Manipur urgently needs the healing touch, prompt political intervention: former bureaucrats

113 former civil servants who have formed into the CCG (Constitutional Conduct Group), have urged urgent steps to end the conflict in Manipur, where violence has continued unchecked by the union and state governments for over three months
Image: The Indian Express

The Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG), has condemned the total breakdown of the rule of law and constitutional values in the state of Manipur since early May 2023. What started as a protest by the Kuki-Zo community against the decision of the Manipur High Court, directing the state government to recommend to the Government of India the grant of Scheduled Tribe status to the majority Meitei community, has since snowballed into a dangerous, internecine ethnic conflict that threatens not just to tear apart the social fabric of Manipur but calls into question the very spirit of harmony and fraternity that is the foundation of India’s “unity in diversity”.

In a statement issued on Sunday, August 6, the CCG, a group of former civil servants firmly committed to the Constitution of India, and not affiliated to any political party has also demanded that immediate steps are taken.

The detailed statement highlights the dereliction of their fundamental duty by the Manipur state government and the state police in protecting the life and property of their citizens. This has created the conditions for a complete breakdown of law and order, with a deliberately orchestrated and targeted carnage that has included large scale arson, lynching, collective rape, vandalism, looting, mob violence and obstruction of central security forces from carrying out their duties, followed by armed attacks and retaliation by both communities. These atrocities have taken place under a double-edged internet ban, lifted only partially on July 25, that has prevented their horror and scale from coming out earlier, while also providing grist to rumour-mongering and spread of fake news.

The statement says that this total failure of the state has allowed the raiding of police armouries by perpetrators of the violence, reportedly resulting in around 4,500 weapons of varying sophistication and an estimated 5 lakh rounds of ammunition being looted, which is continuing even to the present day. Such looting is unimaginable and without precedent anywhere in India.

Therefore, the CCG has urged the Government of India to take the following actions at the earliest:

1) Impose President’s Rule in Manipur and appoint, as Advisers to the Governor, experienced former administrators and police officers who have knowledge of the region and can empathetically interact with the local populace. Every effort should be made to restore the trust of all sections of the citizenry in the local administration.

2) Provide relief and rehabilitation measures as well as compensation to affected individuals/families in a nonpartisan manner, with the aim of bringing back normalcy at the earliest.

3) Take severe punitive action against individuals and groups intent on fomenting unrest, including bringing to justice all the instigators and perpetrators of incidents of violence since the beginning of May, firmly checking hate speech, rounding up looted arms and ammunition and putting an end to offensive attacks against other communities. The message needs to firmly go out that no attempt by any non-state organisation to take the law into its hands will be tolerated.

 The statement urges that the Government of India as well as other stakeholders not to let issues of prestige and political expediency inform actions, when the imperatives of both internal peace and external security warrant mature responses.

The CCG states that what lends credence to the charge of the Chief Minister, N. Biren Singh, being partisan in his approach to tackling the tragedy is his demonisation and targeting of one community as ‘illegal migrants’, ‘poppy cultivators’, ‘encroachers’, ‘narco-terrorists’ and ‘terrorists’.

These “dog whistles”, which tend to smear an entire community, have served to excite the passions of the majority community to which the Chief Minister belongs. A high constitutional functionary, like the Chief Minister, is expected to restore the rule of law and take steps to cool inflamed passions, rather than stoke them further.

The failure to take strong action against militant organisations of the Meitei community, the Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun, which openly issue threats of “annihilation” and “blowing up”  of the tribal Kuki-Zo minority, or the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), which advocates a “Manipuri national war against Chin-Kuki narco-terrorism” and the arming of civilians, only seems to confirm fears about the partisan approach of the state administration; the same applies to the approach of the law enforcement authorities of Manipur state to the aggressive actions of the Meira Paibis, which include their preventing the army from apprehending those engaged in violent activities.

What causes us even deeper anguish, as former civil servants who have dealt with surcharged law and order situations in the course of our careers, has been the largely passive role that the union government has played in this entire imbroglio.

The statement says that what was required at the very onset of the violence in May 2023 was the imposition of President’s Rule, given the abject failure of the state government to function in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. However, instead of invoking Article 356 of the Constitution to impose President’s Rule, a Security Adviser to the state and a new Director General of Police from the cadre of a neighbouring state were appointed, and a Unified Command constituted, all reporting to the Government of Manipur, headed by the Chief Minister. Apart from the visit to Manipur by the Union Home Minister end May-early June 2023, when he met with different sections of society, there has been no active political involvement of the centre in establishing peace between the opposing communities.

The union government also lost a golden opportunity to involve the opposition parties in trying to arrive at a political solution to the problem. Political expediency has won out: we are witness to the spectacle of a non-functioning parliament at a time of crisis, with the Prime Minister making no statement in Parliament on the Manipur crisis, which would enable the initiation of a dialogue on the issue.

Unconcern of the union government on sexual violence

The statement says what is even more appalling at the approach of the union government to the ghastly events of the stripping and parading naked of two women, the alleged gangrape of one of them and the murder of two male members, all of the same family, on May 4. While expressing his outrage over the incident, outside Parliament rather than on the floor of either House, the Prime Minister seemed to draw an equivalence between this incident in Manipur and other incidents in states like Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, though the incidents are not at all comparable. There was no explanation of how the Modi government and the Manipur state government were blissfully unaware of this heinous incident despite the filing of an FIR over two months ago.

The statement, once more, states that it would like to bring to the union government’s notice that the May 4 incident (along with other such similar incidents of sexual violence against women during the last three months in Manipur) represent the disgraceful phenomenon of Conflict Related Sexual Violence. The intent of the perpetrators of this violence and their instigators is to use womens’ bodies for signalling dominance. Failure to nip such perverted tendencies in the bud can lead to escalation in conflict and make reconciliation difficult.

While the Union Home Minister, during his visit to Manipur, announced the setting up of a panel headed by a retired High Court judge to investigate the reasons for the violence and to identify those behind the violence, this will not suffice to heal the wounds that have been caused by the ongoing violence and the severe trust deficit between the two communities, as well as the lack of confidence of the minority Kuki community in the impartial conduct of the state government and its police force. The nonpartisan and positive role played by the army, the Assam Rifles and central paramilitary forces, which has been appreciated, indicates that there is need to continue with the deployment of these forces in the buffer zones between the two communities, to forestall offensive attacks .

The immediate priority is to provide a healing touch to the affected persons of both communities. The lethargic relief measures taken by the state government have been very inadequate. Effective relief and rehabilitation measures as well as adequate compensation need to be provided to all affected individuals/families to enable them to rebuild their lives.

These should include:

(i)   providing suitable shelters to the affected, either in public buildings or in requisitioned private premises, with proper hygiene and security, for as long as a return to their homes is not feasible;

(ii)   providing free food supplies for those in the relief camps and free PDS rations for internally displaced people residing elsewhere ;

(iii)   starting MNREGA works that could provide income to those affected;

(iv)   providing childcare, health, trauma care and education services that would meet the needs of those in the relief camps, especially mothers and children, including newborns

(v)  in the medium term, providing assistance for rebuilding damaged houses and other public premises.

Finally, the statement concludes by saying that the underlying causes of the ongoing mayhem in Manipur need to be objectively identified and addressed within the bounds of constitutional parameters. Unsubstantiated charges and dangerous brinkmanship by all parties, and grave disruptions of the social fabric of Manipur, as well as sustained violence, could resonate and spill over not only into neighbouring states but also across international borders, where ethnic bonds exist. This would be a recipe for unimaginable strife which will not leave the rest of India unscathed.

Constitutional Conduct Group (113 signatories, below)

1.Anita AgnihotriIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice Empowerment, GoI
2.V.S. AilawadiIAS (Retd.)Former Vice Chairman, Delhi Development Authority
3.Anand ArniRAS (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
4.G. BalachandhranIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
5.Vappala BalachandranIPS (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
6.Gopalan BalagopalIAS (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
7.Chandrashekar BalakrishnanIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
8.Sushant BaligaEngineering Services (Retd.)Former Additional Director General, Central PWD, GoI
9.Rana BanerjiRAS (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
10.T.K. BanerjiIAS (Retd.)Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
11.Sharad BeharIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
12.Aurobindo BeheraIAS (Retd.)Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha
13.Madhu BhaduriIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Portugal
14.K.V. BhagirathIFS (Retd.)Former Secretary General, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Mauritius
15.Pradip BhattacharyaIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Development & Planning and Administrative Training Institute, Govt. of West Bengal
16.Nutan Guha BiswasIAS (Retd.)Former Member, Police Complaints Authority, Govt. of NCT of Delhi
17.Meeran C BorwankarIPS (Retd.)Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI
18.Ravi BudhirajaIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI
19.Sundar BurraIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
20.Maneshwar Singh ChahalIAS (Retd.)Former Principal Secretary, Home, Govt. of Punjab
21.R. ChandramohanIAS (Retd.)Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi
22.K.M. ChandrasekharIAS (Retd.)Former Cabinet Secretary, GoI
23.Rachel ChatterjeeIAS (Retd.)Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh
24.Kalyani ChaudhuriIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
25.Gurjit Singh CheemaIAS (Retd.)Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of Punjab
26.F.T.R. ColasoIPS (Retd.)Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Karnataka & former Director General of Police, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
27.Anna DaniIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
28.Vibha Puri DasIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
29.P.R. DasguptaIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
30.Pradeep K. DebIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI
31.Nitin Desai Former Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI
32.M.G. DevasahayamIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
33.Sushil DubeyIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Sweden
34.A.S. DulatIPS (Retd.)Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI
35.K.P. FabianIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Italy
36.Suresh K. GoelIFS (Retd.)Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI
37.S. GopalIPS (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, GoI
38.H.S. GujralIFoS (Retd.)Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab
39.Meena GuptaIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
40.Ravi Vira GuptaIAS (Retd.)Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India
41.Wajahat HabibullahIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, GoI and former Chief Information Commissioner
42.Deepa HariIRS (Resigned) 
43.Vivek HarinarainIAS (Retd.)Govt. of Tamil Nadu
44.Siraj HussainIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI
45.Kamal JaswalIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
46.Naini JeyaseelanIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
47.Najeeb JungIAS (Retd.)Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi
48.Sanjay KaulIAS (Retd.)Former Principal Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka
49.Brijesh KumarIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
50.Ish KumarIPS (Retd.)Former DGP (Vigilance & Enforcement), Govt. of Telangana and former Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission
51.Sudhir KumarIAS (Retd.)Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal
52.Subodh LalIPoS (Resigned)Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI
53.Sunil LalIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Brazil and former Ambassador to Spain
54.P.M.S. MalikIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Myanmar & Special Secretary, MEA, GoI
55.Harsh ManderIAS (Retd.)Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
56.Amitabh MathurIPS (Retd.)Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
57.Aditi MehtaIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
58.Shivshankar MenonIFS (Retd.)Former Foreign Secretary and Former National Security Adviser
59.Sonalini MirchandaniIFS (Resigned)GoI
60.Malay MishraIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Hungary
61.Sunil MitraIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
62.Avinash MohananeyIPS (Retd.)Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim
63.Geetmala MohananeyIRS (Retd.)Former Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, GoI
64.Satya Narayan MohantyIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
65.Jugal MohapatraIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Department of Rural Development, GoI
66.Deb MukharjiIFS (Retd.)Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
67.Shiv Shankar MukherjeeIFS (Retd.)Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
68.Gautam MukhopadhayaIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Myanmar
69.Ramesh NarayanaswamiIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of NCT of Delhi
70.P. Joy OommenIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh
71.Amitabha PandeIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
72.Mira PandeIAS (Retd.)Former State Election Commissioner, West Bengal
73.Maxwell PereiraIPS (Retd.)Former Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi
74.Alok PertiIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI
75.G.K. PillaiIAS (Retd.)Former Home Secretary, GoI
76.R. PoornalingamIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI
77.Jayant PrasadIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Nepal
78.Rajesh PrasadIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to the Netherlands
79.Rajdeep PuriIRS (Resigned)Former Joint Commissioner of Income Tax, GoI
80.T.R. RaghunandanIAS (Retd.)Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI
81.N.K. RaghupathyIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI
82.V.P. RajaIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission
83.K. RamanujamIPS (Retd.)Former Chief Information Commissioner, Tamil Nadu
84.M. RameshkumarIAS (Retd.)Former Member, Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal
85.K. Sujatha RaoIAS (Retd.)Former Health Secretary, GoI
86.M.Y. RaoIAS (Retd.) 
87.Satwant ReddyIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI
88.Vijaya Latha ReddyIFS (Retd.)Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI
89.Julio RibeiroIPS (Retd.)Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania
90.Aruna RoyIAS (Resigned) 
91.A.K. SamantaIPS (Retd.)Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal
92.Deepak SananIAS (Retd.)Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
93.G.V. Venugopala SarmaIAS (Retd.)Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha
94.N.C. SaxenaIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
95.Ardhendu SenIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
96.Abhijit SenguptaIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI
97.Aftab SethIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Japan
98.Ashok Kumar SharmaIFoS (Retd.)Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat
99.Ashok Kumar SharmaIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
100.Navrekha SharmaIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Indonesia
101.Avay ShuklaIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary (Forests & Technical Education), Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
102.Sujatha SinghIFS (Retd.)Former Foreign Secretary, GoI
103.Tara Ajai SinghIAS (Retd.)Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka
104.Tirlochan SinghIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI
105.A.K. SrivastavaIAS (Retd.)Former Administrative Member, Madhya Pradesh Administrative Tribunal
106.Parveen TalhaIRS (Retd.)Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
107.Anup ThakurIAS (Retd.)Former Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
108.P.S.S. ThomasIAS (Retd.)Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
109.Geetha ThoopalIRAS (Retd.)Former General Manager, Metro Railway, Kolkata
110.Jawed UsmaniIAS (Retd.)Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh & former Chief Information Commissioner, Uttar Pradesh
111.Ashok VajpeyiIAS (Retd.)Former Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi
112.Ramani VenkatesanIAS (Retd.)Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra
113.Rudi WarjriIFS (Retd.)Former Ambassador to Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica


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