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Beyond Partisanship: The Recipe for Peace and Reconciliation in Manipur

Manipur begs healing and not yielding or reaping electoral harvest in the ‘rest of the country'.

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Opinion
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Hindi Female

Manipur has seen a flurry of political whataboutery, deflections, and counteraccusations, but beyond the binary of 'muscular’ approach on one side or the platitudinous outrage of the opposition on the other, no concrete solution is on the table.

Aside from rote blame games to stitch partisan and divisive narratives of illegal immigrants, drugs, and landowning patterns between the Tribals and the Meiteis (all true to an extent, but cherry-picked without complete facts or historical context), there is no viable or ‘out-of-box’ thinking that can truly heal the seemingly intractable 'divide’ between the two ethnicities.

Perhaps, the limited stakes and sheer 'distance’ (in all its manifestations) from the proverbial 'Delhi’ and the plausible utility of societal polarisation in the 'rest-of-country’ especially with the looming Lok Sabha elections next year, Manipur impasse may just linger on.
Snapshot
  • The ‘muscular’ approach of additional boots-on-ground by the 'Uniform’ fraternity eg, the Indian Army, Assam Rifles, and other CAPFS etc, is necessary, but also, insufficient and unsustainable, in the long run.

  • Permanent healing in Manipur requires an unprecedented sort of political statesmanship (read, rising beyond partisan agendas), creativity, and accommodation.

  • Incidentally, the current Chief Minister of Mizoram, Zoramthanga, was once the second-in-command to Laldenga, when they were waging violence towards secessionism! But ultimately, ‘Delhi’ won over and thawed the situation.

  • Manipur begs healing in order to rise to the situation and not yield or reap electoral harvest in the ‘rest of the country’.

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Military Might Is Not the Answer 

Though, the surfacing of the infamous and shameful videos has punctured the unidimensional attempt of narrative building and forced all ie, ruling classes and the citizenry at large to go beyond the framed storyline of the officialdom, and introspect hard. The societal wounds are running very deep, complete and rapprochement does seem, extremely difficult.

The ‘muscular’ approach of additional boots-on-ground by the 'Uniform’ fraternity of all hues eg, the Indian Army, Assam Rifles, and other CAPFS etc, is indeed necessary, but also, insufficient and unsustainable, in the long run.

The 'Uniform’ can only enforce the cessation of hostilities, managing borders and segregation of two conflicting sides – but it certainly cannot bridge the felt differences and perceptions on both sides.
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That permanent healing requires an unprecedented sort of political statesmanship (read, rising beyond partisan agendas), creativity, and accommodation, none of which is on the horizon, for now.

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India Has Vast Experience and Unique Success in Healing Societal Disaffection

Ironically, unlike the much-believed efficacy of the Israeli approach that has historically and factually failed for decades, India has amongst the richest and most successful experiences of ending insurgencies eg, Mizoram (contiguous to Manipur), Punjab, etc.

While the admixture of ending insurgencies has always necessitated enhanced security imperatives and decisive leadership, the buck didn’t come wrapped as just that, or end with the 'muscular’ optics, ever.

Memory is short (and selective) and both Mizoram and Punjab had required a huge amount of political (not partisan) investment and sacrifice, societal outreach, the spirit of inclusion and rapprochement that was inherent in the restorative Punjab Accord (1985), and Mizoram Accord (1996).

In both cases, the end outcomes allowed the governing of the respective states to dispensations composed of political forces that were opposed to the Central ruling party as a means of cooption of the disgruntled and disaffected.

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Post Accords, Punjab had ushered in the Shiromani Akali Dal government of Surjit Singh Barnala (after the President's Rule and before that the Congress Government), whereas Mizoram had seen the once-insurgent leader, Laldenga’s Mizo National Front take over the state (replacing the Congress Government).

Incidentally, the current Chief Minister of Mizoram, Zoramthanga, was once the second-in-command to Laldenga, when they were waging violence towards secessionism! But ultimately, ‘Delhi’ won over and thawed the situation.

So, it was critical to invoke the generous contours of the Indian Constitution in getting the parties with a wounded sentiment against the central government, to restore their faith in the 'Idea of India’ and assume responsibility in a bid for peace.
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The Center then showed a spirit of humility, accommodation, and a crucial admittance of its politico-administrative missteps and discrimination. The peace wasn’t immediate or seamless, but the vital path of course-correction of healing sentiments was made earnestly, and over time normalcy returned.

Amidst this crucial process, the security imperatives did the required, though it was dovetailed as part and parcel of the peace and reconciliation process, and not by fronting militaristic solution as a binary option.

Today, can ‘Delhi’ show a similar sense of genuine outreach that is stripped of political considerations in the 'rest of India’? Will the dog-whistling, innuendoes, and a constant eye on electoral prospects take a back seat, only time will tell, though something beyond 'muscularity’, must be proposed for peace to return.

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Manipur Begs a Restorative, Apolitical, and Credible Outreach to All

Can India afford a similar opportunity for reconciliation and forgiveness amongst those affected by the horrific madness in Manipur? Will some leaders actively shut down all polarising noises of the still-partisan phraseology and suggestions by rising above party/electoral considerations?

Can Manipur not become another trophy of the claimed success of ‘muscularity’, but instead like its neighbouring Mizoram or Punjab rise to be the secular, liberal, and inclusive ‘Idea of India’?
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This is not to suggest the lowering of the guard, militaristic steel, or even of ignoring underlying inequities – but to do so in a manner where everyone (not just one side) in the conflict perceives as honest, unbiased, and apolitical as was the case of Nelson Mandela’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Manipur begs healing in order to rise to the situation and not yielding or reaping electoral harvest in the ‘rest of the country’. It took the genius and wisdom of Gandhi and Mandela to make India (not Pakistan or Saudi Arabia) and South Africa (not Rwanda or Burundi), respectively.

(The author is a Former Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Puducherry. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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Topics:  Opposition   Indian Army   Mizoram 

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