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Parag Bisht asked: What is the solution to the insurgency problem in Manipur? Should AFSPA be repealed?

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  • Vivek Chadha replies: It is very difficult to suggest a solution to a problem as complex as prevailing in Manipur. The state is captive to a number of unfortunate and complex competing realities which probably makes it the most difficult insurgency to resolve. Manipur has a diverse ethnic population with Meitis controlling the Valley, Nagas on the surrounding hills and Kukis interspersed in between. There are a number of other smaller tribal groups as well. First, there are competing interests between the Nagas and Meitis. The demand for Nagalim or Greater Nagaland includes the Naga inhabited areas of Manipur. In fact, Muivah, the leader of the most powerful Naga insurgent group NSCN (IM), belongs to Manipur. On the other hand, the Meitis want to preserve what has been a single geographic entity for centuries. They have also traditionally controlled both the political and economic power in the region. However, this is getting threatened as a result of different ethnic loyalties and affiliations. Similarly Kukis also seek their rights in the fragmented society. Even amongst the Meitis there are different groups supporting insurgent groups which further their interests. The insurgent groups are also affiliated with political parties which makes it a marriage of convenience between the gun and political power as well as funding. Thus there are vested interests in keeping the insurgency going. Insurgency is also increasingly seen as a profitable business and insurgencies have in reality morphed into criminal activity.

    A solution to the problem lies in the people of the state rejecting this fragmented political setup and collectively deciding to fight for a better life than being given by their leaders. While the blame generally tends to be placed on the Central Government for all ills of the state, in reality the mismanagement and corruption within is eating away the local system. Second, people will have to rise above their petty local politics and think of their state and country to gain from the progress being made. After all industry and tourism can only flourish through peace. Third, given the excellent education levels, more people should join the national mainstream through central jobs, employment in the private sector and bring a fresh perspective to the area.

    AFSPA is more a perceptional problem rather than a legal one. If one was to look beyond a few cases of alleged human rights violations, it will be proved that it is not the law which is the reason for excesses. The local police in my experience is more high handed in their dealing than the army. However, given the prevailing perceptions, there is a need to ensure that greater transparency is brought in. There should also be improvement in the law to include the Do's and Dont's sanctioned by the Supreme Court. Some provisions can be relooked to make the law more in touch with prevailing realities.

    It should also be borne in mind that the army can only operate if an area is declared disturbed. The law is redundant in the absence of this notification. And it is up to the government to decide whether an area is disturbed or not. Once that is done, the army has no choice but to come to the aid of civil authorities.

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