It has been more than two months since the arrest of the chairman of the United National Liberation Front, UNLF, RK Sanayaima alias Meghen. From the Indian authority’s point of view, technically he was arrested near the Indo-Bangladesh border in Bihar within Indian territory on November 2, but according to the arrested man himself, he was taken into custody in Bangladesh near Dhaka on September 29. Probably both statements are technically true. He was arrested in Bangladesh on September 29, officially by the Bangladesh police, although there can be no doubt that the motivation for the arrest would have come from the Indian intelligence. He was then arrested again in Bihar, this time officially by the Indian police. And as we have written earlier in these columns, this probably was a convenient way of getting past a legal hurdle of having kept somebody in custody without declaring the arrest for two months. Officially then, there are no hitches in what was obviously a staged arrest drama. Probably the initial expectation was, there would be a quick truce reached and thereby everything worked to get past the legal problems on mutual consent. This understanding probably was never reached, hence the second phase of the drama of the arrest in Bihar. Probably however there were hopes that a positive outcome was still possible and this could be the reason why there were no dire consequences, such as the familiar story of fake encounter deaths, at the end of the drama. It may be recalled this outcome had seemed like a real possibility when the arrested revolutionary leader remained untraced for two months after his arrest in Bangladesh, first made public by an article on the BBC website on October 3.
The important question is, what now? The law of course would take its own course, but this cannot be all there is to what is essentially an issue with high political stake. Here is a nagging problem the state has been suffering from without knowing where and when an opportunity to resolve it would appear. Here we are now with a development which if handled with sensitivity can indeed be seen as that opportunity knocking at the door. But the unfortunate thing is, nobody seems to be making the necessary move. Nobody apparently is bold enough to step forward and suggest ways of resolving the issue, or at least take a major step toward initiating a process which may ultimately result in such a solution. Under the circumstance, what we continue to hear occasionally are the same close-ended rhetoric which have lost their cutting edges long ago. So we have the government almost as a matter of routine appealing for a return of the rebels to the mainstream to begin a negotiation within the constitutional framework, and on the other hand we also have the insurgents sticking on their earlier demands of total secession from the Indian Union. The issue thus has not moved from square one, and promises of a solution in the near future are still elusive.
The people’s lukewarm response to the development since the arrest of the UNLF chief is an extremely significant writing on the wall for all who matter. It remains to be seen if the message will be read in the spirit it is meant to be, and pick up from it vital clues on which way the issue of conflict resolution should be taken. But in the meantime, what is equally, if not more surprising is the silence of the state government on the matter. At this moment, it seems to be simply content in leaving the entire matter in the hands of the Central government, without even making a move to suggest what ought to be done for the good of all. The Centre would not have the pulse on the ground as accurately as the state government would, and it would be more in the fitness of things for the state government to provide the model for peace building henceforth. It could even suggest if the arrested UNLF chairman should be brought back to the state so as to allow him to have consultative meetings with various sections of the people to evolve a way forward, or else kept away. The state government cannot simply sit on the fence and shirk all the very important responsibilities it is expected to shoulder at this crucial juncture. It cannot simply wait till the Centre makes a move that rubs the people of the state the wrong way, and another inferno explodes. Let it without any further delays, propose its peace model or models after factoring in the current developments, to the Central government. In all likelihood, the Centre would be thirsting for such a proposal.