Blue Print for Counter Insurgency in Manipur

Author: Shri EN Rammohan, IPS (Retd)

Period: April 2002 - June 2002

Blue Print for Counter Insurgency in Manipur

Shri EN Rammohan

 

Manipur has been experiencing insurgency for the last 40 years, starting with the Federal Government of Nagaland [FGN]. The insurgency of this group was initiated in the Naga hills district of Assam in 1956. It naturally spilled over into the four Naga dominated districts of Manipur. The base of the FGN was in Ukhrul district, but Senapati and Tamenglong districts also provided good support. The major contribution of cadres and leaders were from the Thangkhuls of Ukhrul, the Maos, Pourneis and Marams from Senapati district and the Zeliangs from Tamenglong district. Ukhrul district has a 140 kilometres unguarded border with Myanmar. To a depth of 20 kilometres from the border there are virtually no roads. The Yomadung and Angouching are the last north-south ranges along the border. Across are the Somra tracts also populated by Thangkhuls. The slopes of the Yomadung and Angouching are thickly forested, and do not offer easy access for conventional troops. All along the border there is only one fair weather dirt road of Second World War vintage from Kamjong to the Chindwin valley. Terrain wise Ukhrul was a good district for the Naga underground army of the FGN. So were the districts of Senapati and Tamenglong, both thickly forested and with hardly any roads.

Later when the Shillong Accord was signed, peace returned to the four districts of Manipur. This peace was short lived as Th. Muivah and Isaac Swu who were not a party to the Shillong Accord, formed the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland [NSCN] along with Kaphlang the Hemi Naga from north Myanmar. By 1980 the NSCN was operating in all the four Naga districts of Manipur. Later in 1988 the NSCN split in Myanmar and became two units, the NSCN [IM] led by Th. Muivah and Isaac Swu and the NSCN [K] led by Kaphlang. The NSCN [IM] did not lose much time in setting up their units in all the four Naga districts of Manipur.

Insurgency came to the valley districts of Manipur in the sixties in the form of a shadowy Pan Mongoloid movement and the Revolutionary Government of Manipur. These groups preceded the creation of the United National Liberation Front of Manipur in November 1964 by Arambarn Somerendra. The Peoples Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak [PREPAK] a chauvinist and revolutionary group was set up in October 1977 by RK Tulachandra. The Peoples Liberation Army [PLA] was raised on 25th September 1978 by the late N Biseswar. The reasons for the raising of these three organisations are not far to seek. The Meitei pseudo intellectuals never reconciled to the accession of Manipur in 1949 after nearly two years of India becoming independent. Manipur an ancient kingdom with a 2000-year-old recorded history and a magnificent culture was made a part of C state–a union territory. Then in 1962, Naga hills district of Assam was made a state obviously a step to appease the secessionist FGN. Manipur continued to be a union territory for ten years more before being granted statehood. Manipur, an ancient language spoken and written by all the Meiteis and tribals was not included in the Eighth Schedule for years. The bureaucrats who came from Delhi and other states in 1949 were by and large not sympathetic to the Meiteis and the tribals. With a few exceptions they did not win the confidence of the people of Manipur. The worst was the policy of the party in power in Delhi, of flooding the North East with funds and indirectly encouraging corruption, thinking it would make the people soft and finish off insurgency. It had just the opposite effect. It is not good to tamper with the self-respect of people. A coterie of contractors, all followers of the party in power in Delhi was created which came to be called the Delhi Durbar. They bagged most of the contracts in the North Eastern states. 95 per cent of the development funds, which came from Delhi, were taken back to Delhi by this infamous band of contractors. Hundreds of kilometres of roads were built on paper and even annually maintained on paper. Food grains from the public distribution system were siphoned off wholesale into the black market. The politicians and bureaucrats of Manipur quickly adapted to this system.

The raising of the PLA, the UNLF, and the PREPAK was a direct reaction to these factors. The PLA raised in 1978 spread fast and was in full cry in the valley by 1979. A Meitei chauvinist group, its fierce leftist ideology and integrity attracted a cross section of educated youth. Many, bright Meitei students from national universities left their studies and joined the organisation. A series of dacoities and ambushes committed in 1978 and 1979 were attributed to the PLA and the PREPAK. The object was to snatch arms from the police and the security forces and collect money for purchasing arms.

The heart of the business community is the Thengal and Paona bazaars, the home of the Marwaris and outside traders. They were key participants in the siphoning of essential goods into the black market. They naturally became a prime target of the PLA and the PREPAK in extorting money. This extended to the coterie of outside contractors who had cornered the bigger contracts in the state. And from them to the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats was a natural step. The unholy nexus of the politician, bureaucrat and contractor in siphoning funds led to a fourth channel–the insurgent, who now claimed the biggest share at the point of the gun.

Terrain is a crucial factor in any insurgency. And in this the terrain of Manipur entirely favoured the insurgent. The hill ranges of Manipur are roughly north-south. They peter off into the valley in the centre in a series of low hills. The hills are thickly forested and but for three national highways traversing them, are bereft of roads. Of the five hill districts Ukhrul to the east is exclusively Thangkhul Naga, with a few Kuki villages on the eastern border with Myanmar. NH 150 bisects Ukhrul, coming from Jessamie in the north and turning west enters the valley at Yanganpokpi. Border Roads have recently constructed a road from Shangshak near Ukhrul to Kasamkhullen in the south crossing into Chandel district connecting Tengnoupal. In the north Senapati district is bisected by NH 39, coming from Kohima. There are two lateral roads to the west connecting Kangpokpi to Tamenglong and Maram to Paren and one to the east from Tadubi to Ukhrul. In Tamenglong a road links the district HQs to Khongsang on NH 53 coming from Imphal to Jiribam and to Silchar. From Churachandpur NH 150 was extended to Tipaimukh. This road has been abandoned for the last ten years. In Chandel district NH 39 connects Palel to Moreh. The Tengnoupal New Sarntal road constructed by the Border Roads has been abandoned. The interiors of Chandel and Churachandpur district are the sanctuaries of the PLA, PREPAK, UNLY, KCP and the myriad Kuki-Chin-Mizo underground groups and the hinterland from which they operate. The main base camps and training areas of the PLA and the UNLY are in these two districts.

The PLA and the UNLF initially had their hideouts in the Meitei villages in the valley, but established camps for training their cadres deep inside Chandel district and also inside Myanmar into which they crossed easily as the border was not policed. Initially weapons were purchased from the Myanmar army but a clandestine arms market gradually developed across the border of Chandel district. The break up of the Khmer Rogue in Cambodia and the later peace agreement between the Shan State and Myanmar released a whole lot of Russian and US Army weapons into the arms market. In the Seventies when the PLA and PREPAK were raised, arms were not easily available. Their arsenal was built up by capturing arms from the police and para military forces and buying from the poorly paid Myanmarese soldiers deployed across the borders of India.

The Army operated extensively against the PLA in the early eighties. In a series of swift operations they were able to capture the SS chief of the PLA, N Biseswar and kill a number of top ranking leaders. The PLA was halted in its tracks. Biseswar on his release took to politics, and became an MLA. The hard core of the PLA though dormant was intact. Later after eliminating Biseswar, for changing tracks they regrouped and along with the NSCN and ULFA sought help in arming and training its cadres with the Kachin Independent Army in northern Myanmar. All three groups got good training but not much arms. Except for a few Chinese M-22, the equivalent of the AK-47, they only got G-3 rifles and old weapons captured from the Myanmar army. In 1990, Bransen the KIO leader withdrew support to the NSCN, PLA and ULFA and all three turned to Bangladesh for sanctuary. Here they got support beyond measure from the Bangladesh Government and the ISI in the Pakistan embassy in Dacca. It was around this time that the Khmer Rogue broke up in Cambodia releasing a number of AK-47s, RPD 7.62, LMGs and RPG-7 rocket launchers into the clandestine arms market of South East Asia. The Pakistan ISI, seized this opportunity to sponsor the North Eastern insurgent groups. The first consignment of arms purchased in Thailand was landed in CoxV’s Bazaar in 1991, where a group of 240 NSCN cadres were waiting to receive them. It was carried overland via Bandarban, Parva, the eastern border of Mizoram, along the Tiddim road into Chdrachandpur district, then over the hills to Tamenglong and then into Parert subdivision of Nagaland. All the major insurgent groups linked with the NSCN got its weapons through this channel. In 1997 the drug lord Khun Sa surrendered to the Myanmarese Government. This led to the release of more arms to the clandestine arms market. Groups like the UNLF, the KCP, and the different Kuki militant outfits found that they could buy arms from across the border from Chandel district.

The other main valley group the United National Liberation Front [UNLF] was founded by Arambam Somerendra in 1964 initially as a social organisation. It was the culmination of several movements like the Pan Mongoloid movement and the Revolutionary nationalist party, which raised the banner of independence in 1953. The UNLF took to arms only in the late eighties. The self styled chief of this group Rajkumar Meghen has royal lineage and was linked with the NSCN. It is reported that he was in the know of the plans of Kaphlang to attack Th. Muivah and Isaac Swu and their followers in northern Myanmar and did not alert Muivah, as a result of which many of his followers were killed and Th. Muivah himself barely escaped with his life. Since then the NSCN [IM] cut off all links with the UNLF. Rajkumar Meghen continues his close links with the NSCN [K].

By the nineties some of the PLA cadres left the group, came overground and joined politics, and after the 2000 elections even became ministers. Today the PLA and the UNLF maintain that they do not believe in the elections conducted by India. The smaller groups, particularly the myriad Kuki outfits each supported candidates of different parties who hired them. This included all the main national parties, except the Communist parties. They openly used arms to rig the elections both in 2000 and 2002.

The FGN was the first to introduce extortion to Manipur. The NSCN [IM] took over where they left off and systematised it to an annual house tax and ration tax. In addition they taxed all buses and trucks and contractors. At times their subordinate formations muscled in on development funds by coercing the Deputy Commissioners. The UNLF and the PLA at first took donations for their social activities, which gradually transformed into extortions. The target was of course the unholy trio of the politician, the bureaucrat and the businessman. It later spread to the salaried government servant. By the nineties this had become institutionalised. Cashiers of different departments were directed to deduct percentages according to the ranks and pay to the organisation. They regularly taxed traders and businessmen. Tankers of petrol, diesel, and kerosene oil were diverted from the big dealers and sold in the black market by all the major underground groups. Rice from the public distribution system was also diverted from all the dealers by these groups. A part was taken for supplying the underground camps. As a result rice, kerosene, petrol and diesel were all sold in the black market. Against the quota of 5 litres per family per month of kerosene oil, most people were getting only one or two litres in Imphal, while in the interior towns and villages, there was no PDS supply at all. In the interiors of Chandel and Churachandpur districts, the PLA and UNLF sold rice and Kerosene at absurdly low rates to the villagers near their camps to get a Robin Hood image. In Imphal both the PLA and the UNLF had well oiled finance wings working. Their records were computerised and they had up to date information of the receipt of development grants in the different departments. They had full knowledge of the bank accounts of all Government officers, of doctors, and engineers. Extortion demands were served accordingly. While there were standard deductions from all the government servants, doctors who also had good earnings from private practice got proportionate extortion demand notes. Officers dealing with development grants were forced to divert substantial sums to all the underground groups. Worse still Chief Engineers were forced to award contracts to cadres of the main insurgent groups at gunpoint. The members of the Finance wing of the different groups had free access in all the Government offices. Very often senior officials were summoned to chosen rendezvous on the outskirts of Imphal where they were forced at gunpoint to do the biddings of the groups. In the popular Government of 2000 the nexus between the PLA and the UNLF with the politicians reached its peak.
All this could come about because of the trend set by politicians in siphoning out money in collusion with spineless bureaucrats. Money was collected from Government servants for enhancing the pay scales. Large-scale diversion of development funds took place at the level of politicians and bureaucrats. It was only then that the insurgent groups intervened and started taking a major share in these deals. Most of the NGOs in Manipur are run by politicians in the name of their hangers on. Grants obtained by them from the centre for schemes like housing for the rural poor-water shed projects were largely siphoned off by these politicians.

Only a trickle of about 5 per cent reached the people. In this background the development of this extensive exortion network is not a surprising development.

Of the five major valley underground groups the UNLF is the one whose ideology is by and large intact. The PLA is better organised, but there are stories of PLA cadres building big houses in Imphal. However, the senior leadership is well educated and has good organisational control. The lower cadres are mainly dropouts from school and college. The poor quality of education and the lack of jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities produce a pool of youth ready made for the insurgent groups. Of the five groups the KCP and KYKL exist mainly for extortion. The PLA, UNLF and PREPAK have a loose collaboration and have worked out space allotments in the hinterland and operational areas. The KYKL was formed by N Oken when he walked out of the UNLF in 1990 and teamed up with splinter groups of the KCP and the PREPAK. He established links with the NSCN [I.M], the first and only penetration of the valley underground. KYKL has a junior but extensive role in the extortion net in the ‘valley and operates along with the NSCN [IM] cadres giving a share to them The KYKL had split into two factions in 1994 due to differences between Oken and Achou Toijamba, who linked up with the NSCN [K). Recently in 2002, the two factions have patched up. Presumably the NSCN [IM] has won another round with Toijambas link with NSCN [K] severed.

Till the nineties, these groups had operated only in the valley. They did use the secluded hills and jungles of Chandel district as their hinterland and had base camps and training areas there. This changed when the Kuki National Organization [KNO] and the Kuki National Army [KNA] were set up in 1992-93 in Tamu across the border town of Moreh. The Nagas and Kukis were ancient enemies. The Kukis were the most enterprising of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo group and had not restricted themselves to Churachandpur district were they had presumably first migrated. In their wanderings they occupied areas in Naga country in Ukhrul Tamenglong and Senapati districts and even occupied areas in the Naga hills and North Cachar hills districts of Assam. The Kukis were used as a buffer against the Nagas both by the Meitei kings and the British. The KNO and the KNA were raised probably taking a leaf from history to again act as a buffer against the Nagas, now in the shape of the NSCN [IM). Chandel district has a number of smaller tribes-Maring, Anal, Chothe, Kom, whom the Kukis claimed to be part of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo group, but with the rise of the FGN and later the NSCN, these tribes claimed that they were part of the Naga group. Whatever their origin these small Naga tribes were numerically more than the Kukis in Chandel district. This district is roughly bisected into two by the Pael Moreh road. The eastern part adjoining Ukhrul is majority Naga. The area around Moreh is, however, dominated by Kukis. And Moreh is a smugglers town, with enormous profits to whoever controlled it. The NSCN [IM] had for long been eyeing it. The bait given to the Kukis in raising the KNO and the KNA was control of the rich spoils of smuggling of Moreh. Fierce clashes took place between the KNA and the NSCN [IM] as they attacked each other’s camps. Very soon they were attacking each other’s villages, and both Naga and Kuki villages went up in flames. The NSCN [IM] were better trained, equipped and more experienced. With years of fighting the Indian Army they were better motivated. There ensued an ethnic cleansing of the Kukis in Ukhrul, Tamenglong and Senapati districts. The Kukis realising that they could not fight the battle on their own sought help from all their brother sub-tribes in Churachandpur district. Some of the sub-tribes responded positively, but the Paites one of the larger and more prosperous of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo group refused to help and berated the Kukis for sticking their neck out unnecessarily. This angered the Kukis and
they attacked the Paites in a fratricidal war. The Kuki-Paite clashes were bitterly fought and several Kuki and Paite villages were burnt. The Paites were not well armed and naturally took a beating. They lived generally along the southern areas of Churachandpur district, and many fled across the border into Myanmar, where they ran into the NSCN [IM] sympathised with them and soon developed an axis with them. They gave them arms, equipped and trained them. A new underground group basically for the defence of the Paites was formed–the Zomi Reunification Army [ZRA]. The Zhou a sister group was dragged in by the Paites as a reluctant partner. For the NSCN [IM] it was a major breakthrough–they had penetrated the Kuki-Chin-Mizo group.

The PLA and the UNLF never had any bases in Churachandpur district. They had for long been eyeing the sparsely inhabited vast tract of hills and jungle from Churachandpur to Senvon, Tipaimukh, in the south, the Thangjing hills to the east, the Tipaimukh Jibam road to the west and NH 53 to the north. This was a vast rectangle of hills and forests with only tracks connecting the isolated lonely villages. NH 150 constructed by the Border Roads had been virtually abandoned. This was classical guerilla country. The PLA and the UNLF with admirable foresight, taking advantage of the ethnic clashes between the Nagas and the Kukis extended help to the Kukis in rehabilitating hundreds of Kuki families rendered homeless with money food and building materials. The Kuki chiefs were grateful and could not refuse the PLA and the UNLF when they asked for permission to purchase land. Hundreds of acres of land were purchased by both these valley groups in Churachandpur district. They had now got a foothold in the Kuki-Chin-Mizo area. Recruitment to the main Valley groups was opened up to the Kukis and related sub tribes. Some axis between the groups also developed like between the PREPAK and the Hmar Peoples Convention Democratic [HPCD], a Mizoram underground group.

The worst fallout was the leadership squabbles which soon followed into the KNO and the KNA. Out of the KNA came the KNF, which later split into the KNF Military Council and the KNF Presidential. The latter again split into two further factions. These myriad Kuki militant groups were ostensibly for the protection of their community, but were in reality only extorting money from the people in the form of donations, from the traders and contractors and even from Government departments, They had soon aligned themselves with different politicians of national parties. In the elections of 2000, the different groups were hired by politicians of all hues, both state and national. The groups freely used their guns to intimidate voters and the elections were completely rigged. This was the case again in the elections of 2002, with the different groups firing at each other on the polling days with abandon on behalf of their candidates. It is even reported that the leaders of some of these groups stay in the houses of senior politicians of the state in the nation’s capital. The KNO when first formed talked of Zelengam a homeland for the Kukis. All this ideology has long since been abandoned. The myriad Kuki groups now have only objective – extortion and hiring themselves to the highest bidder.

In the 2000 elections two Kuki lower level leaders, unhappy at not being given tickets for the assembly elections had each left with some followers and linked with tile NSCN [IM] who armed and trained them. These were the UKLF who now operate on the Churachandpur Chandel axis and the KRA who operate in the Saikul valley. Earlier still another group had broken off from the KNO, the Kuki Liberation Organisation (KLO) and the Kuki Liberation Army (KLA).

This then is the unhappy state of affairs in Manipur. Can something be done to restore normalcy? A very determined effort will be required to stabilise the politics and administration of the state. The effort has to be a civil-military coordinated manoeuvre. The central government has always had a standard reaction to any insurgent situation-send a couple of battalions of central para military forces [CPMF]. If very severe send in the Army. Not in any insurgent situation have we analysed the causes of why an insurgent situation has developed, of why a group of people have taken to arms and is fighting the state. In Bihar, when the Ranbir Sena had massacred thirty odd scheduled class sympathizers of the MCC a series of meetings were held in the Home Ministry and several battalions of CPMF were sent to Bihar. After sometime when the situation was reviewed it was found that the forces sent were deployed to hunt for the MCC and not for the Ranbir Sena. No one talked of the unlawful and unequal distribution of land and the denial of land to peasants because of their caste.

In any insurgent situation the causes must be first dispassionately analysed. This must be left to professional economists, sociologists, judges, professional police officers and professional administrators. The emphasis on professionals qualifying police officers and administrators should be specially noted. In the last 30 odd years the concept of committed bureaucracy has become deep rooted. It is of no use leaving judging of an insurgent situation to a police officer or administrator who is aligned to any political party and has earned his promotions by patronage.

Once this has been done a blue print for counterinsurgency should be drawn up. The effort has to be a combined civil and military effort with the civil leading all the way. This has to be clearly emphasised. Heavy deployment of army or paramilitary forces is bound to cause excesses. This is unavoidable. And when this happens, without redressing the conditions of the population, which has in the first place led to the resort to arms by a section of the population, they are bound to get further alienated.

The first step in the kind of situation we are faced with in Manipur, where there is an undercurrent of secession, rampant corruption led by the politicians and tamely abetted by the bureaucrats and a complete failure by the state to protect the few upright government servants, is to list out the local civil, judicial and police officers and identify the few who have not been tainted by chauvinism and corruption and who if protected are likely to stand up against intimidation. The second step is to post these officials in all crucial posts. The first preference should be for local officers. Where reliable local officers are not available, specially selected outside officers should be brought and posted. The third step is to ensure that reliable judicial officers are posted. This is a sphere which is invariably neglected, after the 1973 amendment of the Criminal Procedure Code, separating the prosecution from the investigation. The police now forget the case after the charge sheet is filed. Every hearing should be followed to ensure that the underground is not taking advantage of the police not following the case to get their cadres released. The judicial officers posted should be equally strict to the prosecution and to the defence, in fact more so to the prosecution. In every insurgency the judiciary is always used by the underground, mainly because the judiciary is always local, except for the Chief Justice. Also the judiciary does not get the kind of guards and escorts that the executive gets. There is no reason why the Judges from the Sessions upto the High Court cannot be from outside. Their security should be more stringent than of the field officers. The judge who sentenced Maqbool Bhatt to death, was not protected, and he was shot later. After this no judge would have dared to sentence any insurgent to imprisonment, let alone death.

Special attention should be paid to bring up the police. The Manipur Rifles was a very fine force, which has degenerated because of very poor officering, and lack of finance resulting in ‘the riflemen being forced to buy their own uniforms. Pay is never regular, as a result of which, the men are forced to borrow from the unit bania canteen. A soldier who lives like this loses his self respect, and cannot be expected to fight. The first step to be taken is to see that the ration of the riflemen is equated to that of the CPMF to ensure that he is paid in time, equipped well, and trained rigorously. The command of the battalions should be given to officers of the CPMF. The civil police must immediately be reorganised and strengthened. Some of the districts have only about 200 personnel, no reserve lines, miserable barracks, which have not been repaired for years. All sub-inspectors and above should be put through in service courses in investigation, integration and intelligence trade craft.

There are pitfalls into which the police can easily fall when involved in counter insurgency operations. Fortunately we have examples at close hand. In Punjab, we saw the police picking up innocent boys saying they were terrorists, and releasing them after taking money. This happened in Kashmir too. In Assam, Hiteswar Saikia, the then Chief Minister created a mafia after getting known ULFA criminals, who had murder cases pending against them, and forming them into mafia gangs, extorting money from coal transporters. The surrendered ULFA boys were allowed to keep their weapons and operate as gangs under unofficial patronage. In all these cases, who were the victims? The victims, were the very people who were to be won over to the Governments side, and who were to be weaned away from the insurgents. All you got was an indignant populace, who got further alienated and a police force who had become terrorists themselves. In Manipur, civil policemen and officers were selected and trained as commandos. They did a very good job initially, but soon deteriorated to a state terrorist force, because of faulty leadership. They started extorting money from the business community, picking a leaf out of the insurgent’s book. What was the consequence on the hapless public? Here were five to six underground groups extorting money from the traders, and here was a special wing of the police force, set up to arrest the under ground, who also demanded their share of extortions. Now to whom was the hapless public to turn to? These are lessons before us and that is why it is imperative that in all such situations the leadership of the police force should be very very carefully chosen.

The same rules apply to the civil administration. We have seen the way politicians and bureaucrats siphoned away development funds, diverted essential commodities to the black market, built roads on paper. It is very necessary to screen all the civil servants in such a situation and list out the personnel who are honest and not tainted with underground sympathies. One of the most important steps to be undertaken is to ensure that all essential commodities of the PDS are made available to the public right to the remotest villages at the correct prices. This is not too difficult a task as can be seen by the experiment below. When Presidents Rule was declared in June 2001, Kerosene oil was being sold at Rs 25 to Rs 30 a litre in Imphal and consumers were getting just one or two litres per month. The condition was much worse in the districts and in the remote villages the PDS was defunct. Of the 100 odd tankers of petrol, diesel and Kerosene oil, coming to Imphal weekly, the thirty odd tankers of Kerosene oil would not even report at the IOC (Indian Oil Company) depot, but would drive to the dealers, who would divert most of them to the black market. The huge storage reservoirs of the IOC depot were empty for many months. The main valley underground groups of course had their share in this diversion. The PLA, UNLF, PREPAK and others regularly took two to three tankers of Kerosene oil and sold them in the black market. The rest of the black marketing was done by the traders. The CRPF was deployed in the IOC depot and movement of unauthorised personnel strictly restricted. The members of the finance wing of the underground groups found that they had no access to the depot. All tankers coming from Dimapur were stopped at Mao on the Manipur border, the challans taken from them and escorted to Imphal by the Manipur Rifles. In Imphal, they were parked in the Manipur Rifles campus for the night and escorted to the depot in groups of ten tankers. There storage tanks were filled for the first time in several months. From the depot Kerosene oil tankers were escorted to the district dealers by the Manipur Rifles. In ImphaI 50 per cent of the dealer’s quota was directed to be sold in mobile sale directly by the dealer to the public on ration cards -ten litres per family at Rs. 8 per litre. This was supervised. It ensured that all got their K oil at the correct price. There were some attempts by the underground to disrupt the sale. But no one had the courage to buck the public when the Government was doing a correct job. Within a month the black market price of K oil had come down to Rs. 11 in the city. It was reliably learnt that one or two underground groups diverted two to three tankers of K oil from some of the dealers, but sheepishly returned them, as they could not find any buyers. In the districts where the Deputy Commissioners were honest, they were able to get K oil to the interior villages by escorting the tankers, or carrying the K oil in drums. Very effectively both the traders and the underground were defeated. Not giving up the fight, one of the underground groups served a notice on the IOC depot to Pay Rs 10 lakhs to them The staff sensibly reported this to the police. The staff quarters were adjacent to the storage depot and was guarded by the CRPF. Several threatening calls were made to the IOC manager. He was told not to respond to the calls and to confine himself to his quarters after work. The CRPF was directed to enhance their vigil and always escort the manager and his staff. The IOC Management was contacted and requested to post personnel for two months at a time to the depot at Imphal. They cooperated. There was one attempt to kidnap the manager when he crossed from one depot to the other, but he was escorted by two CRPF guards who were alert, and the group gave up the attempt. After several such futile efforts and calls, the group gave up. Constant monitoring and visits by senior officers thwarted the attempt of the underground in this case.

It is very necessary to ensure that all civil police and judicial officers are guarded both at office and in their residences. For this the Home Ministry must set apart 2 to 3 battalions of CRPF and direct the state police to see that they guard the offices, residences and escort all these officials. In the case of engineers, Forest officers, and officers of development departments, all of them should be escorted- to their work sites. The counter insurgency grid must therefore, visualise a sizeable force. The main area for extortions is of course Imphal. Extensive coverage of the city is absolutely necessary. Continual cordon and search operations are also unavoidable. It must be ensured that all such operations are done in the presence of magistrates. While all this is done it must always be ensured that the civil administration has been cleaned up and the public is getting essential commodities at correct prices, does not have to pay to get recruited or promoted. If the people feel that the government is responsible they will tolerate the inconvenience and indignity of cordon and searches. But if it is the same corrupt government then they will only be further alienated. One way to ensure this is to see that officers at the highest levels are accessible to the public.

One sphere in which the state has done well is that of agriculture. In the valley today, with just about 20 per cent double cropping the valley produces enough rice to feed 80 per cent of the population of the whole state. This can easily be improved by concentrating on minor irrigation schemes, and double cropping brought upto 80 per cent. Within two to three years Manipur can be made a state with surplus rice. In the hills there is tremendous scope for horticulture, piggery, fisheries, poultry farming, and dairy farming. It will also be necessary to take up conversion of slash and burn agriculture to terrace farming. A number of roads should be constructed to link the interiors with the market towns. The beautiful Khoupurn Valley produces excellent oranges, which go abegging, as the road to Bishnupur has been abandoned. The construction of roads into the interior should be coordinated with the setting up of the counter insurgency grid in the hills.

The main concentration of deployment in the hills should be in the districts of Chandel and Churachandpur, the hinterland of the main valley groups. A careful study will show that most of the tracks in the hills are along the ridge lines or along the river valleys. It is imperative, therefore, to deploy along all the ridge lines in these two districts. Extensive use of helicopters for logistics is unavoidable. Once this is done, the groups will have no choice but to slip into Myanmar. Once this happens and the ridge lines and valleys in these two districts are held, it will be necessary to deploy the BSF on the Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram international border with Myanmar. This is going to be expensive, but necessary.

In the hills, the CI operations must first concentrate on the rebel Kuki groups, like the UKLF, the KRA and the ZRA who have links with the NSCN (IM]. There is always the tendency to use one group against the other, This has been done in Kashmir and in Assam, using the SULFA against the ULFA, and in Manipur using groups like the ZRA against the PLA. This kind of strategy should never be resorted to. It is immoral and unethical to arm any group or allow it to keep its arms. There should be no question of any one having unlicensed arms. The aim of the CI operations should be to see that not a single unlicensed arm remains with any one. There should be no question of any group feeling insecure, and buying arms for their security. The NSCN [IM] should not be allowed to keep any arms in Manipur. This should be strictly enforced. This group has been pampered beyond measure. After the smaller groups are de fanged, the major valley groups should be taken on. In the hills, particularly in Chandel and Churachandpur, the ridge lines should be occupied and the main camps taken on in the river valleys. While these operations are being conducted the valley areas should be carefully cordoned so that the groups do not filter back. This will force the groups to go to Myanmar, and then to Bangladesh. The deployment of BSF on the borders should now be taken up. Simultaneously, The Border Roads should take up extensive construction of roads on the borders. As and when the interior areas are cleared the civil effort should follow on the heels of the armed forces. The armed forces deployment should continue till the roads are constructed, water supply schemes implemented, electricity conductors and substations set up, health centres opened, horticultural and other schemes taken up. As all this is being done the government should slowly privatise. There are many spheres where the government should disengage, like collection of power tariff, irrigation, cess, etc. Government can also disengage in the field of education and health care. This should be given increasingly to the missionary institutions.

During the CI operations magistrates and police should be associated with all cordon and search operations. Suspects picked up by the armed forces should be handed over to joint interrogation centres immediately. All cadres from whom weapons are recovered should be detained, under the NSA and their trials under the Arms Act or other special acts should be closely monitored. Special courts should be set up for this. Whenever there are interim stay orders granted the higher courts must be appealed to, and the stays vacated. Special day-to-day hearings should be carried out in all-important cases.

It must be borne in mind that our powerful neighbour China is not far from Manipur and the North East. All the major insurgent groups in the North East have at one time or the other met the Chinese government and got arms from them. Today the Myanmar Government has become heavily dependent on them. The Myanmar army is equipped with Chinese arms. It is reliably learnt that arms from the Chinese ordnance factories are trickling into the clandestine arms market in Myanmar. Recently the Myanmar special unit NA-SA-KA, is reported to have arrested 36 cadres of the valley insurgents from Kalemyo and seized 1600 weapons from them. It is learnt that the cadres have been released after payment of heavy fines. The weapons have been kept by the Myanmar army. All the weapons were reported to be of Chinese origin. The question is, were the weapons released to the arms market by design or by accident?

We have neglected these wonderful people for too long. Instead of nurturing this frontier state we have allowed its politics and administration to degenerate. Despite all this, the people are remarkably patient. When one visits remote villages with an inaccessible dirt road, no water supply, no electricity, no primary health centre, and a dilapidated primary or middle school without any teachers, one is taken aback by the warmth of the welcome of the people, for just deigning to visit their village. One feels ashamed. The state is so small, the population so limited, it is not difficult to bring it up. All that one requires is the Will.

 

References
 
1.

Robert Thompson, Defeating Communist Insurgency.

2.

Sir James Johnstone, My Experiences in Naga Hills and Manipur.

3. R, Constantine, Manipur : Maid of the Mountains.
4.

Vedaja Sanjenbam, Manipur : Geogr

 

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Shri EN Rammohan retired as the DG, BSF. He had a tenure as Advisor to Governor of Manipur.

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