The National Democratic Alliance was in power when the ‘June Uprising’ in Manipur took place in 2001. Atal Bihari Vajpayee headed the government as the Prime Minister then. His deputy Lal Krishna Advani was the Home Minister when the infamous “Bangkok Declaration” flared up intense agitation in Manipur. The people of Manipur were apprehensive that the territorial integrity of the state was on peril, as specifically the words “without territorial limit” were included in the agreement signed between the government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak- Muivah) group in June 14, 2001. The geographical extension of the ceasefire evoked protests from people not only from Manipur, but also from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh as they feared that the NSCN(I-M) would use the clause “without territorial limits” to legitimise its demand for a “Greater Nagaland”. Widespread agitation escalated with demonstrations on the streets. In Manipur 18 lives were lost during the agitation. The then regime of the NDA had to retract “without territorial limit” from the agreement. Now in 2014, the same NDA is back in power at Delhi, with a new a Prime Minister and a Home Minister. The All Manipur United Club Organisation in its recent demonstration held a few days back has made their statement loud and clear. AMUCO has maintained that the “Bangkok Declaration” was a ‘divisive policy’ of the government of India. Expressing apprehension that the same government is back, AMUCO urged that the people of Manipur have to be alert. The organisation has drawn attention on the possible outcome of talks with the NSCN-IM and other underground groups under the Suspension of Operation; that the talk should not compromise the territorial integrity of Manipur.
13 years have passed since then. One may disagree with the observation made by AMUCO as misapprehension on their part, that with the coming of the NDA back in power the past would repeat. Yet, one must acknowledge their sense of retention in identifying the party who were the regime in-charge, who bungled with the words “without territorial limit” while engaging with the NSCM-IM. On a positive note, this year’s observation saw the joint effort of United Committee of Manipur and AMUCO. This is the second observation that the two apex bodies have joined hands. The issue of territorial integrity has its primacy, and it will continue to have as long as the ongoing talk does not come to a logical end. Here, we might also add that while the issue of armed conflict in the region is left, seemingly unaddressed on the part of the Indian government, there have been other new developments in the past one decade or so. For instance, the issue of climate change demands a joint understanding and collective action of all countries disregarding of political boundaries and geographical location. In the same manner, the opening up of the Northeast to the market economies of the world demands a collective serious attention of the states sans ethnic affiliations. The Trans Asian highways sooner or later are going to be a Northeast reality. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have already invested huge money in the Northeast for developing infrastructures. Multinational companies have begun its work to explore the mineral resources in the reason. Moreover, the Indian government has already decided to pump in huge amount of money for transforming the Northeast into a tourism destination. A major chunk of the money has been earmarked for the state of Manipur. All these developments are going to have a paramount impact on the socio economic and cultural firmament of the Northeast region. The people of the region have to be prepared for this. For that, a joint effort and collective understanding of the issues are very much needed. An isolated approach from an ethnic vantage point will take us nowhere.
Leader Writer: Senate Kh