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
THE QUESTION OF THE DEATH PENALTY
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
'EMERGENCY, COMES FOR THE CONTINUANCE OF WAR' - CMU
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.
"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@...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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
Talibans 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
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 UNSCs 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
[This letter was sent to several Pakistani and Indian papers to mark the
historical meeting in Delhi between Musharraf and Vajpai.]
PAKISTAN & INDIA AS BUDDIES
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
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.
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
ON OPEN LETTER TO GENERAL PERVEZ MUSHARRAF AND PRIME MINISTER ATAL
2 July 2001
General Pervez Musharraf
President and Chief Executive of Pakistan
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
Prime Minister of India.
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
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
1. Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed (Associate Professor)
Department of Political Science
S-106 91 Stockholm, SWEDEN
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,
5. Nazeer Chaudhry (Business and Human Rights)
6. Dr Maqsood Choudary (Political Science), USA
7. Prof. Hassan Gardezi
Professor Emeritus (Sociology)
Sault Ate Marie
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)
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)
RASHTRIA SECULAR MANCH
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
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.
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
3. work at preventing communal violence.
4. work to counter communal propaganda.
The Praful Bidwai Column for the week beginning July 2
WHY MANIPUR IS BURNING
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
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
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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