimes. There could be other reasons.
      Consequently, we urge that an impartial and competent commission be appointed
      to investigate seriously the causes of this rapid increase in order that
      immediate measures may be adopted to deal with it.
      b) The independence of the Police force must be restored forthwith. In spite
      of the growing lack of public confidence in our Police force, we think the
      majority of our officers are reasonably committed and disciplined to deal
      with this crisis. They must however be given the professional space to do so.
      If more sophisticated training and equipment and international help is
      necessary, these must be provided.
      c) The growing state of violent crime must be met with prompt, efficient, and
      impartial investigation, leading to prosecution and punishment of the
      offenders, through the concerted collaboration of the whole judicial system.
      We agree with CRM Sri Lanka that... the alternative (to the death penalty) is
      a system of... different minimum prison sentences... (including life
      sentence, that would)... satisfy the public (and family) outcry raised when
      persons convicted of particularly grave crimes are released after what
      appears to be an unduly short period".
      Criminals must not appear to get away lightly. For instance rape and murder
      should be punished most severely, and the convicted offenders of such crimes
      must be imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole.
      d) It is only after the above steps have been realised that the final option
      of the death penalty ought even to be considered, preferably through a
      referendum. We have not reached this stage as yet. The reactivation of the
      death penalty in the present climate of growing lawlessness and violence is
      unrealistic and premature.



      Sunday Observer (Colombo, Sri Lanka)
      01 July 2001

      by Chamikara Weerasinghe

      The Government is maintaining emergency regulations as a cover for the
      continuance of the war.
      Ceylon Mercantile, Industrial and General Workers Union (CMU) General
      Secretary Bala Tampoe categorically denounced the use of emergency
      regulations and said that they opposed it at its very inception during J. R.
      Jayawardene's rule.
      "Emergency regulations are slyly used by the state under the banner of
      preventing terrorism to suppress basic human, democratic and labour rights of
      the people, and to drive them into severe economic constraints," CMU General
      Secretary Tampoe pointed out.
      "The Government may declare a ceasefire if they should stop the war of North.
      Could it ever stop the war or acts of terrorism with so called emergency
      measures," he asked.
      "Didn't the LTTE manage to get as close as to kill the President of the
      country , didn't they detonate bombs near important places like Parliament in
      spite of those emergency regulations?" he asked.
      "If the Government should lift the emergency law much benefits could be
      expected in terms of economy as with the cut down of extra expenditure that
      is going on for security blocks, posts and uniforms of those army personnel
      stationed in them."
      Bala Tampoe noted that the country's exorbitant expenditure on defence is now
      being questioned by many (including the World Bank) as there had been
      instances where Army top brass have allegedly swindled public money in
      various kinds of controversial firearms-dealings.



      Asian Network for the International Criminal Court
      c/o Ain o Salish Kendro (ASK) 26/3 Purana Paltan Line, Dhaka- 1000 Bangladesh
      Tel: 880-2-8315851 Fax: 880-2-8318561 E-mail: anicc@...


      June 29, 2001

      ANICC Appeals for Setting up an International Crimes Tribunal for
      Situation in Afghanistan

      Dhaka, June 30,2001- On June 29th, Asian Network for the
      International Criminal Court (ANICC), called for setting up an
      international crimes tribunal for the massive violation of human
      rights and humanitarian norms in the Taliban controlled Afghanistan.
      In a letter to the President of the UN Security Council, ANICC urged
      to initiate immediate procedures to authorize setting up of an
      International Tribunal to try the members of Taliban regime of
      Afghanistan for continued commission of international crimes and
      gross violations of human rights norms.

      The international community has only recently noticed Taliban
      regime's brutality. In a statement in April 2001 following massacre
      of 300 Hazara ethnic minority communities at Yakawlang, ANICC
      restated its demand for justice for the victims of Taliban regime and
      urged UN to set up an International Tribunal. The massacre and other
      violations were also condemned by the UN High Commissioner for Human

      Taliban’s persistent violations of international humanitarian laws
      are now well documented and overwhelming. The UN Special Rapporteur
      on Afghanistan in his report to UN Human Rights Commission catalogued
      crimes committed by the Taliban regime.

      In addition, UN Secretary General Mr. Kofi Annan has repeatedly
      expressed his concern at grave human rights situations in
      Afghanistan. In a statement issued on 15 June 2001, the Secretary
      General was “disturbed at alarming reports from Afghanistan of
      indiscriminate bombing…attacks on the District Hospital and local aid
      agency facilities, and violence against civilians, during the
      takeover of Yakawlang by Taliban forces on 11 June.” He urged “the
      international community and human rights organizations to explore new
      approaches that would prevent further abuses and put an end to the
      climate of impunity.”

      ANICC congratulated the Secretary General for his unambiguous
      statement on Afghanistan. ANICC also recalled that the primary
      responsibility of the Security Council is to ensure international
      peace and security, and appealed the UNSC’s President of the present
      body to take all measures necessary to stop crimes against humanity
      committed daily in Afghanistan and to immediately set up an
      International Tribunal punish the leaders and perpetrators of these

      ANICC also recalled the position taken by the Afghan government at
      the Rome Conference of the Plenipotentiaries where the historic
      treaty for the establishment of the International Criminal Court was
      adopted. Afghanistan voted in favor of the Statute, arguing that, "If
      such a court existed 20 years ago, Afghanistan would not have been
      victim of so many aggressions. Thus, its establishment was most

      The International Criminal Court will be formally established
      following the 60th ratification of the Rome Statute. To date, 29
      states have ratified the Statute, and entry into force is expected
      within two years. The Court will be the first international judicial
      institution able to try individuals for genocide, crimes against
      humanity and war crimes.

      The letter was subsequently forwarded to all the UN Security Council members.



      From: "Isa Daudpota"
      Subject: Pakistan & India as Buddies. Letter by Isa Daudpota
      Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2001 18:50:42 +0500
      Organization: IBADAT

      [This letter was sent to several Pakistani and Indian papers to mark the
      historical meeting in Delhi between Musharraf and Vajpai.]


      Q. Isa Daudpota

      Leaders of South Asia may delay the reconciliation and friendship among
      their people, but it will come! If the great people of this region are to
      survive honorably, it will come. All the more reason to speed up the
      rapprochement and for the Indo-Pak leaders to become real heroes in the

      To loosen up for the mid-July Musharraf-Vajpai meeting, try dreaming a bit.
      Imagine a joint South Asian cricket team, just as they have in the West
      Indies! This seems outlandish, but the great Caribbean cricketers do it.
      Think of a common market for this region. [Europeans fought for 500 years
      but now have a Union. Let's get over our's in 50.] Think of students from
      Pakistan going South, rather
      than North, to study information technology and many areas of science and
      technology. We could have the incomparable Lata Mangeshkar in Pakistan and
      the Indians can get Abida Parveen to sing down there whenever they wish.
      Our agriculturists could learn from each other's mistakes and be able to put
      a strong joint front against the Neem and Banaspati patent robbers who wish
      to deprive us of our traditional resources. Now try some peaceful dreaming
      by yourself...

      Yes, the big stumbling block is Kashmir - both the Pakistani and Indian
      parts. For a while, in the heat of July, let's think of Kashmiris as just
      humans wishing to lead peaceful lives. Forget that they are Hindus, Sikhs,
      or Muslims. Let them be free to live as they wish, and don't covet them and
      their land. If division is necessary let that happen too. Do that soon -
      in July. Don't spend years around roundtables getting fat on conference

      Isa Daudpota, I.B.A.D.A.T., 24 W. Jinnah Ave, Islamabad, Pakistan.



      Dear Friends,
      Please find below a letter written by PPAD to General Musharraf and
      Prime Minister Vaypayee. We are sending it as proper printed letters
      duly signed by me to them, too. PPAD depends on the active support
      of all its supporters to help us get this letter published and/or
      reported in Pakistani and Indian newspapers as well as international
      Warm regards,
      Ishtiaq Ahmed
      Coordinator, PPAD


      2 July 2001
      General Pervez Musharraf
      President and Chief Executive of Pakistan
      Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
      Prime Minister of India.

      Dear Sirs,

      Pakistanis for Peace and Alternative Development (PPAD) is a
      world-wide network of Pakistanis, dedicated to working in the
      interest of peace, social justice and enlightened humanism in
      Pakistan, South Asia, and around the world.

      The whole world in general and the people of Pakistan and India in
      particular are anxiously looking up to you for leadership and
      statesmanship. They expect you to take some bold and farsighted
      initiatives to spare South Asia the scourge of a potential nuclear
      war, grinding, abject poverty and mounting frenzy of religious and
      nationalist extremism. This you can achieve only by interacting with
      each other in a spirit of reconciliation, accommodation and sincerity
      when you meet on 14-16 July in India to discuss those outstanding
      disputes and conflicts that have plagued relations between the two
      countries since they attained independence in mid-August 1947.

      Indeed it would be tragic if this opportunity were wasted through the
      usual employment of diplomatic manoeuvres, zero-sum tactics and other
      shows of vanity and power. The people of Pakistan and India have had
      enough of such antics and now expect you to act resolutely but

      The Kashmir dispute will undoubtedly be one of the central topics for
      discussion and negotiation. It is imperative that it is not treated
      as one about ownership of territory alone. We urge you to consider
      all options rationally and in a spirit of accommodation. It is our
      firm conviction that no solution can be found through resort to
      cross-border terrorism, limited war along the Line of Control or
      something as foolish and destructive as an all-out-war between the
      armed forces of the two states.

      Most other regions of the world have decided to bury old nationalist
      dreams in favour of greater prosperity through trade, cooperative
      ventures and free exchange of cultural and educational experiences.
      Borders drenched in blood only a few decades earlier are now positive
      symbols of national identity. The most apt example is present-day
      West Europe.

      The legacy of our elders the various sufis, gurus, sants and sages
      is indeed rich in humanist attitudes, ideas and ideals. There is of
      course the tradition of hatred, bigotry and cruelty deeply rooted in
      our past, too. We have to make a choice for now and for tomorrow and
      thereafter. Shall our present and future generations hold the olive
      branch or the gun when they interact with one another? Nobody can
      give a more reliable answer to this question than you and your
      Yours truly,
      1. Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed (Associate Professor)
      Coordinator, PPAD
      Department of Political Science
      Stockholm University
      S-106 91 Stockholm, SWEDEN
      Email: Ishtiaq.Ahmed@...

      Members of the PPAD Committee (in alphabetical order)

      2. Prof. Susan Mussarat Akram (Law), USA

      3. Dr. Ghazala Anwar (Islamic Theology), New Zealand

      4. Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry, SJ, SBt.
      Pakistan Air Force (Retd)
      Principal, St. Anthony's High School,
      Lahore, Pakistan.

      5. Nazeer Chaudhry (Business and Human Rights)

      6. Dr Maqsood Choudary (Political Science), USA

      7. Prof. Hassan Gardezi
      Professor Emeritus (Sociology)
      Sault Ate Marie
      Ontario. Canada.

      8. Faisal A. Gilani (Sustainable Development), Pakistan

      9. Prof. Dr. Bilal Hashmi, Ph.D.
      Professor Emeritus (Sociology)
      Eastern Washington University
      Cheney, WA. 99004 (USA.

      10. Owais Hasin (Architect) Karachi, Pakistan

      11. Dr. Inayatullah (Human Rights)
      Islamabad, Pakistan.

      12. Ayyub Malik (Architect), UK

      13. Dr Babar Mumtaz (Reader), UK)

      14. Dr A. H. Nayyar (Physics), Pakistan.

      15. Aamir Riaz (Athor and Publisher), Lahore, Pakistan.

      16. Dr. Ahmed Shibli (Science and Technology), UK



      Mon, 02 Jul 2001 17:41:01 +0200
      Recieved from: Ram Punyani (Bombay, India)



      The communalization of the society and rise of communal politics by the
      forces espousing the cause of Religion based Nationalism, has posed
      serious threat to democratic and secular values of the society. During
      last two decades in particular we have witnessed anti-Sikh pogroms, Anti
      Muslim violence, demolition of Babri Masjid, and low intensity sustained
      anti-Christian violence. The state apparatus has been heavily communalized
      over the period of last many decades. This has occurred at various levels.
      The most serious of these has been the systematic attempt by trained
      volunteers of communal groups infiltrating different wings of the state.
      The communalized social consciousness has also affected the other state
      functionaries in various ways. This has been manifested not only at the
      times of communal violence when the communal attitude of state apparatus
      and more particularly police force is very obvious, even at other times
      the state has shown its biases in recruitment policies and has resorted to
      other discriminatory polices against the minorities and other weaker
      sections of society.

      Concerned social groupings and individuals have risen to this new threat
      to the democratic values. Their efforts have resulted in formation of
      various initiatives-groups, campaigns, publications, and different types
      of meaningful activities. These efforts are scattered, non-coordinated and
      mostly effective at local level. The need is felt to create a platform,
      which can assist the local activities and also provide a National
      direction to these efforts, which aim to protect and promote the
      Democratic-Secular values and principles.

      Agenda of Communal Politics:

      The period during which communal politics has gone to an intense level is
      precisely the time when the adverse effects of Globalization on the poor
      and struggling sections are becoming more and more apparent. The adverse
      terms of treaty through WTO, GATT is playing havoc with the lives of
      Indian struggling masses. This is best exemplified by the case of Enron.

      In post-independence era communal riots began on a big scale around 1962
      and went on increasing in frequency and intensity. These riots were
      outcome of various complex socio-economic factors and went along with the
      simultaneous strengthening of communalization of society. Communal
      ideology became a part of 'social common sense'.

      By late 80's the common man began to accept the myths, that Muslims were
      responsible for partition, that Pakistan is meant for Muslims, its their
      logical home and they have no right to live in India. Muslims are out to
      increase their population by multiple marriages and in due course will
      become the majority (Hindu) community. Muslims' opposition to uniform
      civil code is coming in the way of 'national integration', Indian culture
      is Hindu culture, if at all Muslims are permitted to live in India they
      'have' to adopt Hindu culture and so on and so forth. Lately these myths
      have been joined by series of myths against the other minority community,
      i.e. Christians. Suddenly one has started hearing that Christians start
      school and Hospitals mainly to convert the people by force and inducement,
      that these conversions are anti-national acts, that lot of money is being
      brought to India for the Evangelization project from 'Christian' Nations.

      The role of Muslim communalists, was visibly seen during the Shah Bano
      judgment time when they roused the communal passions to get this judgment
      reversed. There are enough left over of Muslim communal politics, which
      have tried to keep the large sections of Muslim community in their grip.
      But all the same their role in the communal conflicts and communalization
      of society has been secondary to the majoritarian commualism.

      Needless to say communal outfits are bereft of programs, which would
      benefit a majority of people and have all along tried to make a majority
      on communal lines. Communalism has been used to obfuscate real issues
      e.g.. Dunkel draft could not even be discussed by the Parliament because
      of Ram Janma Bhoomi. Also Communalism gives rise to revivalist tendencies
      and spells doom for women struggling against patriarchy and Dalits
      struggling for social justice. Communal riots legitimize retribution and
      create a violent society where democratic aspirations of the people cannot
      be realized.

      To summarize, the freedom struggle and the accompanying secularization
      process of the society meant a death knell for the pre-modern birth based
      hierarchies as it meant the introduction of the principles of Liberty,
      Equality and Fraternity. The declining social classes of Feudal Lords and
      their social accompaniments resorted to the 'Religion based Politics' of
      Hindu Mahasabha, RSS on one side and of Muslim League on the other. Part
      of communalist ideology also got expressed through other political parties
      as well. Post independence, the Religion based Nationalism got deflated
      and industrialization and secularization proceeded at some pace. By the
      decade of 80s again sections of society threatened by the social
      transformation assertively brought this retrograde politics to the fore.
      This politics is for status quo to begin with and then attempts to push
      back the social relations in a backward direction i.e. that of the
      pre-modern birth based hierarchies of caste and gender. This politics is a
      cover for suspension of democratic rights, stifling of Human rights of the
      weaker sections of society and creation of an atmosphere of social
      hysteria, which acts as a camouflage for the march of
      Fascist-Fundamentalist agenda. In our country the main vehicle of this
      communal politics is the one aiming for Hindu Rashtra.

      Aims of Rashtriya Secular Manch

      1. To provide a National platform for the Secular struggles for all
      the groups for whom the issue of Communalism is the primary focus and for
      the other groups-women, worker, Dalit and adivasi, for whom it is a major
      concern in their work.
      2. To provide a secular and democratic expression for the aspirations
      of the sections struggling for their Human and democratic rights.
      3. To monitor the intercommunity relations, to ensure that
      machinations of communal forces in generating hatred and violence amongst
      different communities are stalled.
      4. To positively work in the prevention of situations, which can
      cause communal tension. In the situations of communal tensions, to work
      for inter-community committees, to work for protection of the rights of
      all the sections of society.
      5. To work for the communal amity between different communities by
      demolishing the myths against 'other' communities.
      6. To undertake campaigns for preservation and promotion of Secular
      values in the society.
      7. To initiate cultural programs which express the syncretic and
      plural values of our society.
      8. To initiate workshops, camps and seminars for secular awareness.

      Tasks ahead

      In the immediate future we need to
      a. Have the meeting of non-Hindi speaking activists and groups
      b. State level meetings and conventions on this theme to be held.
      c. To work towards a National Convention of Rashtriya Secular Manch at the
      d. To net work all the groups interested in these issues
      e. To run a newsletter to link these groups. To work towards publications,
      visual materials-films-posters for the spreading popular awareness.
      f. To initiate national campaigns for promotion of Secular values.
      g. To support the Human Rights Campaigns initiated by other
      h. The Manch will
      1. work to seek punishment of the guilty in the communal violence.
      2. support women struggling against patriarchy and Dalits struggling for
      social justice.
      3. work at preventing communal violence.
      4. work to counter communal propaganda.



      The Praful Bidwai Column for the week beginning July 2



      By Praful Bidwai

      Protests against the extension of the ceasefire between the Central
      government and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland
      (Isaac-Muivah) have drawn blood in Manipur. The sentiment behind the
      protests must not be underestimated, compounded as it has been by
      draconian "disciplinary" measures, including unbearably long curfews.
      It won't do, as Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee did, to call the sentiment a
      "misunderstanding." Nothing will be gained by declaring that the
      Manipuris were exercised over "trivial" issues, that the ceasefire's
      extension has no implications for the borders of the Northeastern
      states, or that "frustrated politicians" largely caused the trouble.

      Politicians have doubtless fished in Manipur's troubled waters. The
      Samata Party in particular has been trying to punish the BJP for
      pulling down its government. However, it would be disastrously wrong
      to believe that crafty politicians, many linked to the underground,
      were primarily responsible for the violence. Rather, they became its
      targets. The crisis in Manipur is a crisis of popular confidence in
      the government of India. It is a protest against what large numbers
      of Manipuris perceive as a threat to the identity of their state from
      the Centre's "devious" agreement with the Nagas at the expense of
      Manipur, Arunachal and Assam. My telephone conversations with
      political analysts, human rights activists, journalists and ordinary
      citizens in Imphal suggest that the crisis is far from superficial.
      It won't end with the lifting of President's Rule. It is rooted in
      growing fears about Manipur's integrity.

      The ceasefire extension, as most Manipuris see it, is a prelude to a
      larger settlement of the Naga question through the creation of an
      extended "homeland," occupying seven times the area of today's
      Nagaland. Underlying this fear is Manipur's long history of
      alienation from the "Indian mainstream" and disaffection from the
      Centre for its policy of benign neglect and worse. The Manipur crisis
      is likely to be with us for some time.

      The Central government could not have handled the crisis--or the
      ceasefire extension--more ineptly. Its "secret" accord with the NSCN
      (IM) raised many misgivings. It had enough past warnings--right from
      the time the truce first came into effect in 1997. The disclosure
      that it would be effective beyond the boundaries of Nagaland created
      serious tensions between the Meiteis--the majority ethnic group in
      the Imphal Valley--, and the Nagas, who live mainly in the four hill

      However, the Home Ministry ignored the signs of trouble and signed
      the extension agreement without adequate consultation in the region,
      including with Manipur Governor Marwah. Earlier, it had replaced Mr
      Swaraj Kaushal as its pricipal mediator/negotiator with Mr K.
      Padmanabhaiah, scarcely known for a political background or approach,
      leave alone acumen. It also played games with the NSCN's rival

      The Northeast, especially Manipur, seethes with distrust in the
      government of India. The distrust stems from the Centre's duplicity.
      On the one hand, it signed and extended the 1997 ceasefire with the
      NSCN (IM) with the explicit understanding that it would cover all
      Naga-inhabited areas. This caused a furore. Manipur's legislature
      passed four resolutions defending the integrity and immutability of
      its borders. An all-party meeting endorsed this. On the other hand,
      however, the Centre flatly denied the agreement's existence. Not just
      Mr Advani, but even Mr Vajpayee during his 1999 election campaign and
      his subsequent meetings with all-party delegations assured the
      Manipuris that the accord's scope was confined to Nagaland; their
      territory won't be affected.

      In September last year, and again this past January, the Prime
      Minister convened meetings of Northeastern chief ministers--precisely
      because they were not convinced by his assurances. After the January
      meeting, Manipur Chief Minister Koijam publicly stated that he
      opposes the extension. However, he announced a unilateral month-long
      ceasefire in March with all the Naga groups active in Manipur.
      Strangely, Mr Advani admonished him for doing this--apparently out of
      factional-political pique. By April, the "unilateral ceasefire"
      collapsed. Soon, the BJP pulled down Mr Koijam's government.

      For the Manipuris, the June 14 ceasefire extension "without
      territorial limits" was a total betrayal of repeated promises. Had
      the Centre adopted a less devious and factional approach, and taken
      Manipur's leaders into confidence, the present crisis might have been
      averted. Even more unforgivably, the Centre also ignored two
      ground-level factors: growing public debate over the nature of
      Manipur's identity and its relationship with India; and
      administrative decay and the hollowing out of the state.

      "The past four or five years have witnessed a vigorous public
      debate," says Aramban Loken, writer and dramatist, and one of
      Manipur's best-regarded intellectuals. "Identity formation and the
      issue of ethno-politics have dominated this debate," he says.
      Manipuris are asking: What are the Naga accord's implications for
      Manipur's integrity? They fear that the ceasefire will allow the NSCN
      to establish armed camps and engage in guerrilla activity at will (as
      it did against the Kukis in the early nineties). In the long run, a
      settlement encompassing a much larger area than today's Nagaland is
      bound to alter Northeastern borders.

      Many Manipuris, especially Meiteis, hold that Manipur has a 2,000
      year-long history as a geographical and cultural identity. It was the
      last "Indian" territory to be annexed by the British--in 1891. It was
      left under-administered and in relative isolation. Manipur did not
      accede to India in August 1947, but only in 1949. "This was done
      formally by mutual agreement, in reality under coercion," says Babloo
      Loitongbaon of Human Rights Alert, Imphal. "At any rate, the
      accession involved respecting Manipur's boundaries. Yet, these were
      altered in 1952 through the Nehru-U Nu accord, ceding territory to
      Burma. And now, there is a danger that Article 3 of the Constitution
      of India will be used to take away more territory from Manipur."

      Article 3 requires only a simple majority in Parliament to change
      state boundaries. This threat has especially agitated the Meiteis,
      who link Manipur's integrity to its territory. Remarkably, one of the
      main slogans in the last elections was "Save the Integrity of
      Manipur". Meitei fears of identity loss have been seized upon by
      separatist groups like the United National Liberation Front, People's
      Liberation Army and PREPAK (People's Revolutionary Party of
      Kangleipak). A section of the All-Manipur Students' Union too has,
      according to a judicial inquiry, close links with the UNLF. Some
      students almost hoisted the Old (pre-merger) Manipur flag during the
      June 18 protests. The questioning of Manipur's merger finds an echo
      in the broader public, which accuses the Centre of scant regard for
      legality or political propriety: if the government of India does not
      respect even an "international" agreement (for Manipur's accession),
      will it behave honourably on the Naga accord and its territorial
      implications? Why should the Manipuris respect a Constitution under
      which their borders can be redrawn without a statutory amendment?

      Underlying this sentiment is widespread alienation from the
      "hegemonistic" aspects of Indian rule. In this, Manipur is no
      different from the rest of the Northeast, which too suffers from lack
      of development, itself coupled to venal or mean Central policies. In
      its attitude to the Northeast, as this Column has often argued,
      ruling-class India too is no different from the Global North in
      relation to the South. The Northeast makes news only when there is
      large-scale bloodshed.

      Compounding this alienation is monumental corruption and
      administrative collapse in Manipur. Says a November 2000 report by a
      Home Ministry joint secretary: "The writ of the underground seems to
      be more effective than that of the administration. [This] ... has
      taken place with the active connivance of the political leadership."
      Only 18 out of the state's 57 police stations are functional. Of
      Manipur's 368 personnel in the special (intelligence) branch, only 11
      gather intelligence. The rest are assigned bodyguard or "security"
      duty. Recently, the state's DGP--related to an NDA Central
      minister--functioned on anticipatory bail!

      The Manipur cauldron could be stirred by any number of chauvinistic
      forces: there are 30 different ethnic groups in this incredibly
      diverse and culturally rich state. Manipur could as easily descend
      into ethnic strife and political turmoil as it has ascended to
      spectacular achievements in the theatre, dance and Thangtha martial
      arts. The NDA government can only aggravate the crisis by playing
      ducks and drakes and privileging one kind of ethno-politics, that of
      Naga nationalism. It apparently takes the over-simple view that the
      Naga insurgency, India's oldest and most powerful, is the mother of
      all separatism in the Northeast; it has aided, armed and
      ideologically trained other groups; the Naga question must be settled
      even if that claims a high cost in the form of other ethnic groups'
      alienation. (And there are over 200 distinct communities in the seven
      Northeastern states.)

      This cost is proving unaffordable. It need not be. A rapprochement
      with different groups need not be a zero-sum game. But dealing with
      this complex issue needs a serious perspective, sense of purpose,
      wisdom, and above all, honesty. The present government lacks all
      these. The more it resorts to dishonest ethno-political manipulation,
      the more it plays with fire-at public cost.--end--


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