Resolving conflicts

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The blockade along two national highways which serve as the lifelines of Manipur is now nearing the completion of three months. Yet there is no sign the problem is nearing a resolution. Of late there have been speculations of a tripartite summit between the United Naga Council, UNC, the Government of Manipur and the Government of India, to come to an agreement on the matter, but even if such a summit becomes reality, we are skeptical if it will be the way to any permanent solution. The most important reason for our doubt is the fact that what we have at hand is not a tripartite issue, but a multilateral one and leaving out any stakeholder from the resolution will predicate its own failure in the days ahead. When we refer to other stakeholders, we in particular are referring to those who have been demanding upgradation of the SADAR administrative region which has since become the Kangpokpi district. They too, it was there for everybody to see, are capable of resorting to the same coercive agitation as the UNC is now spearheading. In fact, it is everybody’s knowledge now that just as the Manipur Government signed several memorandums of understanding with the UNC promising no new districts would be created in the face of blockades the later imposed, the same government has also signed similar MoUs with those demanding the creation of the SADAR district, again in the face of similar blockades.

There are a few things of extreme import in our contentions. The first of these is the legality and morality of these MoUs supposedly signed by the government with different parties. The question is, can an agreement signed with any of the parties put under duress be legally tenable? These MoU’s, as we have all seen were indeed literally arm-twisted and coerced. The government signed them so as to end immediate irritants of blockades that may have ultimately led to extreme social crises such as outbreaks of ethnic violence. Consider another aspect of this same situation. In this case too, even without referring to the statute book, common sense should be enough to determine how legally tenable such agreements are. If “A” and “B” are siblings disputing matters of inheritance of their parental properties, can either “A” or “B” enter into another agreement with a third party on these properties without the consent of the other sibling? The MoUs on the district creation are something of this nature. Legally and morally, they are unlikely to hold much water. Under the circumstance, our suggestion is, if another agreement on the matter has to be reached, and if those seeking a resolution are sincerely about a lasting solution, let them all agree to make the agreement more broad-based. In particular, let those who want the districts and those who oppose it be made equal parties to the solution, and if there are others who have a stake in the issue too, let them also have a say. Once this has been assured, in a spirit of give and take, let the matter be resolved amongst all the parties involved. The moral and legal legitimacy of such a resolution then can be in little or no doubt anymore.

Given the deeply entrenched and obdurate stances of many of the different parties in this issue, even an inclusive discussion on the matter may not guarantee an agreement. In all likelihood, any reason forwarded by any of the parties may come to be construed as vested interest by the other parties. This being the case, it may be a good idea to involve a neutral third party to be the moderator. Or, the Central government with the consent of the state government could institute an impartial judicial enquiry into the matter to establish the rightness or wrongness of the creation of the new districts. Depending on the recommendations of such an enquiry, perhaps some boundary adjustments, especially in the case of the former SADAR, with the sole aim of minimizing administrative exclusion, can be where a lasting the solution lies.

Source: Imphal Free Press

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