The Rise of the Maoist Communist Party, Manipur

A couple of years ago I asked Tariq Ali at a public event to speak about Indian imperialism and the role that it played in the region. Tariq Ali balked at the question and did not answer it, and thus one of the most articulate Leftist and well-known commentators from South-Asia missed an opportunity to explain to his North American audiences some of the most important, yet underreported and under-discussed, trends in the last 50 years i.e. the rise and shape of Indian expansionism and imperialism. Indian expansion and imperialism has taken shape in two forms, the production of a classical political-economic dependency on the Indian State and economy by surrounding countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh (with Pakistan as a perennial “external threat”) and the construction of internal colonies like Manipur, Nagaland and Kashmir. The Nepalese revolutionary Left has recognized this relationship for many years, even Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has penned papers on the question and has referred to the process as the “Bhutanization of Nepal”, and has emphasized the need to resist it, especially in economic matters like the unfair allocation of power from Nepalese dam projects or political matters like the influence the Indian government has over the Nepalese Army.

Similarly, the Kashmiri independence movement, which is perhaps the best known national liberation movement in the region (which is not saying much as most of the international Left neither knows much about their struggle nor seems to care, despite the tireless work of public intellectuals like Arundhati Roy to publicize the issue) and is one of the world’s longest military occupations has similarly highlighted the issue of Indian imperialism/expansion for over 60 years. The Manipuri people, despite their heroic struggle against Indian internal colonialism, unfortunately have gotten nearly no press in international circles and remain largely an invisible people with an invisible movement. Thus, it was with great surprise and joy that anti-imperialists around the world came to know of the 1st political conference of the the Kangleipak Communist Party (Maoist) and the adoption of a new party program (available here). The Party also decided, in order to reflect its new political program, to rename itself the Maoist Communist Party, Manipur, and has almost immediately worried security officials in India (see “KCP’s Ultra-left Turn Worries Manipur” copied below). Indeed, in a short period of time the Maoist Communist Party, Manipur has been able to emerge as a significant force and was able to enforce a peaceful 12 hour general strike to protest the disappearance of a RPF/PLA comrade today. The general strike saw cars and buses off the streets, and many public and private offices closed (see “KCP general strike ends peacefully, paralyses normal life in state” copied below).

However, I feel it is important to place these development in Manipur in an historical context. In 1949 the Indian government annexed the princely state of Manipur (Manipur had been declared an independent state in 1947, like Kashmir) and declared it part and parcel of an unified India. Interestingly it was on October 29th 1948 that Com. Irabot, a communist who had won a seat in the independent Manipur Assembly, formed the first Manipur Communist Party and its armed wing the Manipur Red Guards, rather than join the Communist Party of India – Manipur State committee (indeed, the KCP(Maoist) identifies itself as being part of this tradition in the Manipur communist movement, rather than being part of the traditional Indian communist tradition that has largely emphasized electoral activity and has underemphasized the right of self-determination for oppressed nationalities). In 1956 Manipur was “granted” the status of a “union territory” and was only given “statehood” in 1972 as a means to placate the Manipuri people. However, like the people of Kashmir, the people of Manipur have never recognized the central Indian government as their true representatives and have consistently fought against Indian imperialism.

The movement for Manipuri national liberation first took a clear political shape in 1964 with the formation of the United National Liberation Front, but the UNLF at this time did not place much emphasis on the armed movement. In the early 1970’s because of the Bangladesh war for independence a number of Manipuri activists and leaders, including UNLF leader N. Bisheswar Singh and his associates, ended up prison especially in Tripura, where they came into contact with Naxalite prisoners who also were being arrested at the time. This had a profound influence on the movement as a number of key leaders were released from prison in the mid 1970’s with a new ideology, Mao Zedong Thought and the military strategy of Protracted People’s War. On September 25th, 1978 N. Bisheswar Singh and his associates formed the People’s Liberation Army, although it must be noted that unlike other Mao-inspired organizations it did not form a political wing, the Revolutionary People’s Front, until 1989 (N. Bishewar Singh has now been declared an enemy of the people for his anti-people activities in recent years). Almost a year earlier, on October 9th 1977, R.K. Tulachandra along with S. Wanglen, Achamba, Tajila, Meiraba, Meipaksana, Y. Ibohanbi and Paliba formed the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK). Com. Y. Ibohanbi however led a split from PREPAK to form the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) on April 13th, 1980. Yet, it must be noted that until 1992 the PLA was regarded to be the largest armed left-wing organization and overshadowed both the PREPAK and the KCP. Indeed, the death of Tulacandra in 1985 resulted in the fracturing of PREPAK into numerous smaller factions, some of which merged with the UNLF and the PLA/RPF. It was only with the formation of the Revolutionary Joint Committee by the PLA, a then recently reunified PREPAK and KCP in 1992 did the PREPAK and KCP become significant forces in the armed movement. In 1995 the death of Com. Ibohanbi, during a military encounter, resulted in the fracturing of the KCP into a number of competing factions. Many of these factions would unify in 2006 to form the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) due to the fact that their factional strife in the preceding years had caused them to lose support from the mass majority of the people, although several other factions remained outside their fold.

In 2009 a group of Manipuri comrades unified to form the Kangleipak Communist Party (Maoist). This new organization argued that it was not part of the KCP, although it did identify itself as being part of the revolutionary tradition that began in 1948 and the Manipur Communist Party and was reignited in 1980 with the formation of the KCP, but rather was a completely new organization that represented a new Manipuri communist movement. The KCP(Maoist)/Maoist Communist Party, Manipur in the past 2 years has been involved in a number of ambushes and attacks on police and military forces and has quickly become one of the most important armed groups in Manipur, as can be seen from the fact that they were able to hold this successful general strike. Since 2009 the KCP(Maoist)/Maoist Communist Party, Manipur has allied itself with the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in the armed struggle against Indian imperialism and semi-feudalism.

KCP general strike ends peacefully; paralyses normal life in state

IMPHAL, Sept 21: The 12 hours statewide general strike called by the proscribed KCP (Moist) against the enforced disappearance of assistant publicity secretary of the under ground RPF/PLA, Gurumayum Jiteshwar Sharma alias GM Changjou alias Gypsy of Nagamapal Singjubung Leirak seriously affected the normal business in the state today.

The KCP (Moist) had called a statewide general strike from 5am this morning till 5pm in the evening after taking serious count of the failure of the authority concerned to officially declare the whereabouts of the 49 years old RPF leader GM Changjou who was reportedly wisked away from his rented house near SM College in Dimapur by army personnel in civvies on August 18 evening at around 7pm.

All markets, shops and business establishment and the educational institutions located in the four valley districts of the state remain close during the general strike and there were reports of minimum turn out of the employees in all major departments of the state today.

Besides, the general strike also cause serious impact in the hill districts of the state due to the stoppage of the all forms of transport systems along the inter district roads.

However there has been no reports of any unwanted incidents during the general strike even as an extensive security preventive measure have been enforced by deploying maximum police and VDF forces at all strategic points in the state.

All cdo teams were also put on patrol duties along various vulnerable areas to prevent any untoward incident during the general strike.

It may be mentioned, The JAC which was formed in connection with enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention of assistant publicity secretary of the under ground RPF/PLA, Gurumayum Jiteshwar Sharma alias GM Changjou alias Gypsy of Nagamapal Singjubung Leirak have submitted their memorandum to the Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh on August 28 demanding an initiative from the government in finding his whereabouts and thereafter the JAC had called a 24 hours general strike from the midnight of September 1 till midnight of September 2, after the concern authority had failed to fulfill the demands of the JAC.

KCP’s ultra-Left turn worries Manipur

KOLKATA: Since the Eighties, the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) has been waging a bloody struggle for a sovereign Manipur. Of late, a faction of the outfit has embraced Maoist ideology to carry on its armed movement like the ultra-Left wing guerrillas are doing in states such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal.

A faction of the outfit, known as KCP (Maoist), has not only rechristened itself as the Maoist Communist Party of Manipur, but has also revised its “constitution” on the lines of the Marixist-Leninist-Maoist school of thoughts. In a statement issued recently, the outfit said the decision was taken during its first conference at some unidentified location in the northeastern state.

During its formative years, the KCP under the leadership of Ibohanbi and Ibopishak had decided to follow the communist ideology. But with the passage of time and the death of the two leaders, the outfit split into many factions. Police sources in Imphal indicated the existence of about dozen of them – the KCP-City Meitei, the KCP-Prithvi, the KCP-Mangang, the KCP- Military Council, the KCP-Maoist, the KCP-Lamphel, the KCP – Sunil Meitei, the KCP-Mobile Task Force, the KCP-Lamyanba Khuman, the KCP-Loyallakpa and the KCP-Noyon.

The KCP (Lalumba) has already signed an agreement on the suspension of operations with the Manipur government for starting peace talks.

In a signed document, W Malemnganba Meitei, spokesperson of the newly-floated Maoist Communist Party of Manipur, said, “Our immediate aim is to carry on a new democratic revolution in Manipur to establish a communist society through armed revolutionary war. We will carry out the Protracted People’s War by joining hands with other Maoist revolutionary parties.”

Security forces, though, said the group was floated to protect the Meiteis and its activities would be confined mainly in the valleys of the state.

Owing to the factional feuds, the KCP lost its stronghold in Imphal valley. This prompted leaders of KCP factions going for unification drive. Some KCP cadres got unified and held a convention in 2009. It was during this convention that the outfit reconstituted its central committee. While Marx Ningshen was made its president, the charge of the outfit’s publicity wing was given to W Malemnganba Meitei. Immediately after this, they called itself the KCP (Maoist) and denied any relationship with other KCP splinter groups.

Documents and press statements issued by the KCP (Maoist) suggested that since 2009, the outfit started maintaining close links with the banned CPI (Maoist). In November 2010, KCP (Maoists) issued a statement pledging support to the Indian Maoists like some other Manipuri outfits.

“The Maoists are now closely associated with two Manipur-based outfits – the Peoples Liberation Army (Manipur) and the now-disbanded KCP (Maoists),” said an intelligence officer.

Security agencies believe that a senior CPI (Maoist) politburo member -probably somebody in the second in command – has been assigned to maintain liason with the Maoist Communist Party of Manipur. The apparent aim is to set up base in this part of the country. The senior Maoist is also reportedly in charge of maintaining relations with Bangladesh-based Maoist outfits.

Sources in security agencies said “Following this development, Indian Maoists might now find it easy to set up bases in the northeast, a region that has always been in the news for insurgency and cessationist movements. They might also use the northeast as a conduit to move on to Bangladesh, Myanmar and other South-East Asian countries,” a source said.

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One thought on “The Rise of the Maoist Communist Party, Manipur

  1. I read this article of yours sometime ago, but I found myself reading it again today when looking on info about the MCPM, and I don’t know if I ever mentioned this to you, but I was witness to a similar incident involving Tariq Ali.

    A few years ago he came to Wilfred Laurier University, which is just down the road my own university, and so I and a few friends attended. During the Q&A a young South Asian woman stood up and asked Ali to speak about the Kashmiri liberation struggle. He similarly balked at that question, and even took to telling off this brave young woman for even raising the issue. It was some pretty serious bullshit.

    Things like that, as well as his love for centre-left populism in Latin America have made me wonder about his revolutionary credentials.

    Just my two cents though.

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