While the shenanigans of India's legislators in the national parliament and involvement in quasi criminal activities are well documented, their more nefarious anti-national activities have so far gone unnoticed. The police in India's North Eastern State of Manipur made a startling seizure on 17 August just a couple of days after Independence Day was celebrated with much pomp in the capital Imphal. 12 militants with a large cache of arms and ammunition were seized from the official residences of three Members of Legislative Assembly (MLA) and a former Congress legislator of the state.
Announcing the startling news at a media conference the police chief, Yumnam Joykumar Singh stated that 8 militants of the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup were traced from the house of legislator W. Brajabidhu Singh elected to the Assembly from Imphal West district along with parts of M-16 rifle, 9 mm pistol and 15 rounds of ammunition in the septic tank. Five extortion notices addressed to Imphal based businessmen were also found.
Two militants were arrested from the house of K. Meghachandra Singh, MLA of Wangkhem constituency of Thoubal district, one each belonging to the Kangleipak Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) who were out on bail. From the house of K. Bijoy Singh who is from Thongju constituency in Imphal East and Sobhakiran Singh, a militant each of the People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak and the Kangleipak Communist Party were arrested.
Ironically the state government has been resisting efforts by the Army which has been at the forefront of counter militancy in the state, to make peace with the Kuki groups to include Kuki National Army, Kuki Liberation Army, Kuki Revolutionary Army, United Kuki Liberation Front, Kuki National Front (Military Council), Kuki National Front (Zougam), Kuki National Front (President), Hmar People's Convention (Democratic) and United Socialist Revolutionary Army. It was with great persuasion and some pressure from the Central government that Ibobi Singh the Chief Minister agreed to the proposal by the Army.
However the Valley based Meitei militant groups 18 in number, the major ones being, United National Liberation Front (UNLF), Revolutionary People's Front (RPF), Kanglei Yawol Kann Lup (KYKL) and People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) are on rampage and have virtually held the state to ransom. Recently reports indicate that Manipur is running out of medicine stocks as national and multi national companies faced with continued threats of extortion had refused to operate from the state.
The Manipur state government had announced a new security strategy to combat militancy. The state has been divided into three zones with a two tier system of policing. Armed police will engage in counter-insurgency operations while civil police will deal with public policing. But the government had hardly bargained for its own legislators giving shelter to these militants so openly in their official residence. Some sources however say that this has been standard practice and legislators and even ministers have been known to shelter known militants in their houses in the past.
Manipur is a front line state in India's 'Look East' policy. Traditionally Moreh on the border has been a trading point between Manipur and Myanmar since 1995. Moreh's border trade is expected to contribute to the growth of Manipur's economy to be followed by international trade with East and South-East Asian countries. Manipur's handloom, bamboo products, ginger, fruits, vegetables and limestone have been traded through Moreh over the years.
Construction of an integrated terminal has been planned at Moreh to act as a catalyst for trade as also a land link between Moreh and Mandalay in Myanmar is also proposed. However recently there were internecine clashes at Moreh which had blocked trade for almost a month. Large scale encroachment of land is also evident.
Given the complex challenges of fighting militancy in India's North East, trading from Moreh would have provided an excellent option to develop the economy and consequently employment in the state. Elected representatives of the government are expected to support these initiatives and ensure that the terrorists are not provided sanctuary in their own back yard. Alas! The legislators of Manipur have stooped to new lows of public conduct. The first battle for all governments Central or state in India thus appears to be the war within.