Tuesday, August 17, 2010

NE in Tryst with Destiny

We have now stepped into the 64th year since making our tryst with destiny on August 15, 1947, and as in preceding years, the same question continues to haunt us and that is whether the present India is what Nehru had in mind when he famously addressed the Nation with his Tryst with Destiny speech way back in 1947. The birth of India as a Nation was not without its share of turmoil and heart burns and one just has to recollect the blood and gore during the Partition, when human beings were slaughtered by fellow human beings blinded by hatred and a rage within, which could be calmed down by butchering the ones on the other side. If Gandhiji led the Freedom Movement with his unique Ahimsa or non-violence philosophy, the violence, bloodshed and gore under which India and Pakistan emerged as two different countries, after the British left, tells the journey of a Nation in idea, founded on the message of peace and brotherly co-existence to a Nation born with blood. It is not without any reason that the Partition is often cited as an example, when any deep divide arises along communal affiliations or ethnic ties. After Gandhi, the job was then left to Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and others to propagate the idea of India as a Nation to all the provinces which were hitherto under the British Raj. And in propagating the idea of an Indian Nation, no one can claim to be a holy cow, for the politics of betrayal, threat and intimidations were often resorted to and the fruit of such an approach can today be seen in North East India, where a number of rebel groups have emerged to engage the Indian armed forces in a bush war for decades. The Nagas raised the banner of independence on August 14, 1947 one day ahead of India, while Manipur reverted to its earlier status as a sovereign State, which had its own system of governance. Tripura also experienced the same story of Manipur, with the then incumbent king or queen signing the controversial Merger Agreement under dubious and controversial circumstances. It is the thorn of the political double speak, high treason and betrayal, whether imagined or factually correct, that surrounds the Merger Agreement, which continues to prick the very idea of an India as a Nation, at least in the North East. This has provided the perfect launching pad for armed insurgency to mushroom in almost all the States in the region. The Naga armed movement seems to have come to a closed chapter, despite the occasional threats and rantings from its leaders and earlier we saw how Mizoram was able to regain its sanity after decades of bush war and violence, thanks to the Mizo Accord of 1986. In Manipur, there is nothing that offers us a glimpse of hope that a solution is in sight and instead the trouble or problem besetting this State of some 25 odd lakh population seem to be getting more and more complicated with each passing year. Today, it is not only a question of surviving the violence that we see all around, in the form of bombs being planted at the residence of some individual, ambushes on security personnel, street wars or pitched battle between the women vigilantes and the Government over the continued imposition of Armed Forces Special Powers Act and most significantly, the growing ethnic divide between the Nagas of Manipur and the Meiteis over the Greater Lim issue which has come to take the form of economic blockades on the National Highways and counter blockades in the valley areas.
This is Manipur in brief, after 63 years of independence and however much we would like to believe that this is not what Nehru had in mind, when India made her tryst with destiny on August 15, 1947, the bitter reality lies in the question of whether the idea of India as a Nation has taken firm roots across the length and breadth of the country. The North East does not figure in the National Anthem, with due respect to Rabindranath Tagore, nor are its multifarious culture and uniqueness reflected in the National flag. The very fact that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, in his address to the Nation on Independence Day on August 15 from the Red Fort in Delhi, made a specific reference to the North East, says something about where the region figure in the overall scheme of things in the present Government and we would like to say, it is rather encouraging. It is on occasions like Independence Day and Republic Day, that the finer nuances of the agenda of the Government of the day, can be understood. The Nation already knows the stance of the Centre and particularly the stand of the Prime Minister on the Maoists and the “biggest internal threat to India” quip by Dr Manmohan Singh could not have been an off the cuff remark but was stated after taking into considerations all the facts and circumstances. A whole gamut of issues were touched upon by the Prime Minister ranging from the flash floods at Leh, which has taken a heavy toll on human lives to the economy of the country, which was described as encouraging. We are not economists or financial analysts, but the optimistic message by the Prime Minister is encouraging and does not sound like some political rantings, given his academic background. The speech to the Nation by itself is an annual affair, and to some, it may have lost its relevance, but to States like Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of the North East, the Prime Minister's speech offers us a glimpse of the political agenda in the mind of the Government. Taken this into consideration, we feel, the Prime Minister's speech, while referring to the North East, “I would like to convey to all political parties and groups of the North East that disputes in the name of States or tribes can only harm us,” is replete with meaning and will surely not miss the eyes of the NSCN (IM) leaders and the people of Manipur. This is the second time that two Prime Ministers from different political parties have managed to subtly but effectively put across their message on the Lim issue and the first was Atal Behari Vajpayee, who said that the issue needs a political consensus of all concerned, while addressing a meeting at Kohima when the NDA was in power !

No comments: