By Yambem Laba
(By special arrangement with The Statesman)
GUWAHATI, April 27: R.K.Meghen former Chairman of the proscribed United National Liberation Front of Manipur currently lodged in Guwahati Central Jail today told this correspondent in an exclusive interview at the NIA Court where his trial is going on, that Guru Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living Foundation had met him in the jail and broached the subject of holding talks with the Government of India.”
Meghen said he told the Guru “how can you hold talks with a terrorist for I had been arrested as one and charged thereafter”.
Guru Ravi Shankar who had earlier brokered peace between the rebels and the government in faraway Columbia was shocked by the answer, but the godman said that he does not look at him that way.
Meghen then reiterated his earlier stance of talks with the Government of India only if a Plebiscite is agreed upon under the supervision of the United Nations in which the UNLF cadres would surrender their weapons to the UN Body before the plebiscite is conducted.
He further told the Guru that democratic India should practice democracy in the truest sense. Guru Ravi Shankar then told him that other than the plebiscite he would mediate with the Government of India towards bringing about a European Union model of reconciliation.
Meghen is said to have told him that the European Union is a Union of Independent States whereas the Indian Union is not.
Thereafter Ravi Shankar visited Imphal last week and made public his intentions to broker peace by acting as a go-between, between the groups and the Government of India. But there has been no takers till date from any of the numerous groups some of them operating as a conglomerate and others independent, sometimes at cross-purpose with each other.
It might be recalled that Meghen had responded to a communication received from a former Governor of Manipur, S.S.Sidhu to R.K.Meghen asking him to come to the negotiation table calling him and his associates as “dis-satisfied brethrens”.
Meghen who is now 69 years old had said that it was departure from earlier stance by Governmet officials calling the rebels as: Misguided youths” and had responded with the plebiscite call.
Meghen was caught in Dhaka. Bangladesh in 2010 and kept in solitary confinement for 60 days before the National Intelligence Agency finally owned up his arrest stating that he was caught in Motihari in Bihar along the Indo-Nepal border.
He along with 14 other senior cadres including a woman are currently lodged in the Guwahati jail and facing trail in the NIA Court.
The trial is coming to an end and all of them have not been charged with any criminal cases but that of waging war against India, conspiring to wage war against India, and procuring arms to fulfill their aims.
Meghen’s lawyer M.Gunadhor Singh and R.K.Lekhi Singh have almost finished their defense pleadings and are convinced that by June when the verdict is expected to be out, a majority of their clients would be released.
But what needs to be seen is whether the NIA will succeed in breaking the will of this man who has spent more than 40 long years in the bush or will it initiate some strong drastic political change to bring him around for talks for a lasting peace not only in Manipur but also of the region.