‘Manipur more a colony of India’- American diplomat

(This article is a part of the series “The India Cables” based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks)

Overwhelming presence of military, paramilitary and police forces gave visiting American diplomat the impression that Imphal  was under occupation

Manipur is situated in the remote corner of Northeast India, sharing a 358 kilometer border with Burma. The population of 2.3 million people is predominantly tribal. The Meiteis are the major ethnic group and are primarily in the Imphal Valley, while the Nagas occupy much of the hill districts. Numerous other ethnic groups, including the Kukis and Paites, inhabit the state, and each community has its own socio-economic-political aspirations. Manipur is economically backward, ethnically diverse and politically unstable. Violence, kidnappings, extortion and killings by militant groups are common occurrences. (1)

In an assessment of the situation in Manipur in 2006, American Consul General in Kolkata Henry Jardine wrote that the overwhelming presence of military, paramilitary and police officers contributed to the impression that Imphal was under military occupation.

“In ConGen’s many interactions, even with some government officials, a reoccurring comment was that Manipur was less a state and more a colony of India,” he reported in a cable sent on September 1, 2006 (Cable 76968 ).

“The general use of the AFSPA [Armed Forces Special Powers Act] meant that the Manipuris did not have the same rights of other Indian citizens and restrictions on travel to the state added to a sense of isolation and separation from the rest of India proper,” he added.

“Several Manipuris,” he recalled, “argued that they had greater rights under the British Raj than under the present federation.”

The Indian civil servants were also clearly frustrated with their inability to stem the growing violence and anarchy in the State, feeling their efforts to effectively control the insurgencies were hamstrung by local politicians either in league with or at least through corruption, helping to finance the insurgents, he said.

Rampant corruption was complicating the effort to control the rising violence and a lot of money was being taken as kickbacks from contracts and government projects, the cable reported, adding: “The corruption results in a nexus between politicians and the insurgent groups. At a dinner reception, Chief Secretary [Jarnail] Singh noted that many politicians have links with or receive support from the insurgent groups.”

Rights violations

According to the leaked Embassy cable, authorities have committed numerous human rights violations under the AFSPA. “Governor [S.S.] Sidhu admitted to ConGen that the Assam Rifles in particular are perpetrators of violations.” (2)

76968: confidential via Wikileaks revealed (1)

Image: Manipur women protest against Rape(image: indiatimes.com)

Complicating effort to control the rising violence is the rampant corruption. MLA Hemochandra Singh said that the Chief Minister is known as “Mr. Ten Percent” for the amount of money that he takes from contracts and government projects. Other officials and private individuals agreed that many key government officers and politicians receive kick-backs and skim-off money from government funds. Even the Protocol Officer facilitating ConGen’s trip told ConGen that the security situation was worsening and the government was incapable of handling the situation as all the officials were more interested in their own enrichment. He said that just getting a government job required payments equivalent to several thousand dollars. ConGen asked who received the payments and the Protocol Officer said it was the state government Ministers.

Efforts at tackling the insurgents are also complicated by the use of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958 (AFSPA) and a record of human rights violations by law enforcement authorities and the paramilitary Assam Rifles. The AFSPA gives military and paramilitary forces nearly unrestricted power to “maintain public order” in areas identified by the GOI as “disturbed.” Some of the more questionable sections of the act include:

  • The army can shoot to kill, under the powers of section 4(a),
  • The army can destroy property under section 4(b)
  • The army can arrest anyone without a warrant under section 4(c) who has committed, is suspected of having committed or of being about to commit, a cognizable offense and use any amount of force “”necessary to effect the arrest.””
  • Under section 4(d), the army can enter and search without a warrant to make an arrest or to recover any property, arms, ammunition or explosives which are believed to be unlawfully kept on the premises. This section also allows the use of force necessary for the search.
  • Section 6: This section establishes that no legal proceeding can be brought against any member of the armed forces acting under the AFSPA, without the permission of the Central Government. This section leaves the victims of the armed forces abuses without a remedy.
  • 7(C) Authorities have committed numerous human rights violations under the AFSPA. Governor Sidhu admitted to ConGen that the Assam Rifles in particular are perpetrators of violations.

  • 8(C) Comment: In ConGen’s many interactions, even with some government officials, a reoccurring comment was that Manipur was less a state and more a colony of India. The general use of the AFSPA meant that the Manipuris did not have the same rights of other Indian citizens and restrictions on travel to the state added to a sense of isolation and separation from the rest of India `proper.’  The overwhelming presence of military, paramilitary and police officers contributed to the impression that Imphal was under military occupation. Several Manipuris argued that they had greater rights under the British Raj than under the present federation. The Indian civil servants were also clearly frustrated with their inability to stem the growing violence and anarchy in the state, feeling their efforts to effectively control the insurgencies was hamstrung by local politicians either in league with or at least through corruption, helping to finance the insurgents.

Note:

(1) The Hindu, THE CABLES 76968, Manipur experiences escalating violence, MARCH 21, 2011, last accessed 07/03/17

(2) Suresh Nambath, ‘Manipur more a colony of India’,  THE INDIA CABLES, The Hindu, MARCH 21, 2011, updated September 30, 2016, Last accessed 07/03/17

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