To really understand why the arrest of RK Sanayaima, arguably one of the most charismatic rebel leaders to have emerged in Manipur, has sparked off serious debates and discussions, one needs to have a general understanding of the political history of the North East region after the British left in 1947. The Nagas of Nagaland under the charismatic AZ Phizo were the first to raise the war cry of sovereignty on the basis of the historical fact that Nagaland was never under the rule of India. For that matter, Nagaland as a political entity came into being only after the British arrived. Phizo is gone, may his soul rest in peace and now it is Mr Th Muivah and Mr Isak Chisi Swu who are supposed to be steering the boat of the Nagas to their promised land. Manipur did not have a role model like Phizo, who could inspire a whole set of people, generations after genertions, but in Hijam Irabot, we had the first true political leader of the North East, whose outlook and vision went beyond Manipur and covered the entire North East region. Manipur’s tryst with destiny did not start on August 15, 1947 but on October 15, 1949 and generations after generations have experienced Manipur’s tryst with destiny post 1949. In fact the present generation is also still grappling with Manipur’s tryst with destiny after more than 60 years of being a part of the Indian Union. If the Nagas and the Meities had Phizo and Irabot, then the Mizos too had a Laldenga, who not only led the Mizo people through a violent phase, but was also instrumental in ushering in peace in the tiny mountain State. After Phizo and Irabot departed, came the younger crop of generations, most significantly Th Muivah, Isak Chisi Swu, Khaplang, Dali Mungro to carry on the bush war for the people of Nagaland. Much have changed since the days of Phizo and Irabot and it was during this transitional period, when Phizo was fading from public memory and Th Muivah was coming to the forefront, that RK Meghen was baptised into the world of revolutionaries, joining the ranks of other rebels before him to claim the sovereignty of Manipur after rubbishing the Merger Agreement of 1949 as just another game of deceit staged by India. The change that we have mentioned should be obvious to any North Easterner, and so it is that the NSCN (IM), which was once considered the mother of all insurgencies in the country, is now fully engaged in a peace talk with Delhi and in the process has created another adversary, the Meiteis of Manipur. With the IM group silencing their guns since August 1, 1999, it was left to the ULFA of Assam and the numerous armed groups of Manipur to keep on rattling the citadel of Delhi. RK Meghen, the man who led the banned UNLF, was rightly or wrongly seen as the ideal man to replace the rebel heroes preceding him, especially after Muivah and company began to sup with their erstwhile adversary, Delhi. Meghen was the right man at the right time to emerge and fill the void, at least to many of the people waiting for the insurrection to go to its logical conclusion. After Phizo, Irabot, Muivah, Laldenga and many other pretenders in between, it was therefore natural that Meghen would go on to symbolise the armed movement in the North East, especially with the ULFA leadership now divided into two camps and the founder leaders of the PLA N Bisheshore and RK Tulajit of PREPAK no more.
A little understanding of the different phases through which the North East underwent after 1947 and 1949 for Manipur in particular, will give a fair idea to any keen observer why such a ruckus was kicked up over the arrest and the follow up acts of intrigues and subterfuge over the arrest of Meghen. It was a misadventure on the part of Delhi, alright, but what is interesting is the length that India went to try and destroy the air of aura surrounding the rebel leader. The handcuff put on him while he was taken to the Court in Guwahati, was another ploy to bring his personal aura a peg or two down. The two months long silence on the part of Delhi could be due to many reasons, and chief among them could be to see if Meghen would do a Rajkhowa or Burgahoin but as things have unfolded it is more than clear that Delhi had bitten off more than it could chew. Misadventure it definitely was, but there is the niggling doubt that Delhi may have scored some vital points out of this whole rigmarole of arrest, the shift from Dhaka to Bihar, the complete silence for two months by both Dhaka and Delhi etc. One point Delhi may have earned was when Meghen’s family had to file a petition in the Imphal bench of the Gauhati High Court, which can lead to different interprations. Another was the number of dharnas held on the lanes and by lanes of Imphal, demanding that Delhi come clean on his whereabouts and try him in the Court. This not only brought the aura of Meghen down by a notch or two, but the demand raised also ran contrary to what Meghen stood and stands for. There are important lessons to be learnt from this experience. At the moment, Meghen is being tried under the rules and laws of India, but the irony is not lost on us. Delhi may not be particularly interested in physically eliminating him, for that would prove counter-productive, and it will prove much more fruitful and positive if it can rob the aura surrounding the person of RK Meghen and in the process, make others see him as just another rebel taking up the gun. There cannot be any other agenda than this, a living but battered and morally defeated Meghen would yield a lot a of dividends to Delhi than a dead Meghen. But as things stand today, whatever India has done after the arrest and the follow up actions have been a misadventure and in this psychological warfare, we have to see whether the cunning of Delhi can defeat the rebel and determination in Meghen or whether it will be reduced to yet another misadventure and reduce India to some sort of a caricature in front of the international community. In short Delhi may just be stretching its neck out too much for comfort.