UNLF response to Manipur Governor's appeal for dialogue
The speech of Mr. Sidhu made on the eve of this year’s India’s Republic Day contains misleading remarks on issues relevant to Manipur in general and our national liberation struggle in particular. This has compelled us to keep the record straight, while putting across some concrete proposals for resolution of the Manipur-India political conflict.
In the course of his speech Mr. Sidhu referred to us as ‘dissatisfied brethren’ while making an appeal to express our viewpoints and demands by non-violent and democratic means and also to resolve the current conflict through dialogue and negotiations. This apparent change in attitude, if sincere, is appreciated because hitherto India has dubbed our legitimate struggle as a phenomenon of ‘misguided youth’.
We would like Mr. Sidhu to know that we Manipuris are a peaceful and freedom loving people, basically non-violent in nature, but unforgiving when provoked like our Sikh brothers. In Manipuri society democracy has been an essential element since olden times. So the single root cause for our ‘dissatisfaction’, and the subsequent armed reaction, is the treacherous and forcible annexation of Manipur by India in October 1949. Mr. Sidhu may need some background information.
The first democratic constitution of Manipur known as The Manipur Constitution Act, 1947 was promulgated by the King in July 1947, even before the transfer of power by the British on the midnight of 14 August 1947. As provided for in the Constitution, democratic elections under universal franchise were held in August 1948 to elect 54 representatives to the Manipur State Assembly, our national assembly. The Assembly was inaugurated by King Bodhchandra on 18 October 1948. On that day the King relinquished all legislative powers to the Assembly while the newly sworn in Council of Ministers headed by a Chief Minister assumed all executive powers. From that day the King becoming a constitutional monarch. Mr. Sidhu will remember that India then was yet to adopt its own democratic constitution.
Things were going on more or less smoothly in Manipur until India began to interfere in its internal affairs by deputing a ‘Dewan’ to create conditions for annexation. India was not happy about the democratic elections in Manipur in which an anti-annexation alliance won absolute majority. It was in this background that India forcibly annexed Manipur on 15 October 1949 after extracting under duress the so-called Manipur Merger Agreement
from the King. On the very day of annexation, the then Dominion Government of India abolished the democratically elected State Assembly and the Council of Ministers. This is the second undemocratic act of the Indian government, the first being the extraction under duress of the so-called ‘Manipur Merger Agreement’ from King Bodhchandra on 21 September 1949 while keeping him under house arrest at his Redlands residence in Shillong. Next, India relegated once independent Manipur to the status of ‘Part C’ State under Indian constitution ruled by an Indian bureaucrat of the rank of Chief Commissioner. This act was as much a painful insult to the Manipuris as a nation as it was to the Sikh people when the Golden Temple in Amritsar was desecrated by Indian soldiers. Since then the Indian government has been using its brand of democracy as a veil to hide their military repression against the peoples of Manipur. Now the whole world knows about this repression and the gross human rights violations committed by the Indian Occupation Forces in Manipur empowered and protected by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.
The culture of using violence and undemocratic method in resolving problems is also Indian government brands being exported to Manipur. India has all along used brute military violence to suppress the legitimate aspirations of our people expressed through rightful democratic means. The UNLF knows that this is a colonial attitude that India inherited from her previous master. It is this colonial occupation that has given birth to the national liberation struggle of Manipur. We were compelled to raise a fighting force with the sole purpose to defend ourselves from the invading Indian Occupation Forces and restore our sovereignty and independence. This conflict situation is the direct result of India’s expansionist policies, the latest victim of which was the Kingdom of Sikkim in 1975. Had there been no Indian occupation of Manipur, there would have been no armed conflict with India which has claimed many precious lives on both sides. The government of India should not miss this aspect of the problem. Because, resolution of a problem demands a comprehensive understanding of that problem. So far, the government of India has not shown any sincere respect of our people’s legitimate aspirations. Instead, they have always resorted to double-talks to hoodwink our people. Therefore, Mr. Sidhu’s propositions cannot but be taken as an exercise in rhetoric to mislead our people.
Mr. Sidhu also stated that ever since the annexation in October 1949, Manipur, though far lagging behind other States of India, has made considerable progress in various fields. In this regard he remarked that the significant achievements of
Manipur in the field of sports, art and culture and social awareness have been widely recognised but that this also is being overshadowed by ‘insurgency’. This is the habit of blaming ‘insurgency’ for all the evils and ills in Manipur under Indian occupation.
The fact, however, is the historic achievements of Manipur in the field of sports is the sole result of sheer hard work, determination and commitment of our poor but very talented sportspersons, the sacrifice of sports lovers and the help and support of our people. India’s contribution in this regard, if any, is the anger aroused by the racist attitude and mentality of the powers that be to suppress the sports talents from Manipur. Despite all the attempts at suppression, for which examples are aplenty, sportspersons from Manipur have asserted themselves by dominating in almost all the disciplines in Indian sports. This signifies the strong resurgence of the long dormant Manipuri national character. It is this resurgence that has conquered India of 100-crore population in the sports arena; it is this national resurgence that will ultimately drive out the Indian Occupation Forces from Manipur.
However, there should be a peaceful way out of the conflict if sincere introspection is done, as Mr. Sidhu has suggested. But it is up to the government of India to do some sincere introspection, which is long overdue, on the issues stated above.
We appreciate Mr. Sidhu’s proposal to resolve the Manipur-India political conflict by dialogue and peaceful democratic means. This demands the involvement of the people of Manipur in the process of resolving the conflict. Therefore, let us give the people of Manipur the opportunity, rather their legitimate right, to express their voice on the issue.
To this end, the UNLF has the following 4-Point proposal so as to resolve the conflict satisfactorily once and for all:
No other solution could be more democratic than the above proposal. It is now up to the Government of India to make the next move. The people of Manipur will await India’s response.