Momoko Abused in Manipur
It was a chilly night on December 18 in Chandel district bordering Burma when a musical function was organized to raise fund. As special attractions film personalities were invited to conduct the programme, sing and spice up the function with jokes. In the middle of the programme “Lt Col” R.P. Livingstone of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) molested Momoko Nongmaithem, a film actor who was anchoring the programme. She ran to her mother. When the mother protested the NSCN(IM) man kicked and trampled Momoko. Two artistes, singer Prakash and comedian Guna rushed to placate the NSCN(IM) and rescue her. However he opened fire at them although the bullets missed them by a whisker.
On December 20 the film personalities in Manipur tried to meet Chief Minister Okram Ibobi to submit a memorandum demanding, inter alia, arrest and prosecution of Livingstone. However, the police displayed their muscle power and dispersed them using force. The infuriated film and theatre personalities then in a meeting decided to impose an indefinite general strike in Manipur demanding actions against Livingstone. The strike became effective from December 21 midnight.
The acitvists smashed windcreens of cars, torched some vehicles and did not permit anyone to travel along the roads. The cars of two editors Loyalakpa Khoirom and Shyamjai Wangkhemcha were damaged. The policemen were escorting some tribals in a truck on December 23. However the activists asked the tribals to get down and walk away. They then torched the truck. One TV journalist Dwijamani Thangjam working for DDK and Prime News filmed the burning truck. However, the police gunned him down despite the fact that from the camera he was handling he could not have been mistaken for an activist.
At this juncture the NSCN(IM) said that Momoko had provoked the Nagas and that is why Livingstone beat her up. She fiercely denied it, saying that it was fabricated. She explained that it was not for the station of her life to provoke a community in any manner.On December 22 night Ibobi called on Sushil Kumar Shinde, Union Home Minister to demand handing over of the NSCN(IM) to the Manipur government if the flames are to be doused. After somehow listening to him Shinde suggested to Ibobi to meet R.S. Pandey, the interlocutor of the ceasefire monitoring cell. It was as good as being elbowed out. Becuse an interlocutor is to monitor the ceasefire rules. He cannot order the arrest of an NSCN(IM) man and then hand him over to the Manipur government. No wonder Ibobi rushed home early next morning.
|The film and theatre personalities and other civil organizations which had spearheaded the general strike, made it clear that the campaign is not against any community.|
While he was holding the fort the deputy chief minister G. Gaikhangam did some things and said many things which raised the eyebrows of many. Night curfew had been imposed in the four districts of Manipur. It was pointed out that there is no night life in Manipur. Besides, civilians and activists are not seen in the roads at night. It is somewhat like using a sledge hammer to kill a wasp. Gaikhangam also announced that he had asked the police and Assam Rifles to go and arrest Livingstone. However, the fact is that several police and Assam Rifles personnel were mute witness to the molestation and beating up of Momoko. He attributed the failure to arrest Livingstone to the 24 hour gap between the incident and the time government learned about it. He is not explaining why the government was in the dark since police and civil officials were at the function. Secondly, he also said that he had asked the Assam Rifles to close down the peace camp of the NSCN(IM) in Chandel. The Assam Rifles cannot close down a peace camp opened by the home ministry. He also said that some Assam Rifles personnel had gone to the peace camp, but the camp manager told them that Livingstone was not there. It was not explained where he had dissapeared since the ground rules state that the signatories should stay in a designated camp. Some journalists wanted to know whether it is a fact that there are peace camps of the NSCN(IM) although the ceasefire is not extended. The trapped deputy chief minister merely said that the government does not recognize the existence of such peace camps in Manipur. This does not explain why he had sent Assam Rifles personnel to a camp the government does not recognize. Since these contradictory statements were causing more confusions among the people and Shinde was understood to have advised Ibobi to restrain Gaikhangam.
The film and theatre personalities and other civil organizations which had spearheaded the general strike, made it clear that the campaign is not against any community. Instead all sections of people should extend support to it since it is for the protection of the womenfolk. The organizations also relaxed the general strike so that Christmas festival could be observed peacefully, but then some sections had objected saying that the campaign should continue. After the relaxation the organizations resumed the general strike and the government promptly imposed a curfew. This time the state government was toeing the line of the union home minister since only day curfew was imposed. Though there was a 72 hour blockade in the hills but no curfew was imposed.
A meeting of the organizations was held to take stock of the situation. The indefinite strike was causing untold hardships to the people. Besides that some sections have twisted the issues to give a communal pigmentation. From 6 pm of December 26 the general strike was lifted. However, other forms of peaceful protests not causing hardships to the people would continue. The United Naga Council imposed a 72 hour blockade against Manipur from December 26 midnight. Though Gaikhangam says it was a counter blockade some Naga groups clarified that it is not so.
Two trucks and three buses have been torched by the UNC activists and movement of all trucks, buses and private vehicles along the Naga inhabited areas was stopped, but then there was no impact in the Kuki dominated areas of the four districts of Senapati, Ukhrul, Chandel and Tamenglong. There was no blockade in Churachandpur district which is also dominated by the Kukis.
By now it has become increasingly clear that the centre shall not arrest and hand over the accused to the Manipur government. The central leaders are more concerned over the signing of a final solution to the Naga problem. If the ranking leader of the outfit is arrested and humiliated the peace applecart may be upset. Accordingly the hamstrung chief minister convened a meeting of the representatives of all 16 political parties in his office on December 26 to take stock of the situation. It was unanimously decided to send an all party delegation to New Delhi to urge the union home minister to hand over the accused to the Manipur government. However the response of the union home minister can be foreknown despite the fact that the ceasefire and talks with the Indian government do not give carte blanche to the NSCN(IM). One of the political parties which attended the meeting was the Naga People’s Front which rather an extension of the ruling party in Nagaland and is supported by many groups in Manipur.
The organizations have made it clear that unless Livingstone is arrested they will continue to launch agitations. On the other hand it is anybody’s guess whether the UNC shall continue to launch the blockade against Manipur. The opposition MLA’s are conspicuous by their sepulchral silence over this burning issue. But then for several years there has been no functioning opposition in Manipur and the people have nobody to turn to. The ball is now in the court of the central government. It is up to Sushil Kumar Shinde to show whether he wants to end the ferment or let it continue. But then the primary concern is inking an agreement with the NSCN(IM).
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