NEW DELHI, September 27 (MIC): Former union home secretary G.K. Pillai on September 26 said there was a need to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and for the government to make amends to the people of Manipur for “past mistakes”.
At a lecture titled “Manipur — the way forward”, Pillai said the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee had already given its report that it was now under the consideration of the union home ministry.
“AFSPA repeal is overdue. Give them (armed forces) protection in a different way. Repeal will have a major psychological impact,” he said, adding that the issue, however, may not move forward too fast because of the impending Assembly elections in Manipur early next year.
Pillai lauded Irom Chanu Sharmila for her doggedness but said her efforts were not appreciated by the rest of India till Anna Hazare went on a fast.
The repeal of the draconian act was one of the first steps he suggested towards resolving the vexed conflict in Manipur’s valley and hills. Pillai said the ancient kingdom, which had a constitution even before India wrote her own, had its own proud history and was overnight turned into a C-category state in 1948.
“We have to rebuild trust by dealing with the core issues. An apology, say by the Prime Minister or the home minister, for the mistakes made in the past could be a start,” he said, urging the rest of India to recognise the importance of the histories of the Northeastern people.
“It is worth saying we made mistakes and people will forget,” he added.
Pillai agreed that the history of the Northeast should be included in school syllabus across the country. He said a proposal had been made in the mid-1990s to alter NCERT syllabus to include historical figures from the Northeast.
Unraveling the different strands of conflict in Manipuri society, Pillai showed how the Naga political problem in the hills and the Meitei militancy were intricately enmeshed. It was after Nagaland state was formed that the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), the oldest Meitei insurgent group in Manipur, was formed in 1964.
Striking a positive note on the government’s talks with the Naga outfit NSCN (Isak-Muivah), he said a win-win solution was being worked out. “The talks are on the right track,” he added. Pillai hoped that a solution to the Naga problem would be arrived at by the end of 2012.
“There is enough scope for giving greater autonomy to the hill districts,” he said.
The former bureaucrat pointed to several disconnects between the state and the centre and between the governments and the people in Manipur. He said there was no “shared vision” for the state and the centre often felt that Manipur with its complexities was a problem better left alone.
The Centre, he said, was interested in keeping violence “within tolerable limits” while the state often saw the Centre as a cash cow that would keep financing it. Issues of governance and involvement of communities should be aggressively pursued, Pillai said.