Category: History


Chennai – the capital of Madras state pre-independence and the capital of Tamilnadu post-independence. This is one of the rapidly growing cities in the new world. I visited Chennai for the first time when I was in my sixth standard. Later, it became my second home when I came there for higher studies. My intention is to take the readers into a journey across time to witness the growth of Chennai.

Firstly, the below mentioned paragraphs are not mine. They are excerpts from “The story of Madras” written by Glyn Barlow, M.A in 1921.

About the origins of Madras:

Mr. Francis Day was pleased with what he saw; for Madras is not without beauty. In those idyllic days, moreover, the Cooum river, which was known then as the Triplicane river—and which even to-day can be beautiful, although for the greater part of the year it is no more than a stagnant ditch—must have been a limpid water-way; and to Mr. Francis Day, seeing it in winter, in which season the current swollen by the rain sometimes succeeds in bursting the bar, it must have appeared almost as a noble river, rushing down to the great sea—a river such as might well have deserved the erection of a town on its banks. The negotiations were successful: but the Naik was subordinate to the lord of the soil, the Raja of Chandragiri, who was the living representative of the once great and magnificent Hindu empire of Vijianagar; and any grant that was made by the Naik of Poonamallee had to be confirmed by the Raja if it was to be made valid. Two or three miles from Chandragiri station, on the Katpadi-Gudur line of railway, is still to be seen the Rajah-Mahal, the palace in which the Raja handed to Mr. Francis Day the formal title to the land.

About Fort St.George:

From the very beginning the settlement was called Fort St. George, but it was several years before the buildings were surrounded by a high and fortified wall. It was in no spirit of military aggression that the Company’s agents enclosed their settlement with a bastioned rampart, from whose battlements big cannon frowned on all sides round.”

St.George fort 1710

In 1746 there was a siege of a more serious sort. England and France were at war in Europe, and suddenly a squadron of French ships appeared off Fort St. George. After a week’s siege, the English merchants capitulated to superior force, and they were all sent to Pondicherry as prisoners, and the French flag waved over Madras; but by the treaty which ended the war, Madras was restored to the Company. Twelve years later Madras was once more besieged by the French, but unsuccessfully, and eventually the French leaders marched their forces away, quarrelling among themselves over their ill-success.

Fort St. George in the beginning was very small. Its external length parallel with the seashore was 108 yards, and its breadth was 100 yards. When White Town, which grew up around it, was fortified, there was ‘a fort within a fort’ (vide Map, p. 10); but eventually the inner wall was demolished. At various times the outer wall has been altered, but the Fort as we have it to-day is the selfsame Fort St. George nevertheless, a glorious relic of bygone times, and verily a history in stone.

About White town, Black town and Armenian Street:

Madras old 1750

The town that grew up outside the little fort was divided into two sections—’the White Town’ and ‘the Black Town.’ The boundaries of White Town corresponded roughly with what are now the boundaries of Fort St. George itself. The original Black Town—’Old Black Town’—covered what is now the vacant ground that lies between the Fort and the Law College, and included what are now the sites of the Law College and the High Court (vide Map, p. 10). The inhabitants of White Town included any British settlers not in the Company’s service whose presence the Company approved, also all approved Portuguese and Eurasian immigrants from Mylapore, and a certain number of approved Indian Christians. White Town indeed was sometimes called the ‘Christian Town.’ Black Town was the Asiatic settlement. The great majority of the original Indian settlers were not Tamilians but Telugus—written down as ‘Gentoos’ in the Company’s Records.

Armenian Street—which began as an Armenian burial-ground (vide Map, p. 10)—is an example. Armenians from Persia, like their fellow-countrymen the Parsees, have a racial gift for commerce; and Armenian merchants had been in India long before the English arrived. Enterprising Armenian merchants settled in Madras in its early days to trade with the English colonists, and the Company’s agents were glad to have as middlemen such able merchants who were in close touch with the people of the land. The most celebrated of the earlier Armenians in Madras was Peter Uscan, Armenian by race but Roman Catholic in religion, who lived in Madras for more than forty years, till his death there in 1751, at the age of seventy. He was a rich and public-spirited merchant. He built the Marmalong Bridge over the Adyar river, on one of the pillars of which a quaint inscription is still to be read, and he left a fund for its maintenance; he also renewed the multitude of stone steps that lead up to the top of St. Thomas’s Mount. His inscribed tomb is to be seen in the churchyard of the Anglican Church of St. Matthias, Vepery, which in olden days was the churchyard of a Roman Catholic chapel.

About Walltax road and SaltCotta:

The long delay in the building of the Wall was chiefly due to the fact that the representatives of the Company, being commercial men, naturally gave their chief attention to the Company’s mercantile business, and were apt to disregard the immediate necessity of expensive schemes which the Company’s military officers put forward as strategic requirements. When the Wall was first talked about, after the recovery of Madras from the French, the Directors in England, who always kept a tight hand on the Company’s purse-strings, declared that the inhabitants of Black Town ought to be made to pay for the cost of their own defences, and should be taxed accordingly; and the name of the ‘Wall Tax Road,’ which runs alongside the Central Station to the Salt Cotaurs, is a standing reminder of the Directors’ decree, while the road itself is an indication of the alignment of the western wall.

About Elihu Yale (Yale university), Chintadripet, Kaladipet, and Nyniappa Naicken street:

Elihu Yale, who was one of the early Governors of the Fort, imported some fifty weaver-families and located them in ‘Weavers’ street’, the street that is now known as Nyniappa Naick Street, in Georgetown. Some twenty-five years later, Governor Collet established a number of imported weavers in the northern suburb of Tiruvattur, in a village that was given the name ‘Collet Petta’ in the Governor’s honour—a name that degenerated into ‘Kalati Pettah’—’Loafer-land’—its present appellation. There was still a demand for more weavers, and eventually a large vacant tract was marked out as a ‘Weavers’ Town,’ under the name of Chindadre Pettah—the modern Chintadripet.

About Washermanpet:

Washermanpet is another such locality. It was not so called, as many people imagine, for being a land of dhobies (male laundresses). In the Company’s vocabulary a ‘washerman’ was a man who ‘bleached’ new-made cloth; and the Company employed a number of bleachers. The bleaching process needed large open spaces—washing-greens—on which the cloth could be laid out in the sun to be bleached; and Washermanpet covered a considerable area.

Old Madras

About North Madras:

Later, in compliance with a petition by Governor Elihu Yale to the Emperor Aurangzeb, the Company received a free grant of ‘Tandore (Tondiarpet), Persewacca (Pursewaukam), and Yegmore (Egmore). Still later, in the reign of Aurangzeb’s son and successor, the village of  Lungambacca (Nungumbaukam), now the principal residential district of Europeans in Madras, was granted to the Company, together with four adjoining villages, for a total annual rent of 1,500 pagodas (say Rs. 5,250). The village of Vepery—variously called in olden documents Ipere, Ypere, Vipery, and Vapery—lay between Egmore and Pursewaukam; and the Company, being naturally desirous of consolidating their territory, proceeded at once to try to obtain a grant of the place; but successive efforts on the part of Governor Elihu Yale came to naught; and it was not till much later (1742) when the Nawab of Arcot was lord of the soil, that Vepery was acquired from the Nawab.

San Thomé was acquired in 1749; and the story of the acquisition is not without interest. The names ‘San Thomé’ and ‘Mylapore’ are often used as alternative designations for one and the same locality; but in bygone days the two names represented quite different places. Mylapore was a very ancient Indian town, which seems to have been in existence long before the birth of Christ. San Thomé was a seventeenth century Portuguese settlement close by. It is an old tradition that St. Thomas the Apostle was martyred just outside Mylapore; and when the Portuguese first came to India some of them visited Mylapore to look for relics of the saint. They found some ruined Christian churches, and also a tomb which they believed to be the tomb of St. Thomas; and soon afterwards a Portuguese monastery was established on the spot. A Portuguese town grew up around the monastery; and in course of time the town became a commercial centre, and was surrounded with a fortified wall, and was the Portuguese settlement of San Thomé, over against the Indian town of Mylapore. An Italian dealer in precious stones who visited India in the sixteenth century wrote of San Thomé that it was ‘as fair a city’ as any that he had seen in the land; and he described Mylapore as being an Indian city surrounded by its own mud wall. Mylapore was thus in effect the Black Town of San Thomé; but in later days the two towns were combined. When the English came to Fort St. George, the power of the Portuguese was already waning; and the development of the influence of the English at Madras meant a further lessening of the influence of the Portuguese at San Thomé; and it was a natural consequence that San Thomé, including Mylapore, became a prey to successive assailants.

About Leith castle in San-Thome:

The remains of the San Thomé Redoubt stand within the grounds of ‘Leith Castle,’ a house that lies south of the San Thomé Cathedral. The remains are ruins, but the massive walls fifteen feet high and three feet thick, are suggestive of the purpose for which the redoubt was built. The ‘Records’ show that the San Thomé Redoubt, built in 1751, was a very complete fortification, with a moat forty feet wide, a glacis, and all the other works that are usual in respect of a well appointed building of the kind.

Leith castle

The Egmore Redoubt was a good deal older than that of San Thomé. It was constructed in the days of Queen Anne. It was intended, of course, for the special protection of Egmore; but in those distant days when trips to the hills were unknown, even Egmore was a health-resort in respect of the crowded Fort St. George, and it was officially reported that the Egmore Redoubt might ‘serve for a convenience for the sick Soldiers when arrived from England, for the recovery of their health, it being a good air.’

Egmore redoubt

About Pachaiyappa College:

Pachaiyappa’s College, a well-known Hindu institution, had its first beginning in 1842. Like the other colleges in Madras, it began as a school; the school was called ‘Pachaiyappa’s Central Institution,’ and was located in Black Town. The present buildings were opened in 1850 by Sir Henry Pottinger, an ex-governor of Madras, amid a large gathering of leading European and Indian residents; and for a number of years the annual ‘Day’ at Pachaiyappa’s College was an important social event. Pachaiyappa was a rich and religious Hindu, who made his money as a broker in the Company’s service, and who died more than a hundred years ago leaving a lakh of pagodas – some 3½ lakhs of rupees – for temple purposes. The trustees neglected the provisions of the will, whereupon the High Court assumed control of the funds, which under the Court’s control rose to the value of nearly Rs. 7½ lakhs. The original amount was set apart for the fulfilment of the terms of the will, and the surplus was assigned to educational purposes in Pachaiyappa’s name.

pachaiyappa college

About St.Andrew’s Kirk:

St. Andrew’s Church—most commonly known as ‘The Kirk’—was planned while St. George’s was being built; and it is remarkable that it was not projected sooner than it was. Scotchmen in Madras, as in other parts of India, apart from Scottish soldiers, have been many; and the names of a number of Madras roads and houses—such as Anderson Road, Graeme’s Road, Davidson Street, Brodie Castle, Leith Castle, Mackay’s Gardens—are reminders of the fact that not a few of the Scots of Madras have been influential; and at the time when a second Anglican church was being built in the city it was suggested to the Directors of the Company in England that the numerous residents who were members of the Church of Scotland ought to have a church too. The Directors, who realized no doubt the desirability of being agreeable to the many Scots in Madras, one of whom at the time was the Governor himself, Mr.Hugh Elliot, consented to the suggestion, and in 1815 they sent out a notification that a Presbyterian church was to be built not only at Madras but also in each of the other Presidency cities at the Company’s expense, and that the Company would maintain a Presbyterian chaplain at each. The Directors laid down no instructions as to what was to be the maximum cost of each kirk, but it was unpretentious buildings that they had in mind. At Bombay a large kirk was built for less than half a lakh of rupees, but for the kirk at Madras the Madras Government submitted a bill for nearly Rs.2¼ lakhs – some Rs.10,000 more than the total cost of St.George’s Cathedral, and the Directors were indignant. The Kirk, however, had been built; and it is one of the handsome churches of Madras. It is a domed building, with a tall steeple over the Grecian façade; and some of its critics have said that the combination of dome and steeple gives the edifice a strangely camel-backed appearance; but, however that may be, the dome adds beauty to the interior. When the Church was opened, it was found that the dome evoked disturbing echoes, and a large additional expense had to be incurred to exorcise the wandering voices. The steeple reaches a height of 166½ feet, which is 27½ feet higher than that of St.George’s.

Andrew's Kirk

The final word’s of the author:

But the greatest charm of Madras lies in its history. It was here that the foundations of the Indian Empire may be said to have been laid. The history of Madras is not a story of aggressive warfare. The settlers were gentle merchants, whose weapon was not the sword but the pen, and whose only desire it was to be left alone to carry on their business in peace. But the rising city was a continual mark for the hostility of commercial and political rivals, both European and Indian. It was a storm-centre, and the storms were often fierce; and the merchants were often compelled to meet force with force. Moreover, the merchants were men, and their doings therefore were by no means always without reproach; but, with due allowance for human weakness, the history of Madras is a history of which Madras may be proud. The city has grown from strength to strength, and in its story there is much inspiration. This little book has merely told the story in part; but it will have served its purpose if it has in any way helped the reader to realize that the story of Madras is the story of no mean city.

I guess I don’t have to say more. I hope you would have enjoyed reading and visualizing. For those of you who are interested to read the entire book, please click here – The Story of Madras by Glyn Barlow. M.A.

Disclaimer – The opinion’s are mine. Statistics aren’t mine. They have been picked up from the internet and research work from various sources (links provided as and when). My political orientation, at present, is neutral. I have a growing discontent towards the congress government at the centre. However, that thought will only reflect on the initial lines of this post. Further down, I am going to speak only about the power reforms that happened in Gujarat. This is not propaganda. This story inspired me and I am sharing it. Period.

2012. Congress rules the country without a long-term vision. Congress does not have a solid development plan for the nation. The situation looks grim with inflation soaring high and money value falling low. The liberalization of trade or the so called trade reforms by Manmohan Singh have made the Indian manufacturers/farmers/companies to struggle against huge conglomerates that have international experience in trade. Manmohan keeps himself silent and the only time when he breaks his silence, he says – my silence is better than a thousand answers. You cannot get an justification for that statement from the Prime minister because it would take another 10 years to get that.

Meanwhile, a man called Narendra Damodardas Modi, Chief minister of Gujarat, gave an interview to Wall street journal on his state and development. Though Modi was not very methodical in answering few questions, he was very open in few. I don’t support Modi very blindly. I know he is a man with an accusation that holds him responsible for the 2002 Gujarat riots. However, a person who opens his mouth to say something is more a visionary than a man, who prefers to maintain silence, when he is answerable and accountable to 100 crore people.

Here are few excerpts from Modi’s interview to WSJ. They have been translated from Hindi.

WSJ: What was your reaction to India’s massive electricity blackouts at the end of July?

Modi:  The power and energy sectors are the biggest constituents of the infrastructure sector. If you ignore them, no development will happen. As far as the power blackout is concerned, I am embarrassed by it. This is a great loss for my nation. The situation was immediately compared to Gujarat. The world saw so much darkness that even a flicker of light caught their attention.

WSJ: Can Gujarat’s electricity reforms be a model for other states?

Modi: Villages (in Gujarat) didn’t used to get power at dinner time. They’d eat in the dark. Kids didn’t have light to study for exams; if mother was sick, there was no electricity…It disturbed me. Then I got involved. God helped me. He gave me a technical solution: separating the network so there are different power lines for agriculture and for domestic use. It became a huge success story – we completed it in 1,000 days.  All the states of India felt that this should be replicated in their states too.

WSJ: Should India remove foreign investment barriers in the multi-brand retail sector, allowing in companies like WalMart and Tesco? Would you support such a move?

Modi: When you bring in multi-brand retail items into the country, you’re not just bringing the products, but you’re also harming local manufacturers. You must strengthen your manufacturing sector and put it on a level playing field with the world. Any kind of items manufactured globally, like small pens, pencils, notebooks – our manufactured goods need to be on a level playing field. Then let them come. Have a competition. The biggest loss is going to be to manufacturers. Local traders will be fine; they will sell the stuff imported from outside and still earn profits.

I feel these answers, however politically oriented they may be, still prove that Modi is trying to do something to this nation. For the people, who question the radical Hindu-istic policy of Modi, that is a different topic and we will discuss it another post. For now, I am going to speak only about the power situation in Gujarat – Pre-Modi and Post-Modi.

2001 – The year, Modi became the chief minister of Gujarat. The next year, Gujarat was ravaged by communal riots that killed anywhere between 1000-2000 people. Gujarat was no better in developmental scenario too. In 2001, the power situation in Gujarat was very bad. Mr.Tarak Das from Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM-Ahmedabad) did a study on Gujarat Power scenario titled “Case study on – Gujarat State Electricity Board (GSEB) – A benchmark in the progress of SEB reforms.” IIPM’s authenticity may be questioned (we will do a separate post on this one)because they are an controversial organization but the figures and other research studies speak for the change. For an organization that reported an overall loss of INR 2542.98 crore in 2001 and to report a profit of INR 200 crore in 2006, something should have happened between 2001-2006. The something were the reforms suggested and implemented by N.D.Modi’s government.

To go into more details, GSEB was a failing organization in 2001. They had heavy losses (INR 2543 crore), their transmission and distribution (T&D) losses were high (35.2%) and the power purchase cost per unit from private players was high (INR 2.59). GSEB had no funds and was reeling in debt with interests alone summing up to a staggering INR 1227 crore (included in the loss). How would you revive the organization? The Gujarat government did it with aplomb. The story is interesting.

Its too late for the day. I will continue the story in subsequent posts. Good night. I dream big and I dream good. Do the same. They become true one day.

p.s – traveling over the weekend. The next post may be delayed by 3-4 days. Have a nice weekend.

Smile

This is not my original work. This is shared from the site of OPEN Magazine. This article was presented in OPEN in 2009. I remembered it today and hence, I share.

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Welcome to one of the most heavily militarised states of India. With 627 policemen for every 100,000 people, Manipur holds the unenviable record of the country’s highest police to citizen ratio. Add to the police strength another 55,000 or so Army and paramilitary personnel, and you have one security man for every 35-odd civilians. Ironically, there is no let-up in insurgency-related violence that has ravaged the state for over three decades.

For seven weeks now, all education institutions in Manipur have remained closed as a mark of protest over the killing of two persons (a surrendered militant and pregnant woman) in a fake encounter on 23 July. Civil society and rights organisations have been demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Ibobi Singh for his failure to prevent such fake encounters, which have been on the rise in the north-eastern state.

Kidnappings, extortions and killings by militant groups, coupled with extra-judicial detentions, torture and killings by security forces, have turned Manipur into a lawless state. Officially, last year 483 people died in militancy-related violence. Independent estimates, however, peg the toll at over 600 since many deaths and disappearances go unreported. The year also saw at least five major bomb blasts that claimed over 50 lives. The number of abductions for ransom crossed 150, according to independent estimates.

Endemic corruption, spiralling unemployment, a stagnant economy, political instability (since statehood in 1972 the state has seen 19 chief ministers and President’s Rule imposed seven times) and New Delhi’s myopic approach have driven this once prosperous and independent kingdom close to becoming a ‘failed’ state.

A small state of 22,327 sq. km, Manipur has close to two dozen militant groups waging a bloody battle against security forces that, armed with the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers (AFSP) Act, frequently target innocent civilians.

Here, everyone, including top bureaucrats and police officers, pay taxes to militants. And most of the politicians have some nexus or the other with insurgent groups.

Non-governmental organisations estimate that nearly 80 per cent of the funds allocated for developmental works get siphoned, and a substantial portion of that goes to fund militancy. Roads are pathetic even in the state capital that resembles a shantytown. All ten public sector undertakings (PSUs) are sick or being wound up, and the state government itself admits that small handicrafts and handloom units are the only industries worth the name.

Frequent bandhs and economic blockades mean there is no academic calendar here. Public water supply system is a mere trickle, and there is no sewage disposal network in the state. The public healthcare system is in shambles. And crime is rampant. “We all suffer from a sense of insecurity. Civil liberties remain suspended. The brain drain has been disastrous. Manipur is a huge mess. Manipuris are caught between the militants who extort money from everyone and security forces who arrest, torture and even kill helpless people for succumbing to militants’ demands,” says RK Anand, Manipur People’s Party (MPP) legislator.

But Manipur wasn’t always like this. It was a prosperous kingdom with a rich history and culture dating back to 33 AD. The state’s royal chronicle, or Cheitharol Kumpaba, lists Nongda Lairen Pakhangba as the first king who ruled from 33 to 121 AD, followed by 73 other rulers until 1890 when the British defeated Maharaja Kulachandra and appointed a political agent to rule the state while letting the Maharaja and his successors remain titular heads.

When the British left in 1947, the administration of the state was handed over to the king, Maharaja Bodhachandra, who initiated the move for a constitutional monarchy. Manipur was declared a sovereign country on 28 August 1947 and a constitution was drafted. In June the following year, elections were held under the Manipur Constitution Act, 1947. At the first session of the Assembly on 18 October 1948, a council of ministers was formed with the Maharaja’s younger brother, Kumar Priyobrata, as the chief minister. Maharaja Bodhachandra had devolved all his powers to the council of ministers in accordance with the 1947 Constitutional Act.

In September 1949, Maharaja Bodhachandra was invited by the Governor of Assam to Shillong, and asked to sign a document declaring the merger of Manipur with India. On refusal, he was put under house arrest; his plea that he had no authority to sign the document was ignored. His request to be allowed to return to Manipur and consult the Council of Ministers was also turned down. “He succumbed to the unbearable pressure and signed the so-called ‘merger agreement’ on 21 September 1949, and Manipur became part of India from October 15 that year. This grave injustice, the way our Maharaja was insulted and forced to sign on the dotted line, and the virtual annexation of Manipur by India, is what ultimately led to the birth of insurgency in 1964. We haven’t forgotten the way we were humiliated, and haven’t forgiven India for what it did in 1949,” says Khaidem Mani, a senior lawyer and chronicler of Manipur’s history.

But it wasn’t just the forced merger that rankles Manipuri’s. After becoming part of the Indian Union, Manipur’s status was downgraded from that of a sovereign country to a ‘Part C’ dominion to be ruled by a chief commissioner (a bureaucrat), and that too, without an Assembly or council of ministers. “No other princely state that became part of the Indian Union was downgraded to ‘Part C’ status. In 1975, when Sikkim merged with India, it was granted full statehood. Manipur became a Union Territory in November
1956, but the 30-member elected council only had an advisory role to play, with real powers resting with the Chief Commissioner. A mass movement for statehood gained momentum in 1953, but Delhi did not pay heed,” says Dr L Chandramani Singh, former deputy chief minister and MPP president.

“In 1963, New Delhi granted statehood to the Nagas in a futile gesture to placate Naga leader Phizo, who had started an insurgency. Naturally, Manipuri’s felt that taking up arms was the best way to achieve their demands. 1964 saw the first spark of insurgency in the state. Manipur was conferred full statehood in January 1972, but by then it was too late. Decades of criminal neglect, insult and humiliation suffered by Manipur had set it well on the road to militancy. If New Delhi had an iota of love, sympathy and consideration for the people of Manipur, our state would not have been in such a mess,” he adds.

New Delhi’s crackdown on insurgents has only complicated an already messy situation. The imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act has, concede even ruling Congress leaders in the state, alienated the people further. “In 1980, there were only three militant groups in the state. Now, there are over 20. And despite the induction of so many Army and paramilitary personnel, and raising of armed police battalions and police commando units, the militants have increased their areas of influence and strength. No honest effort has been made to negotiate a ceasefire with the militants,” says a senior cabinet minister who does not want to be named for obvious reasons.

Caught in the crossfire, a desperate people have been appealing for the government—both the state and the Union—to initiate dialogues with insurgent groups. In fact, despite strong opposition from New Delhi, the state’s first elected MPP Government offered a general amnesty to militants who surrendered in 1973. “From 1973 to October 1979, there was no insurgency in Manipur. In 1973, soon after the militants responded to the MPP government’s offer, the government was dissolved by New Delhi and President’s Rule imposed. In elections held the next year, the MPP won and formed the government, which was again toppled by Indira Gandhi after six months. The Congress engineered defections and formed the government. These games played by New Delhi fuelled more resentment, and by November 1979, the militants had regrouped and gone underground. From the following year, killings started and continue till today,” says Chandramani Singh.

Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh admits that deep-rooted distrust of the Government of India exists. “Some actions and policies in the past were wrong. But we’re trying to turn a new leaf and want to negotiate peace with the insurgents. I am always ready to talk to them and have offered a blanket appeal to them to come for talks. But they’ll have to respond first,” he says.

Some accuse the CM of insincerity. “The government has to initiate confidence-building measures and respect the status of the militant outfits. No preconditions should be set for the dialogue, and it is imperative for the Government of India to understand and appreciate Manipur’s history, the genesis of the armed conflict here, and make sincere amends and gestures for the wrongs heaped upon the people of Manipur. This would create the right ground and atmosphere for a meaningful dialogue,” says Mani.

Most Manipuris demand the immediate withdrawal of the AFSP Act. Even some major militant groups have offered to lay down arms to a ‘neutral party’ if the AFSP Act and central security forces are withdrawn from the state. “All Manipuris want the withdrawal of the AFSP Act, so there is no reason why New Delhi should continue to subvert the will of the people. It makes sense to withdraw the central security forces as even the Army says it should not be engaged in internal security duties. The state police can replace the Army and Assam Rifles,” says Chandramani.

But the security establishment isn’t impressed. “Insurgency poses an extraordinary challenge that needs an extraordinary response and special powers for us to operate effectively. We need the AFSP Act and if we’re withdrawn from Manipur, the law and order situation will collapse immediately and militants will gain control of the state,” a top commander at the Army’s Eastern Command headquarters in Kolkata told Open.

The CM too is dismissive of the insurgents’ offer: “They’re not serious and just want to buy time to regroup and recuperate, now that they’re on the run. We cannot accept preconditions from them. They’ll have to give up arms and agree to talk within the framework of the Indian Constitution.” It’s a phrase he tends to use frequently, almost habitually. As the face-off goes on, the crisis in Manipur assumes an increasing socio-political complexity.

And for the common man, life is what happens between extortion and the next gun battle.

durgamuthukumar

Crowdsourcing based nurtering

UYIRI

Nature writing in Tamil

செங்கொடி

கனவுகளுக்கு பதிலாக அறிவியல், கண்ணீருக்கு பதிலாக போராட்டம். போராட்டமே நம் இருத்தலுக்கான அடையாளம்.

cruzantonyhubert

experiences - travel - photography

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