Not a good policy

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by Heigrujam Nabashyam

The 16th Asian Games have opened in the southern Chinese city of Guanzhou in a unique and awesome style reflecting the creativity of the Chinese. It is for the first time in the history of any multidisciplinary event that a breathtaking opening ceremony – so beautifully described by the reporters – is taken out from the main stadium to a riverfront in which water is the overwhelming theme. It tells one, of a world where water would be the main issue like oil is today – maybe or maybe not, sometime in the future.

On the same day – the 12 November, 2010 – a few hours earlier though, another landmark event in the history of Manipur was unfolded. The three Khwairamband Ima Keithel was opened with much fanfare hogging the limelight of the breathtaking opening of the Guangzhou Games – the local media was witness to it – because the Ima Keithel was opened by the UPA Chairperson despite a boycott call from almost all the major civil society organization led by UCM and AMUCO.

The protest was against the indifferent attitude of the UPA goverment regarding the reported arrest of R.K. Meghen alias Sanayaima, the Chairman of UNLF. He was reported to have been arrested from the Bangladesh Capital Dhaka on September 29, 2010. It was reported first by the BBC adding RK Meghen had eventually been taken to India in an Indian aeroplane.

The report of the arrest of the Chairman was confirmed by the Vice-Chairman of the UNLF itself. The Vice Chairman also asserted that the Chairman had been arrested by a combine team of RAW of India and the Bangladesh Police. He also gave details of the arrest, which had appeared in the Imphal media.

However, the whereabouts of the Chairman is not known since then. The organizations who called for the boycott demanded that the Government of India should come out with the information of the whereabouts of the Chairman and allow the law to take its own course. This is a legitimate demand.

Talking to the media on the eve of Sonia Gandhi’s visit, the Chief Minister of Manipur in his inimitable style, clarified for himself, that he had spoken personally to the Home Minister, P. Chidambaram in regard to the reported arrest of R.K. Meghen and his whereabout. However, the home minister told him that “there is no official confirmation regarding the arrest of R.K. Meghen from the authority of any country whether Myanmar or Bangladesh.” And one wonders, if the Home Minister should send his secretary to Dhaka to confirm it and the Chief Minister would give the commentary !

Now, the way the Government of India and Government of Manipur have been conducting themselves is close to a farce. The BBC came out with the news more than a month ago. And a few days after the BBC’s report, the Home Secretary to the Government of India came to Imphal and made the statement, “the process should have been started by now (to confirm the arrest of the Chairman, by the government)”; but till now, no news !

What is intriguing is after more than a month of the reported arrest the government cannot confirm either a yes or a no, from the government of one of its most friendly neighbors. This is not a good policy. The fact is, the government cannot fool everyone that it takes a month to confirm such an information from one of its most friendly countries.

Now that, the Gauhati High Court have issued direction to the Government of India and Government of Manipur to come clean regarding the reported arrest of R.K. Meghen taking note of the “strong allegations” in the petition filed by the wife of R. K. Meghen against the two governments. It is a different thing whether the two governments come clean to the court with the information of the whereabouts of the Chairman available with them. But the two governments have cut sorry figures for themselves by not taking the matter with due consideration, which the two are legally obliged to.

Apart from the harrowing experience the immediate family of R.K. Meghen could have been going through, some very disturbing questions have thrown up. Has the Indian democratic institution been so degenerated to be seen as a rogue state like that of the Saddam’s Iraq ? How can the democratic state make a person – be he a militant, or a law abiding citizen or a murderer – vanish without a trace? Such incident would legitimately question the credibility of the institutions of the largest democracy in the world.

However as regards Manipur such game – the vanishing game – is no foreign to it courtesy AFSFA, the most loved Act of the army – the epitome of honour and integrity. There are a couple of cases where the army picks up a person and make him disappear into the thin air without trace; and the victim’s family cannot do anything against the might of the state as in the case of the Sanamacha. Such inhumanity makes Irom Chanu Sharmila with her indomitable spirit, take to fasting for the last ten years, inside her well protected cell, asking the government to repeal AFSPA.

The issue reminds me of a hyper-active Commanding Officer, seated at Kangla of the Assam Rifles who slept “only 2 hours a day”; telling us during a short chat that he did not agree with tactics of the American President and that if he would have been in his place, he would have kept quiet for sometime and “get him (Bin Laden) when they do not suspect”. He was talking of the American President’s warning the then Taliban Government of Afghanistan to hand over Bin Laden or face the consequences. The CO, in the height of his high performance – dealing militants – could not understand that the American President represents America, a democratic country and it cannot afford to look stealthy. The Government of India cannot afford to appear masquerading either, or can it ? The Manipur Government must stop complaining and start acting responsibly, or else another round of public unrest – it, though, may not matter much to the Ibobi Singh government – is awaited.

Writer is ex-candidate, Singjamei Assembly Constituency, Manipur.

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