Joint Memo to Interlocutor from Zomi Council, Thadou Inpi and Hmar Inpui

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JOINT MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED TO SHRI DINESHWAR SHARMA
INTERLOCUTOR FOR THE ON-GOING TRIPARTITE POLITICAL DIALOGUE
BETWEEN UNITED PEOPLES' FRONT (UPF)/KUKI NATIONAL ORGANIZATION (KNO)
AND GOVERNMENT OF INDIA AND THE GOVERNMENT OF MANIPUR
BY ZOMI COUNCIL, THADOU INPI AND HMAR INPUI ON AUGUST 31, 2017
WITH A REQUEST TO EXPEDITE THE DIALOGUE FOR AN EARLY POLITICAL SOLUTION

Respected Sir,

It is with utmost pleasure and expectation that the undersigned leaders of the Hmar Inpui (the apex body of the Hmar tribe), the Thadou Inpi (the apex body of the Thadou tribe) and the Zomi Council (the apex body of Gangte, Kom, Mate, Paite, Simte, Tedim-Chin, Thangkhal, Vaiphei and Zou tribes) congratulate you on your appointment as the interlocutor to facilitate the ongoing political dialogue between tribal armed groups under the United Peoples' Front (UPF) and to steer the peace process towards a sustainable and logical conclusion.

While it is not our intention to legitimize or reject any armed movement, the genesis of the armed struggles initiated by such as the groups under UPF in Manipur begs a closer scrutiny. It is undeniable that the Hmar, Zomi, Kuki and Mizo peoples have for long been the butt of derision, deprivation, exploitation and marginalisation throughout the more than 60-year of the state of Manipur under the Indian Union.

Some cases in point are:

1. MERGER HISTORY: The Hmar, Zomi, Kuki and Mizo peoples of Manipur were never consulted nor their consent taken when Manipur decided to merge with the Indian Union despite being an important and integral part of its history and development. If we were, perhaps, we might choose, by our own volition, to be under it but ensuring our rights are respected and protected. Perhaps, we might choose to be a separate state under the Indian Union. If such were done, the people of Manipur in general and the hills of Manipur in particular might have been much more peaceful, developed and productive under the Indian Union. Much lives, energy, time, manpower and money could have been saved, and hence, diverted to other more productive activities for the nation. While the people in Manipur valley are shouting foul against the Indian government for violating their rights to self-determination; the same treatment is being meted out to the hill areas by successive Manipur government.

2. HILL AREAS COMMITTEE ORDER, 1972: The contents and components of the order leaves much to be desired and its implementation more so.

3. MLR & LR ACT, 1960: This controversial Act has been the source of discord between ethnicities. It has also been a tool often employed for the furtherance of deprivation, exploitation and marginalisation of tribal peoples and their ancestral land in the present state of Manipur. No amount of opposition or protests from the tribal against this Machiavellian legislation has had any effects. The state government continue to use this to violate the rights of the tribal.

4. MANIPUR AUTONOMOUS (HILL AREAS) DISTRICT COUNCIL ACT, 1971: This is another contentious issue wherein the status of the District Council was neither properly defined nor did it state under which provisions of the Constitution the District Council Act was enacted. Though designed to uplift the hill people, it has become a stumbling block. The District Council Act has effectively curtailed the capacity and rights of the tribal to administer themselves as mandated by the Indian Constitution, thereby paralysing the local administration within its jurisdiction. It is a self-defeating Act. As a result, the extension of the provisions of Article 244A of the Constitution of India to the present state of Manipur, which is provided for the administration of the tribal peoples in the north-eastern states of India, is of paramount importance.

With such calculated scheme to stymie the progress and development of the hill peoples, and many more violations, blatant rejection and apathy of the state government towards the cries and protest of the tribal and its callous continuation of insidious and divisive intrigues, it is no wonder that so many tribal armed groups have cropped up as a by-product during the last three/four decades.

It may also be pertinent to point out that though the appointment of an interlocutor was announced by the chief minister, Shri N. Biren Singh, on 27 July 2017, and though your good-self was formally introduced to the UPF team on the 9 August, 2017 in New Delhi, copy of the appointment is yet to be made public or given to UPF representatives.

Sir, the tribal armed groups under the UPF have been in a decade-long Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement while simultaneously engaged in a tripartite peace dialogue with the state and central governments. Allow us to highlight in brief some notable landmarks:

22 August, 2008: A tripartite Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement was signed wherefore all parties involved mutually agreed to cease hostilities and other forms of violence to pave the way for a fruitful, conducive environment for peace.

22 March, 2012: Submission of a memorandum demanding an Autonomous Hill State within a State under Article 244A of the Indian Constitution.

16 June, 2016: Follow-up Submission of the demand for an Autonomous Hill State within a State under Article 244A of the Indian Constitution.

Three high-level political talks have taken place so far:
-The first on 15 June, 2016.
-The second on 19 October, 2016.
-The third on 9 August, 2017.

The agreements signed, the processes initiated and commitments, according to the populace, cannot be seen any other way except as a genuine and sincere step towards peace and acceptance of a non-violent means to that end. We cannot help but appreciate such initiatives and commitments of both the armed groups and the Indian government.

The vibrant and strong commitments of the NDA government for instituting the road to durable peace and sustainable development in the hill areas of Manipur have been instrumental in reducing insurgency-related violence. Incidence of kidnapping, extortion, killings and other forms of violence detrimental to the safety and security of civilians has drastically gone down ever since the signing of the SoO agreement by the armed groups. The overt presence of armed cadres in civilian areas has also been almost negligible owing to the confinement of armed cadres in their designated camps as per the ground rules of the SoO agreement.

While several significant steps have been taken, and several milestones created in the past in the search for an elusive peace; it is the mutual willingness to a dialogue for peace that is grounded on democratic principles and the rule of law as understood internationally, that has brought some hope of a new dawn to the state and the people. We are now able to heave a sigh of relief and can live our lives with less fear of being caught in a political or military crossfire. This is, indeed, an achievement and a huge boost to our morale and faith in our democracy and its farsighted leaders.

However, inspite of the noteworthy achievements thus far, there is a looming danger of losing this fragile and hard-earned peace and of losing a golden opportunity to maintain durable peace and sustainable development unless the Government takes specific proactive steps to address the core issues through positive and transformative political dialogue. Prolonged delays in starting such proactive political dialogue to address lingering lacunas could be counter-productive as there are apparent increase in the level of frustrations and disillusionments among the armed groups, not to speak of the general populace who are direct victims.

Dialogue with the tribal armed groups under UPF is expected to adopt a progression of steps which would lead to a comprehensive resolution. Whereas, the dynamics that could witness the peace dialogue stage is a long-drawn-out process, engagement of intermediaries, etc. A properly initiated and managed dialogue process should ideally result in early negotiations on a level ground where all the stakeholders, including gender aspects, have democratic participation in a transparent and inclusive process. Prolongation of a post-dialogue period (prior to resolution) should be unnecessary, as much of the groundwork on which a future resolution would be structured on should have already been established preceding a formal cessation of hostility.

That, Sir, when we speak of political dialogue, the first matter we have to take into account and clearly understand is the dialogue itself. Without proper and in-depth understanding of what is meant by ‘dialogue’, a journey into political dialogue among the armed non-state actors would indeed be a futile exercise, which, unfortunately, also seems to be the case with the decade-long ‘dialogue’ and ‘talks’ between the tribal armed groups under UPF and the government.

We strongly feel that the dialogues that have taken place so far have been lacking in transparency, substance, effectiveness and willingness on the part of the government for a mutually acceptable and sustainable agreement.

We are, therefore, compelled to ask the questions:
“When will the dialogues be finally over and the demands of the UPF are seriously discussed with sincere willingness to a logical settlement by the government?”
Or
“Is the government just trying to eyewash the public into thinking that a peace process is going on with full speed but in reality is just playing a wait and watch game?”

Sir, the aspiration of the people for peace and security and the eventual realisation of our long cherished dream of living in our own lands with no fear of discrimination, marginalisation, exploitation and deprivation has never been as high as it is now. We long for the day when our political, economic and cultural rights are respected, preserved, promoted and protected; our children and their grandchildren growing up in peace, security and harmony in a land they can call their own.

We long for the day when our people can once more held up their heads in dignity. We anxiously wait for the day when the government decides to help us in realising these simple but crucial aspirations by seriously considering the demands of the UPF and to come to a sustainable solution through peaceful and democratic processes.

That, Sir, even though you are fully aware of all the finer details of the dialogue process and of the hurdles that may most likely crop up in the journey toward a sustainable solution to the protracted insurrection of the tribal armed groups of Manipur in general and the Hmar, Zomi and Kuki armed groups under the United Peoples Front per se, we cannot help but draw your kind attention to the urgency of an impartial, accountable, transparent and sustainable interlocution of the ongoing political dialogue under your most able guidance and intervention.

Finally, may we humbly beseech your good-self and the Government of India to engage UPF leadership with utmost sincerity to arrive at a pragmatic political autonomy for the tribal of Manipur within a given time-frame. We, once again, urge you to focus on political issues above all other trivial issues which can simply derail the peace processes. The Zomi Council, Thadou Inpi and Hmar Inpui will continue to support and back the UPF in the process of tripartite political talks until we achieve our long cherished demand for a Separate Administrative Unit.

With kindest regards and prayers,

Yours sincerely,

(JOSEPH LALROTHANG)
President, Hmar Inpui

(FRANCIS SONGATE)
General Secretary, Hmar Inpui

(Y.T. THADOU)
President, Thadou Inpi

(PAOKAM KIPGEN)
General Secretary, Thadou Inpi

(B.D. SIMTE)
Chairman, Zomi Council

(KHAMNEITHANG VAIPHEI)
General Secretary, Zomi Council

(L.PUMLIANPAU)
President, Paite Tribe Council

(H. PAUZALAL)
General Secretary, Paite Tribe Council

(KHATKHOTONG BAITE)
President, Vaiphei Peoples’ Council

(KHAMNEITHANG VAIPHEI)
General Secretary, Vaiphei Peoples’ Council

(H. PAU ZA CIN)
President, Tedim Chin Union

(JAM KHAN)
General Secretary, Tedim Chin Union

(T. KHAIKHANHAU)
President, Thangkhal People Organization

(T. GINLUNTHANG)
General Secretary, Thangkhal People Organization

(CHINLUNTHANG)
President, United Zou Organization

(THANGZAMANG)
General Secretary, United Zou Organization

(B.D. SIMTE)
President, Simte Tribe Council

(DOUKHANGMANG)
General Secretary, Simte Tribe Council

(L.K. TINSOI)
President, Gangte Tribe Council

(PAUKHOGEN GANGTE)
General Secretary, Gangte Tribe Council

(THONGKHOLIAN)
President, Mate Tribe Council

(MIMIN MATE)
General Secretary, Mate Tribe Council