Gujarat vs Manipur: A tale of two states

via published on August 5, 2010

By Nirmala Sitharaman


Manipur is crying for help. There is a sense of utter hopelessness and fatigue in the state. Administration is almost non-existent. We find instead the heady and dangerous mix of insurgency groups running a parallel administration, flourishing extortion rackets, corruption, extra-judicial killings, threats to life and assets, and frequent violation of human rights.

Salam Ajit Singh, Okram Ranjit Singh, Md. Taslimuddin, Laishram Dipson and Ningthoujam Anand were killed in encounters. They were very ordinary citizens of the country — auto drivers, daily-wage workers and small businessmen. The families of four of the above have approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). NHRC has is making enquiries.

Manipur police commandos have claimed that these individuals are insurgents/terrorists. They were extortionists, they claim. Perhaps all this is true, who knows? Very similar to Sohrabuddin, wouldn’t you think? In 2008 alone, there were 27 recorded cases involving the Manipur police. The Gujarat police can be no match to them.

The killing of Chongkham Sanjit in broad daylight inside a pharmacy was captured frame by frame by a candid camera and published. About the same time that Sanjit was subjected to an “encounter”, another suspected youth was chased and killed as police opened fire. In the process, an innocent pregnant woman too was killed. As innocent as Kausar Bi, can’t we say? It is intriguing why human rights activists have not approached the Supreme Court with a petition, which could then have at least sent a Special Investigating Team “to look” into the matter, as in Gujarat. It is established that Sanjit was a member of an insurgent outfit and had left the organisation on health grounds two years before his death. In Andhra Pradesh, such “reformed” Naxalites receive an extent of land, business start-up money, and probably even a flat to live in.

Manipur chief minister Ibobi Singh had stated in the Assembly that there was no other way but to kill insurgents. (Tehelka, August 31, 2009). However, he has never been called, “Maut ka saudagar”. No one should be. Let the courts clinically scrutinise facts, call witnesses, examine them without duress, and pass a verdict.

Are comparisons odious? But citizens’ rights are comparable, surely? Let it be said here that Manipur’s insurgency problem is complex. No attempt is being made here to simplify it. But human rights are basic for our citizens, whether in Gujarat, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh or Maharashtra or anywhere else. If our investigating agencies are professional enough to do what they claim is a meticulous job in Gujarat, why are they comatose in Manipur? Why aren’t juicy selective leaks available for daily TV discussions?

Ved Marwah, the retired police officer and former governor of Manipur was quoted by a magazine as saying: “No police in the country has a worse record than the Manipur police. There is an allegation that they shot one of their own officers in a fake encounter. The force is completely divided along ethnic lines and functions like the armed militia of the ruling party. That place is like the Wild East.” The Congress has been in power in Manipur continuously since 2002 with Mr Singh as its chief minister all the while.

The media too has failed Manipur. Most Manipuris feel that the local media is sold out to the militant outfits. But what about the national media? A cynical friend suggested that Gujarat’s Narendra Modi gives the channels a Television Rating Points (TRP) advantage, which Mr Singh in Manipur does not.
Manipur and Gujarat are both states with international borders — Burma and Pakistan respectively. Gujarat, due to its trade and commerce, has been economically strong. Manipur has excelled in sports and culture. Mary Kom, champion boxer, and nine out of the eleven Indian women football players, are from Manipur. Theatre and art stalwarts Ratan Thiyam and Aribam Shyam Sharma are from this state. If we analyse contemporary affairs pertaining to the current decade, I feel a chill running down my spine. In Manipur, one can find more of what the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Congress, the human rights activists, and the media put together can find in Gujarat. Let me hasten to add here that the investigations should go on in Gujarat. But the Congress — in Manipur and at the Centre — should say why the CBI is hibernating in Manipur.

The leadership in Gujarat is accountable for its brilliant performance in agriculture (beating the national average), industry, equitable and inclusive growth (see Sachar Committee report on per capita income data for the minorities), and the education of the girl child. Does this not show it is alive to its responsibility to its citizens, all its citizens? In the event if there are omissions and commissions, let these be tried in the courts. However, if the Manipur government has few claims to make for doing good, let the state’s Congress administration be tried for its claims on encounter killings.

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