After what should be described as an illusory lull for a brief period, the spectre of chaos and mayhem looms large again over the state as threats of Blockades and Bandhs once again becomes all too real. In line with its promise to make Manipur a Bandh and Blockade-free state, the incumbent state government have until recently managed to rein in all forms of disturbances, shutdowns, strikes etc that have been holding back the state from marching towards the stated objectives and goals of progress. It may be recalled that the Manipur High Court declared on March 3, 2017 that the over four-month-old economic blockade of the state is ‘illegal’ and ruled that the persons and organizations imposing the economic blockade are violating the Fundamental Rights of the citizens. The ruling was made after a petition was filed on the economic blockade called by the United Naga Council (UNC) in the state starting from 1 November 2016 on both the National Highways (NH) 37 and NH 2 which resulted in untold hardships to the public. The state government, in its effort to enforce the direction of the Supreme Court in matters of bandhs and blockades, issued an order declaring such bandhs and blockades which will cause inconvenience to the public as unconstitutional on the 10th of this month. The order further stated that shops and commercial passenger vehicles which do not operate on days when bandhs and blockades are called shall be liable for legal action.
However wishful one might get, it would be impossible to do away with these forms of protests completely as they still remain a very effective form of drawing attention and elicit response from the government. It is also not desirable for the authorities to put a blanket ban on these forms of protests as such an act would tend to drown out the voice of reason and stifle the concerns of the public. The most pragmatic solution which can dissuade any individual, group or organisation from resorting to bandhs, blockades etc. is to follow a practice of transparent and fair yet strict protocol of initiating talks and discussions on issues raised and laying down its course of action in no uncertain terms. Resorting to force is an option the state authorities should not hesitate to consider if the demands does not merit discussion or negotiation.
If the state government is keen on maintaining its image of a strict and decisive authority capable of not only maintaining but also improving the law and order situation in the state, it need to win over the trust and cooperation of the people rather than to rely on armed security personnel to coerce the public to fall in line with the prevailing laws of the land. People’s day and hill leaders day are radical steps which is making a world of difference in the way the public perceive the state government. Lending a patient and sympathetic ear to the grievances and concerns of the public is laudable, but the real test of commitment and political willpower is in the implementation of its assurances and promises and not in their declarations.