Manipur suffers from over 30 active insurgency groups claiming to represent various ethnic and community interests but mostly are simply kidnapping and extortion rackets.
76968, 09/01/2006 13:50, 06 CALCUTTA 389, Consulate Kolkata, CONFIDENTIAL, 06 KOLKATA 354 | 06 KOLKATA 363 | 06 KOLKATA 389, "VZCZCXRO3078PP RUEHBI RUEHCIDE RUEHCI #0389/01 2441350ZNY CCCCC ZZHP 011350Z SEP 06FM AMCONSUL CALCUTTATO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1129INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1011RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 0391RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 0391RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0234RUEHGO/AMEMBASSY RANGOON 0161RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0234RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 0183RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DCRUEILB/NCTC WASHINGTON DCRHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DCRHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DCRHMFISS/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HIRUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 1378","C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CALCUTTA 000389
E.O. 12958: DECL: 8/31/2016 TAGS: PTER, PHUM, ASEC, CASC, PGOV, SOCI, IN
SUBJECT: NORTHEAST INDIAN STATE OF MANIPUR EXPERIENCES ESCALATING VIOLENCE
REF: A) CALCUTTA 00354 B) 00357 C) CALCUTTA 00363
CLASSIFIED BY: Henry V. Jardine, Principal Officer, U.S. Consulate General Calcutta, STATE. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY. August 22-25 ConGen visited the Northeast Indian state of Manipur to assess the security situation and to follow the investigation of the August 16 grenade attack on the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) temple in Imphal (REFTELS). Manipur suffers from over 30 active insurgency groups claiming to represent various ethnic and community interests but mostly are simply kidnapping and extortion rackets. In interactions with government officials and non-government (NGO) representatives, all interlocutors felt that insurgency violence was increasing and could not be effectively addressed due to rampant corruption, poor political leadership and the corrosive affects of persistent human rights violations. END SUMMARY.
2. (SBU) Manipur is situated in the remote corner of Northeast India, sharing a 358 kilometer border with Burma. The population of 2.3 million people is predominantly tribal. The Meiteis are the major ethnic group and are primarily in the Imphal Valley, while the Nagas occupy much of the hill districts. Numerous other ethnic groups, including the Kukis and Paites, inhabit the state, and each community has its own socio-economic-political aspirations. Manipur is economically backward, ethnically diverse and politically unstable. Violence, kidnappings, extortion and killings by militant groups are common occurrences.
3. (SBU) Reflecting the persistent violence in the state, on August 16 two American Citizens were injured in a grenade attack on the ISKCON temple on August 16 during celebrations of the Hindu god Krishna's birthday. No insurgency group has taken credit for the attack and state authorities are still investigating. Security concerns were evident during ConGen's visit as he traveled in a convoy with approximately 20 paramilitary soldiers and a dedicated ambulance, with full medical staff. In addition, at sites visited by ConGen up to 100 soldiers were deployed around the area and along the access roads. At an event with a non-government organization (NGO) to promote baseball in Manipur, soldiers used landmine detectors to sweep the grass around the baseball field.
4. (C) ConGen met with Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, Governor S.S. Sidhu and Director General of Police (DGP) A.K. Parashar to discuss the status of the ISKCON attack investigation and the general security situation in the state. Chief Minister Singh characterized the ISKCON attack as ""unprecedented"" and promised that the government would bear the expenses for the treatment of the injured and provide assistance to the families. The Chief Minister and DGP Parashar said that the police had some leads but as the investigation was ongoing, they could not provide details. Governor Sidhu told ConGen that he had been pressuring the Chief Minister to ensure that the ISKCON attack was fully investigated.
5. (C) Commenting on the general security situation, Singh noted that unlike in Assam or Nagaland, insurgents in Manipur have not shown any willingness to engage in talks with the government. He pointed out that there are about 30 different groups representing the ethnic communities in the state and so negotiating with them all is problematic. Other contacts felt that the security situation in Manipur was worsening. On arrival at the Imphal airport, ConGen met injured AMCIT Brian Nash and AMCITs John and Joseph Meade, traveling with Nash as they were leaving for Nash's medical treatment in Calcutta. Joseph Meade said that he had been visiting Manipur for 15 years and the violence was escalating. Meade's comments were echoed by others, such as Chief Secretary Jarnail Singh and member of the legislative assembly (MLA) Hemochandra Singh. Insurgent CALCUTTA 00000389 002 OF 003 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 fragmentation of insurgent groups is greatest in the Imphal valley area. The surrounding hills are dominated by larger groups such as the National Socialist Council of Nagalim - Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM). Commenting on the NSCN-IM, which presently observes a ceasefire with the GOI, Chief Minister Singh said that in Manipur the group still conducts extortion and the group's demand for integration of all Naga inhabited areas, including five districts in Manipur, cannot be met as other ethnic groups reside there as well and reject the integration.
6. (C) Complicating effort to control the rising violence is the rampant corruption. MLA Hemochandra Singh said that the Chief Minister 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. Even the Protocol Officer facilitating ConGen's trip told ConGen 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.
7. (C) The corruption results in a nexus between politicians and the insurgent groups. At a dinner reception, Chief Secretary Singh noted that many politicians have links with or SIPDIS receive support from the insurgent groups. 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. Manipur State Youth Congress leader L. Tilottama speaking in ""hypothetical"" terms about politicians' motivations to protect insurgents said, ""If I take 1 crore (rupees) (USD 217,000) from a businessman building a flyover, and the insurgents get a share, I want to keep quiet about it.""
Violating Human Rights
8. (SBU) Efforts at tackling the insurgents are also complicated by the use of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958 (AFSPA) and a record of human rights violations by law enforcement authorities and the paramilitary Assam Rifles. The AFSPA gives military and paramilitary forces nearly unrestricted power to ""maintain public order"" in areas identified by the GOI as ""disturbed."" Some of the more questionable sections of the act include:
A. The army can shoot to kill, under the powers of section 4(a), for the commission or suspicion of the commission of the following offenses: acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons, carrying weapons, or carrying anything which is capable of being used as a fire-arm or ammunition. To justify the invocation of this provision, the officer need only be ""of the opinion that it is necessary to do so for the maintenance of public order"" and only give ""such due warning as he may consider necessary.""
B. The army can destroy property under section 4(b) if it is an arms dump, a fortified position or shelter from where armed attacks are made or are suspected of being made, if the structure is used as a training camp, or as a hide-out by armed gangs or absconders.
C. The army can arrest anyone without a warrant under section 4(c) who has committed, is suspected of having committed or of being about to commit, a cognizable offense and use any amount of force ""necessary to effect the arrest.""
D. Under section 4(d), the army can enter and search without a
CALCUTTA 00000389 003 OF 003 warrant to make an arrest or to recover any property, arms, ammunition or explosives which are believed to be unlawfully kept on the premises. This section also allows the use of force necessary for the search.
E. Section 5: This section states that after the military has arrested someone under the AFSPA, they must hand that person over to the nearest police station with the ""least possible delay."" The act has no definition of what constitutes the least possible delay.
F. Section 6: This section establishes that no legal proceeding can be brought against any member of the armed forces acting under the AFSPA, without the permission of the Central Government. This section leaves the victims of the armed forces abuses without a remedy.
9. (C) 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. Sidhu also said that he had met with hospitalized human rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila, who has been on a hunger strike since 2000 to protest the murder of 10 persons in Malom village and to demand the lifting of the AFSPA in Manipur. Authorities have held Sharmila in the hospital and she has been on nasal feeding for over five years. According to many human rights contacts, the AFSPA has become a symbol of oppression and only serves to radicalize the ethnic groups.
10. (C) Comment: 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.