In a recent study of peace possibilities in Manipur by a Switzerland based peace builder organisation, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, CHD, in collaboration with New Delhi based Delhi Policy Group, DPG, one unsaid observation became loud on the peace initiative, or the lack of it, of present government in the state. The organisation, which will shortly be publishing its study of the Manipur situation, along with similar studies of the Kashmir problem and the Maoists phenomenon sweeping the central plains of the country, also lists a number of initiatives already taken up by various governments in Imphal to resolve the raging insurrection in the state. Among them were the effort by the R.K. Jaichandra government to initiate a peace dialogue with PLA through some of its former leaders, the unilateral ceasefire declared by the short-lived Radhabinod Koijam government, the offer for peace dialogue by former Governor S.S. Siddhu during a Republic Day speech which was widely responded to, although not always on a positive note by various rebel groups. There were more such instances cited, as well as analysis of how most of them failed, suggesting implicitly remedial measures to future efforts at similar peace building.
What becomes a deafening silence in the face of such studies is the seeming indifference of the present government to the issue. It does not really matter if the effort fails, but there is a need to make the effort. History is never going to forgive leaders who do not at least make an initiative at getting a peace process started. This is an appeal to the government of the day to do more towards this end. It must continue to make peace efforts and not rest content resigning to fate and praying for the best to come about from heaven. Only continued effort can lift the chances of a breakthrough, maybe not immediate, but someday. The fact that there is unlikely to be immediate result should not deter effort as is the wont in politics.
The last speculation is important, though often overlooked. Democracy model followed in India being what it is, the mandate of an elected leadership is limited to a five year terms, and this makes lesser politicians lose interest in missions which does not promise results within their terms in power. This fact should make the limitations Manipur faces at this moment on the issue of an official, though not necessarily unnecessarily publicised, peace effort, much tighter. The term of the current government is due to expire by February next year, or just a little over half a year. Hence, if the current set of leadership is interested in results they can vaunt during election campaigns in the coming election, initiatives for long term peace in the state would normally fall out of its radar. If the government does fall to this myopic vision, it would be the most unfortunate thing. This is so because things at this moment seem to be shaping up to be very promising. The recent news of a unification pledge by a number of insurgent groups operating in the state is just one of these.
We hope this government sees beyond its narrow self interest and wakes up to seized the opportunity for peace opening up before the state. However, even if it decides to live up to expectation, it must approach the issue imaginatively. It must not undermine the experience of internationally reputed peace builders. It must not, as is the usual governmental practice, treat the matter as a bureaucratic responsibility alone, to be handled and steered by bureaucrats. It must seek the assistance of experienced and reputed people as well as institutions which have successfully brokered justice and peace in similar conflict situations elsewhere in the world. It could also for instance set up a committee to study peace models which have either worked or else are being experimented elsewhere, say in Ireland, Saami region, Basque country, Bolzano, ethnic situation in China’s Tibet and Yunnan etc, and learn the reasons for their successes and failures, and from the knowledge thus acquired, forge a model suited for the state’s own situation. We hope a successful model can be worked out, but even if this goal remains elusive, the important thing is not to give up trying to reach it. At this moment, the government seems the least interested in making such an effort. We hope this attitude would change. It must believe in striking while the iron is hot, as indeed the iron seems to be now.