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A Call for Hard Negotiations to Eliminate Illegal Poppy, Ganja Plantations in Manipur

FILE: Security personnel destroying poppy plantation at Sikibung and Thawai hill ranges.

A concerted effort is not only a step towards lasting peace but also a means to address the root causes of the region’s instability. It is a call to unite and work together for a brighter and more peaceful future for Manipur.

By Thangjanganba Luwang

The time has arrived for both the public and stakeholders of Manipur to unite in their demands and negotiate for the complete eradication of illegal poppy and ganja plantations from the face of Manipur. This pressing issue demands our immediate attention and collective action.

Negotiations with the Meira Paibis:

The Meira Paibis, a formidable collective of Manipuri women, have recently come under scrutiny due to allegations of their involvement in monitoring the movements of security forces in the region. While the Meira Paibis assert that they do not object to the security forces’ operations within the state, they harbor deep-seated suspicions concerning the contents of vehicles and the intentions of individuals passing through the area. These concerns arise from claims suggesting that Assam Rifles vehicles might be engaged in transporting weapons for Kuki militants. Additionally, they accuse the Assam Rifles of providing assistance to these militants in the form of provisions such as food, clothing, and shelter.

While these suspicions may be contentious, they are not entirely baseless. Manipur’s history has been marred by human rights abuses, and there have been instances of security forces operating with impunity. In this context, the skepticism displayed by the Meira Paibis is not only understandable but also indicative of a broader trust deficit between the residents and the security forces.

Recent reports suggest that India’s Home Minister, Shri Amit Shah, has urged the Manipur government to ensure that the Meira Paibis do not hinder the movements of the armed forces. Whether the Meira Paibis will heed this request remains uncertain. However, their position provides a valuable bargaining chip for a negotiation with the central government, one that could potentially contribute to lasting peace in Manipur.

Should the Meira Paibis decide to reevaluate their present stance and cooperate with the government’s request for withdrawal, they have the opportunity to enter into negotiations with the central government regarding the complete eradication of illegal poppy and cannabis plantations in Manipur. By advocating for the removal of these illicit crops, the Meira Paibis can fortify their position in these negotiations, working towards the betterment of their community and making a positive impact on the broader region.

Negotiations with the Village Guards and Volunteers:

Chief Minister N. Biren Singh’s recent call for the surrender of looted police weapons is indeed a commendable step towards restoring peace and stability in the state. The recovery of over 4,000 stolen firearms and a significant quantity of ammunition is undoubtedly a pressing concern. However, it is essential to recognize that the looting of police weapons is a consequence of the violence that erupted in May 2023, rather than the root cause. To achieve lasting peace, we must address not only the symptoms but also the underlying issues that fuel unrest in Manipur.

One of the fundamental issues contributing to instability in the state is the proliferation of illegal poppy and ganja plantations. These illicit activities serve as a source of income for organized crime and have contributed to the current social instability of Manipur. To effectively combat this problem, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh should consider launching an aggressive campaign to eradicate these illegal plantations. By doing so, the government can cut off the financial resources available to armed groups involved in the ongoing ethnic clashes.

Most importantly, we must acknowledge the presence of armed civilians who have taken up arms to protect their communities amidst ongoing conflicts. It is also crucial to understand that these civilians, including village guards and volunteers, have resorted to arming themselves in response to the violence that erupted in May 2023, rather than being the root cause of the issue. While the effort to recover stolen police weapons is a positive step, it may not address the underlying problem we currently face.

Both stakeholders and the general public of Manipur should negotiate with the government solely aimed at completely eliminating illegal poppy and ganja plantations in Manipur. This represents a practical and logical way forward that goes beyond mere  surrendering of weapons.

In conclusion, the time has come for hard negotiations in Manipur. These negotiations should involve key stakeholders, including the Meira Paibis, village guards, volunteers, and the government, with a primary objective of eradicating illegal poppy and ganja plantations. This concerted effort is not only a step towards lasting peace but also a means to address the root causes of the region’s instability. It is a call to unite and work together for a brighter and more peaceful future for Manipur.

(Thangjanganba Luwang is a concerned citizen, a freelance-writer and truth seeker. Opinion expressed here is the writer’s own and does not represent the views of TFM)

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