Silence is Gold?

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Silence is Gold?

By: Sanjib Meitei { The writer can be reached at  sanjibmeiteicha(at)rediffmail(dot)com}

I was an expressive boy when I was growing up (I mean, my schooling/college days). More or less
I am still the same. Many times, a little contradictory to my personality, I came across the popular
quote “Silence is Gold” and I quite liked it. Well, I never want to change myself for my love of silence
per se. However, I admired people who were quiet and calm even up to the extent that I got infatuated
to a few girls having this personality. My love affairs with the trait of silence became stronger in the
year 2004 when a lady with few words, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, wrestled down the then powerful NDA
government led by expressive BJP leaders in the Lok Shaba election. The “Bharat Uday” Yatra by
BJP was hit in the streets of India but unfortunately not in ballot boxes. The then loud BJP leaders (not
all) who had forgotten the real issues pertaining to common men of India were taught a lesson. I was
further impressed by personality of calm and quiet Dr. Manmohan Singh and many gentlemen alike.
As years passed by, my love and admiration for this quote becomes conflicting a bit occasionally.
With subsequent happenings in political arena of India, I encounter my conflicting thoughts regarding
the correctness of the definition of calm and quiet when Mr. Shivraj Patil, the then home minister of
India, stayed extraordinarily calm and changed his clothes thrice while appearing before the media after
the Delhi blasts in September 2008. I was wondering if I misunderstood calmness of the then home
minister to be insensitivity towards people’s feeling. Well, I try to look into never ending happenings
of Manipur to check if the quote still holds true or should this quote be equated to insensitivity. In the
wake of the intense agitation launched by various civil society groups in Manipur following the death
of Kr. Th. Manorama Devi on 11.7.2004 while in the custody of the Assam Rifles, and the earlier
indefinite fast undertaken by Ms. Irom Sharmila since 2001 demanding repeal of the Armed Forces
(Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA), Justice (Retd) B.P.Jeevan Reddy was appointed the chairman of
a committee 19th November, 2004 to review the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958. The
Commission submitted a report on 6th of June suggesting repeal of AFSPA and continuation of the
present Act, with or without amendments, does not arise. The message was clear (I hope so) and our
Honorable Prime Minister is an erudite person to understand and foresee the need of incorporating
changes. Unfortunately, he chose to maintaining political dignity with never ending silence. Perhaps,
he needed to be prudent and not haste in taking decisions of such important matters. I, too, think that
Army’s concern for lack of empowering act like CrPC for police to function properly cannot be
ignored. It’s also true that there are many remote places in NE regions and JK where Government writs
are not reached. Parallel governments are running by militants while state government is nonexistent.
Having said so, the right of people living in these remote and underdeveloped areas cannot be
compromised. There should be a way out to balance the demand between upholding human rights and
enabling military forces to function properly which is suppose to restore democratic rights of people.
Although there may not be any closed form solution for these intricate inequalities, central government
cannot be just ignorant about the atrocities committed by military personals. The list of excesses
committed by security forces in the name of counter insurgency needs not be narrated again.
Goverment of India (GOI), which claims it to be formed with biggest democratic value in the world
just can’t remain mute for years and waiting things to improve at its own. With due respect to Army’s
concerned for proper functioning in those remote areas and its contribution in safeguarding the
sovereignty of the country, it’s politicians, not the Army Generals, who should come up with a viable
solution – either repeal the act or amend the act- to make it a respectable act which was formed for
safeguarding the rights of people but not for insane oppression of common people in the name of
counter insurgency. Is it justifiable that India took more than 60 years trying to make people of
Manipur live with full democratic rights and still yet to succeed? Doesn’t Ministry of Home Affairs
realize that too much time has been taken in the process which involves Army which should be used
for short duration of time? Here is when I start thinking that silence is no gold. Why are Mrs. Gandhi
and Dr. Manmohan Singh maintaining silence over the sufferings of people at the hands of military
rule? Why is Mr.Rahul Gandhi not interested in these hot issues which almost topple Goverment of
Jammu and Kashmir led by another young leader Omar Abdullah? A couple of days ago, a news broke
out that a youth was killed by Indian Army in Kasmir. As usual, two sides of the story- one from Army
and another from family members. Army termed the event as collateral loss while Omar Abdullah was
quite sensitive and expressed his feeling towards Army’s modus operandi of operation. So, another
AFSPA victim? I don’t know the actual story. Of course, I’ll go by the reports from a bonafide fact
finding committee of Home Ministry or state government whomever the task has been assigned. But,
Mr. Omar’s suggestion to Unified command of the Army to be very specific regarding the information
for zeroing down to a suspected militants told an untold story. His suggestions reflect that very often,
the fate of civil rights are left at the hand of Army’s informers. I just am thinking (in fact imagining) the
modus operandi of military forces who are working day in and out in highly demanding situations.
They, perhaps rely on trusted local informers. So, informer’s ability to gather accurate information as
well as commonsense and discipline of the commander who is going to command a counter insurgency
operation are the factors which will decide the applicability of Article 21, 14 and 19 of Indian
Constitution.

Comes the headlines, “Rahul dared Mayawati to visit the dalit girl who was mutilated for resisting
rape”. He is going to visit a poor dalit girl from Utter Pradesh. Good, his visit will boost the morale
of the girl and many oppressed dalits can express their voice freely against those insane oppressors.
Those culprits should be booked and punished with befitting penalties. But, next moment, I can’t stop
thinking, OMG, this is just political gimmick and using the poor dalit girl as a medium to challenge
the undisputed political queen Mayawatti in Utter Pradesh, a state where congress never get to find a
place politically now a days. Why didn’t he visit the family of rape victims from NE-regions in Delhi
which is so often that most of us lost count? Why didn’t he come out in strong support for a tribal girl
who was burnt to death by a pervert IIT research scholar from Bihar in Delhi? Why was there silence
when worst things happened to politically minority people from state of Manipur were choked almost
to death by blocking highways over 60 days? Why don’t any Gandhis in power not interested by poor
living conditions and sufferings of tribal in NE states of India?

GOI, for sure, is sensitive to human rights. It collapsed Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention)
Act (TADA) for inhuman clauses present in the Act. Even, it strongly opposed an Anti Terrorism Law
proposed by Gujarat Government citing that many clauses of the proposed bill are inhuman and feared
that state may invoke this Act to torture Muslims. The view seemed justified upto certain extent since
Mr. Narendra Modi once invoke POTA against suspected Muslims who attack trains carrying Hindu
devotees but refused to act in the same line against some of the suspects who were allegedly involve in
attacking Muslims during the riots.
The sensible arguments of UPA government seem to go into toast when it comes to people of NE
region. I can’t stop noticing Mr. PM’s strength to sit over reports of Reddy Commission for so long.
Days passed slowly accumulating to weeks, months and years. Dr. Singh is as usual calm and quiet as
his shelf. It’s already 2011, good 5 years after the report. I think, it’s time for Dr. Singh to wake up and
at least show his side of humanity for the people suffering due to AFSPA much more than TADA or
POTA. The whole Indian had seen his soft side when he declared that he lost his sleep seeing Dr Hanif
who was accused of assisting terrorist by Australian government. He was sensitive at the slightest
doubt of human right violation. His action of humanity will be perceived as politically motivated
emotions to woo Muslims vote.
I vividly remember one instance when Dr. Singh retorted to L.K Advani’s constant criticisms
describing him as weak prime minister “He has the unique ability to combine strength in speech with
weakness in action”. But, our opinion for you now is that “You have the unique ability to combine strength in
remaining silence with null in action when it comes to Non-Muslim minority people living in NE
states.” The fate of the People of a democratic state cannot be left at the understanding of law and
order situations by Army officers. GOI, specially the Home Ministry should be vigilant and active to
strengthening and training state government to run the state with true democratic values. Just
merely conducting election is not sufficient to uphold the democratic rights of people living in any
states. Police must be strengthen so as to safeguard the law and order problems of state. I don’t think
that people living in two states – Nagaland and Manipur – never get to feel the life of living in a
democratic state except that people cast their vote when election comes. Well, everything cannot
be blamed against the GOI for whatever is happening in our states. State government is also fully
responsible for not upholding the democratic rights of the people. AFSPA need to be amended at least
to scrap those inhuman clauses copied from Armed Forces Ordinance 1942 which was imposed upon
Indians by the then British India. We need to speak up and expressed our feelings when it matters.
Silence should not be turned into inaction or insensitivity. Please speak up Mr. Prime Minister, Mr.
Rahul Gandhi and Mrs. Gandhi. Your silence over the issue is lethal. Few words with some genuine
actions can win the confidence of people of Manipur(even though they may not be as useful in term of
voting you to power).

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