Northeast Echoes 22-06-2009

Killing fields of Northeast Fear psychosis Lure of lucre Gag on citizens

By PATRICIA MUKHIM
  • Published 22.06.09
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Killing fields of Northeast

No news is good news as far as Manipur and Assam are concerned. But that is not to be. Each day there are reports of gruesome killings by militant outfits with incoherent agenda. If at all the militants have an agenda it is to mint money and live a cushy life that the common man can ill afford.

It was shocking to learn that Jewel Gorlosa spends Rs 50,000 on beauty treatment at one sitting. We thought only celebrities could afford that sort of a beauty binge. Celebrities need that because they get paid for looking beautiful.

What would an underground militia need to look good for unless he thought he would become a poster boy after taking off for an international destination?

Fear psychosis

Most of the militants in this region have been found reading the life and times of Che Guevara. But they are hardly influenced by that heroic revolutionary’s life and sacrifice. Che Guevara lived a hard life and had the people on his side because his struggle was for a better tomorrow for them.

It is time we in the Northeast do a reality check and call the bluff of the plethora of militant outfits who have become a burden on us.

The fact that government employees continue to pay taxes to these groups out of their monthly salaries reveals the fear psychosis that prompts such action. Militants use corruption as one of the handles by which to tax the corrupt.

Knowing how spineless state governments are in terms of taking on these armed groups, it is high time that the Centre uses the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to plug all the funds that are channelised from the government treasury to the militia’s coffers.

Why should the state continue to fund armed gunmen whose sole aim is to train those guns on citizens? Is the state not aiding and abetting anti-national, anti-people activities? How can the 30 odd militant groups in Manipur survive if not for state patronage?

It is pointless trying to blame the system, or India or our past history. These are alibis which all of us can use to continue our tirade against the state. They are excuses not to work but join an armed group, extort money and become hired killers.

There are several young people — both Nagas and Meiteis — from Manipur who have left their homes in disgust and are happy to work in any of the several commercial outlets in the national capital. They work hard and have no complaints against the system. If these young people have no problems, why are their peers back home so disgruntled? Why do they seek a better life by killing the innocent and by pretending to be defenders of their people’s destinies?

Lure of lucre

I am sure we realise that no one makes sacrifices for anyone these days. We all do things for a purpose. No one takes up a venture that does not pay back. In Meghalaya, when the police began to hound the regular moneybags who were paying protection money to armed groups, militancy went on a downslide. Money makes the world go round. Take away money from the militants and all their ideology will wilt like a flower past its prime.

Money is the oxygen that fuels militant activities and state governments have proved to be the biggest collaborators in this shady venture because politicians and bureaucrats get to stash away a large part of the development funds in their private safe. Then on the pretext that they have to pay militants a cut for every project, they keep those projects hanging fire.

Thingnam Kishen Singh was one brave soul who defied the militants and paid with his life. Should his death go in vain? There was a vehement outcry from Manipur valley against the NSCN (I-M) for murdering Thingnam. But will the valley people stand in unison to condemn their own militia as well? If the NSCN (I-M) as an organisation has little respect for human rights and human life, the militant outfits from the valley, who are too many to name, are just as murderous.

Look at what they did to the labourers in the Central Agricultural University. What do those labourers know? They are brought to do manual labour, probably because the Meiteis do not want to do the same job for the same wages and on the same terms. While we can debate on labour laws in the private sector and about minimum wages, it is wrong to gun down those who, driven by utter deprivation, have to come from West Bengal to work in dangerous environs.

If there is a fear that such labourers will effect a demographic change then there are mechanisms to deal with that — work permits being one. But who is anyone to decide to kill people just because they do not like their faces? This is truly unacceptable and calls for stringent action from those who hold the reins of governance. But Ibobi Singh is the last person to put a cap on this obnoxious situation. He is only good at sound bytes that have now become like putrid milk. How the people of Manipur continue to tolerate this situation is mind-boggling.

Gag on citizens

India’s Northeast belies the fact that it is part of the great country called India which is a military power, an economic giant, the crucible of democracy and a nuclear giant to boot!

Those of us who live here have no freedom to express our views. We have memorised the names of all makes of ammunition in the arms bazaar.

The gun is a perpetual reminder that our lives hang by a thread and that we are breathing only because somebody has decided not to pump bullets into our head or heart. Indeed, our compatriots living in the killing fields of Manipur and the North Cachar Hills of Assam owe their lives and livelihood to the militia. The day they cross swords with these armed dacoits, their lives are imperilled.

Sometimes you wonder of what use are all the security forces posted here? There is no sense of security despite their large presence in the streets of Imphal. How is it that the militants can get into a university campus and kill anyone they want? Is anyone accountable? Or are the security forces themselves inured by the daily blood-letting?

The Assam Rifles calls itself the custodian and sentinel of the Northeast. But there is no evidence of that custodianship. How can the custodian of a public trust allow the public to face bullets almost on a daily basis while it explains away its failures?

In the North Cachar Hills, some semblance of action is now visible because of the pro-active efforts of the NIA which is fairly independent of Dispur. Although the ethnic bloodbath continues, the clamping down on the NC Hills District Council which used to be the money tree of the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD), might have a salutary effect. It is imperative that politicians having a deep nexus with the militia be chargesheeted.

They cannot be given any more immunity because they are adding to the mess euphemistically called the national liberation movements. The word “liberation” could not have been a more abused noun. Does a liberated citizenry live in perpetual fear?

“Liberation” is a metaphor that can be appropriately used to define the free operating space and state patronage that the armed militia enjoy. We deserve to live in a better society where the fear of guns and bullets does not overshadow our lives.

(The writer can be contacted at patricia17@rediffmail.com)