State and individual terrorism, parasitic extortion economy & all-round corruption
While the rulers of India claim that ours is the largest democracy in the world, corruption and parasitism have reached an unbearable limit in Manipur under the conditions of continuing army rule.
The people of Manipur never accepted the clandestine manner in which their motherland was acceded to the Indian Union, behind their backs and without their consent. The Government of India’s response has been to treat Manipur as a “disturbed area” on a permanent basis. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has been in operation, giving soldiers unlimited powers including the right to kill anyone on suspicion. In response to popular protests, AFSPA was partially repealed in theory; it is not supposed to be in operation in two districts at this time, including Imphal, the capital. In practice, very little has changed in the city, as mysterious bomb blasts take place and provide justification for armed men to roam the streets every day even though AFSPA has been lifted.
Armed forces deployed by the centre dominate life in Manipur to such an extent that even elected Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) can be pulled out of their vehicle and searched on the road. The story of one such recent incident involving a Minister is related by many people in Imphal. It seems the army commander was not even in uniform, he was wearing shorts. He was accompanied by so many machine gun wielding soldiers that the Minister had no choice but to be humiliated in public view.
Politics of terror
A bomb burst in a crowded street corner on 1st August, killing some innocent people and injuring many. The next morning, the Home Minister of India and the Chief Minister of Manipur both made statements blaming the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isac-Muivah), or NSCN(IM) for short, for the bomb blast in Imphal. The NSCN(IM) publicly denied being involved.
While both the Home Minister and the Chief Minister blamed the same organisation so quickly, as if according to a prior plan, each gave a different reason, to satisfy different audiences.
Chidambaram said one faction of NSCN(IM) had done this to disrupt the talks that Government of India was having with another faction of NSCN(IM). Chief Minister Ibobi Singh said that the bombing had actually been targeted at a nearby hostel in which elected members of Autonomous District Councils were staying. This story serves his purpose of whipping up anti Naga sentiments among the people of Manipur.
All the people that MEL correspondents spoke to thought that this bomb blast was the handiwork of one of the numerous armed groups that the Central and State governments sponsor. As part of their internal power struggles, army officers and state ministers are sponsoring their private armies, in the garb of underground militant groups with high sounding names.
Economics of extortion
The level of corruption in public agencies and government departments has always been higher than the all-India average in the Northeastern states. In Manipur it is even higher than the Northeastern average.
After the ministers and officials grab their share, numerous underground groups claim their respective cuts. The growth of state terrorism and individual terrorism, feeding on each other, has raised the degree of extortion to an extremely high level.
In addition to the tax revenue collected by the state government, even more gets collected by the illegal terror machinery which is secretly linked to the official authority. It is a fairly well-known secret to those who live and work in Manipur. Shopkeepers will tell you in confidence that such and such a group is linked to the Assam Rifles while this other one is linked to the state Commando force. A variety of groups regularly extort their “contribution” from every shop and business enterprise that does not enjoy high level protection.
The economy of Manipur, the productive capacity of her people, is being eaten up by leeches. As soon as any surplus is produced in any sector of the economy, it gets eaten up by the extortionist forces, descending like vultures on their prey.
Extortion is not limited only to economic activity but also to the public funds allocated for social programs. A village pradhan reported to MEL correspondents that out of One Crore Rupees received by her village panchayat last year, 37 lakhs were used to pay the respective percentage cuts to more than a dozen underground groups.
Like warlords, different groups within the central armed forces, the state government machinery and the underground organisations enjoy their respective quotas to fill positions in the government and its agencies. While public jobs get distributed as privileges, development works meant for the people as a whole are sub-standard and growing from bad to worse.
Historical experience has proved that there can be no solution to the problems of Manipur at the expense of the people and their right to self-determination, to live a life of dignity under a political arrangement of their choice. The conditions are bound to go from bad to worse as long as the people are denied their rights – national, democratic and human rights.
Continuation of AFSPA and Army rule cannot be justified under any pretext. Far from helping to solve any problem, state terrorism engenders individual terrorism and all-round extortion and corruption.
An important lesson from the experience of the national liberation struggle is that this revolutionary struggle cannot triumph by relying only on the barrel of the gun. Those who want to liberate Manipur from national oppression and the reign of terror from New Delhi need to present a concrete political program and a clear vision of the future, which captures the hearts and minds of the toiling majority of people.
As has been noted in the Report of the 4th Congress of the Communist Ghadar Party of India, “Those waging guerilla warfare as part of a ‘protracted people’s war’ in the present period, when revolution is in ebb, are either compelled to give up arms or to become terrorist gangs. Lack of mass support drives such underground parties and groups to use force to collect ‘taxes’ and ‘fines’ from the people, or carry out killings for a fee. Rival capitalist parties use such groups to settle scores among themselves, and to destroy popular movements.”
The Communist Ghadar Party of India has presented the program for the Navnirman of India – which includes the reconstitution of the Indian Union on a voluntary basis. Such a reconstitution would respect and affirm the right of every constituent nation and people to decide their own destiny. The people of Manipur could choose to join or not to join the new Union of India.
There is an urgent need for the progressive forces of Manipur to break with the dead-end road of military activity without building the political unity of all the people who are victimised by the present order. Political unity can and must be built and strengthened around the immediate demand to completely repeal AFSPA and end army rule, and around the program of bringing about the Navnirman of India, thereby affirming the right of the people of Manipur to determine their own destiny.