Manipur – India’s colony, not state: Kolkata Consul

The North Eastern Indian state of Manipur is ruled more like an Indian colony than a state with widespread human rights violations, the Kolkata US Consul General Henry V Jardine wrote after a visit of the state in September, 2006.

Jardine, who was on a security-checking mission in the trouble-prone state, gave a stark, if unsettling picture of the widespread corruption and increasing violence.

Jardine quoted local MLA Hemochandra Singh as saying that the Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh is known as “Mr. Ten Percent” for the amount of money that he takes from contracts and government projects.

Other officials and private individuals agreed that many key government officers and politicians receive kick-backs and skim-off money from government funds, he added.

“Even the Protocol Officer facilitating Consul General’s trip told Consul General that the security situation was worsening and the government was incapable of handling the situation as all the officials were more interested in their own enrichment.

“He said that just getting a government job required payments equivalent to several thousand dollars. ConGen asked who received the payments and the Protocol Officer said it was the state government Ministers,” the cable went on.

“In December 2005, Chief of Army Staff J.J. Singh reportedly told the media that Chief Minister Singh had contributed INR 15 million (USD 326,000) to insurgent groups in the state,” the Consul General reminded.

“Insurgent groups that may have initially intended to advocate for various community rights have devolved into criminal gangs and have splintered as individual members seek their own financial benefit,” the cable pointed out.

Jardine also did not forget to mention the effects of the drastic Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958 (AFSPA), a special law that gave shoot at sight power and detention abilities to the military.

“Authorities have committed numerous human rights violations under the AFSPA. Governor Sidhu admitted to ConGen that the Assam Rifles in particular are perpetrators of violations,” the Consul went on.

“In ConGen’s many interactions, even with some government officials, a reoccurring comment was that Manipur was less a state and more a colony of India.

“The general use of the AFSPA meant that the Manipuris did not have the same rights of other Indian citizens and restrictions on travel to the state added to a sense of isolation and separation from the rest of India `proper.’

“The overwhelming presence of military, paramilitary and police officers contributed to the impression that Imphal was under military occupation. Several Manipuris argued that they had greater rights under the British Raj than under the present federation.

“The Indian civil servants were also clearly frustrated with their inability to stem the growing violence and anarchy in the state, feeling their efforts to effectively control the insurgencies was hamstrung by local politicians either in league with or at least through corruption, helping to finance the insurgents,” he added.