Friday, June 20, 2008

Heirok people and JAC have a difficult choice to make

The Imphal Free Press

Imphal, Jun 19: It seems the public of Heirok are caught between the devil and the deep sea on the issue of establishment of SPOs in their village, said L Mandir, the general secretary of the JAC Heirok during a press conference held this afternoon at the Manipur Press Club in Imphal.

On the other hand, in order to bring an amicable solution to the matter the JAC will be organising a public meeting at Heirok tomorrow during which the JAC representatives will table their report on the condition of SPOs at Chhattisgarh.

L Mandir further said the consequences of the acceptance of the government move for establishment of SPOs at Heirok have increased alarmingly with open threats from two major underground organisations, the UNLF and KYKL.

He further mentioned that, in fact, the pulse of the Heirok people was very genuine as the people were making a hue and cry against the failure of the state government to provide security for their lives and properties. This had led to the killing of three innocent civilians and blinding of an innocent girl in an incident of attack by the underground PREPAK, he said.

He said at this juncture the merits and demerits of the acceptance or non-acceptance of SPOs in Heirok and Lilong Chajing had become a critical issue for the state.

But fortunately, four representatives including the general secretary of the Heirok JAC, L Mandir, vice president Kh Maipak along with general secretary of Lilong Chajing JAC L Maipak and T Sharat attended a lecture on armed conflict in the insurgency prone states given recenlty at the Manipur University by renowned human rights activist Nandini Sundar. Subsequently, they got an opportunity to participate in a campaign for justice and peace in Chhattisgarh and a spot visit to the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh from June 10 to 13 this month with an objective to explore the emerging relation between the various stakeholders due to the introduction of Special Police Officers (SPOs) in the context of the ongoing armed conflict situation there and to learn lessons for Manipur.

The joint representatives who learned of the condition of SPOs at Chhattisgarh narrated to mediapersons during the press conference today that they had come to know of the history of armed conflict between the naxals and security forces since 1940s in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar.

They also learnt that heavy pressure from the security forces pushed the naxals` base from Andhra Pradesh towards the tribal belt of South Bastar in Chhattisgarh. The exploited tribes initially welcomed them as liberators against the established regime of corrupt forest officials and by 2003 the Dandakaranya forest had become a `liberated zone` and the naxals sitting over this highly mineral rich region became a huge liability to the resource hungry `corporate` India and it was around this time that the Union home ministry approved the move for establishing SPOs in Chhattisgarh.

They said they had learnt that the SPOs were the first casualty of the naxal reprisals, and there is no standard policy for compensation in the event of their death or injury, as it depends entirely on the whims and caprice of the politicians.

They found many grievances faced by the SPOs out there as they were very insecure and had no freedom of movement from their operation areas and they depended on the recognised security forces who have been guarding them.

Considering all these grievances and pitiful lifestyle of SPOs at Chhattisgarh, they wanted firm open government policies and guidelines for full security for the SPOs which are going to be deployed in Heirok and Lilong Chajing villages. They also want the state government to takes steps for a political dialogue with every underground group operating in the state before the matter worsens, they added.

Moreover, the emerging conflict between the willing and unwilling groups of public in Heirok over the establishment of SPOs has led to a difficult situation in the area. Threats to kill five persons and restrictions on the Heirok public from going out of their village areas by the underground UNLF and KYKL has added to the complex situation.

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