By – Seram Neken
One hundred and fifty days of mayhem. The centre and state governments have apparently remained ignoring the public sentiment for such a long time. When public anger erupts, anything untoward may happen. In democracy, popular sentiment is most valuable.
First, in spite of the repeated hue and cry for a special assembly session on the burning issue by the civil society organisations and various political parties, the state government has not convened a special session of legislative assembly. It may be recalled that on July 29 last over two lakh people had staged a rally under the banner of COCOMI in Imphal demanding special session of the assembly latest by August 5. However, it was not materialised. In the hurriedly held routine assembly session on 29 August last which lasted for a record 11 minutes only, no time was allotted for discussion on the issue. The session was held only to avoid the impending constitutional crisis and to save the government. Legislative Assembly is the most competent forum to discuss any matter concerning the state, and it represents the thirty-lakh population of the state. Had the legislative assembly taken any strong resolution to protect the state’s integrity and to bring peace in Manipur, the people of Manipur would at least have some faith in the popular government of the state and their representatives. Moreover, the centre would not have considered the issue lightly.
Second, ever since he crisis broke out on May 3, there has been no fruitful meeting of all political parties except the only one held on May 6 last under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister. The like-minded political parties including the main opposition Indian National Congress have time and again announced their full cooperation to any government effort to bring solution to Manipur issue. State as well as the central leaders of the ruling party seem to ignore the vocations of the other parties in bringing solution to Manipur issue. Congress in Manipur had alleged that its leader O. Ibobi Singh was not given enough time in the all-party meeting held in Delhi under chairmanship of Union Home Minister on June 24 last, even though his words were crucial as he represented the main opposition party at national level and he was the only person in the gathering who was fully abreast of Manipur situation. Since the beginning of the crisis in Manipur, Chief Minister has never convened any fruitful meeting with parties in opposition.
Third, MLAs openly instigating violence in Manipur in their political demand for separate administration have not been taken any proper action by the competent authority. Ten Kuki MLAs including two cabinet ministers on May 12 last issued a statement demanding a separate administration. Veteran politician Okram Joy Singh submitted a petition to the Speaker of Manipur Legislative Assembly on May 19 to take appropriate action against the ten defiant MLAs. Accordingly on May 31, the Privileges and Ethics Committee of Manipur Legislative Assembly served show cause notice to the MLAs due to be submitted by June 16. However, for obvious reasons, it seems to remain indecisive till today. Moreover, in matters concerning the controversial leave of the ten MLAs from the one-day assembly session, no action has been taken by the speaker of the assembly. Who had applied for leave and whether it was granted or not, the matter has been kept silent.
Fourth, the two cabinet ministers who have openly defied the existing dispensation under Chief Minister N Biren Singh and who have failed to turn up in cabinet meetings are yet to be dropped. How the two cabinet ministers NemchaKipgen and Letpao Haokip are performing their assigned duties without their physical presence at the capital ? Even though the e-file system works, the principle of collective responsibility of the cabinet has been marred with their wilful defiance. In addition to that, the two cabinet ministers had openly expressed their disobedience to the incumbent Chief Minister. Whether they still deserve to be cabinet ministers under the constitutional provisions and rules ?
Fifth, investigations on any of the missing cases related to the conflict are always seen to be delayed. Apparent unresponsiveness of the government irked the victim families. According to Coordinator of COCOMI’s Health Care, 26 persons among Meiteis are still untraceable since the beginning of the conflict. Timely action to trace the missing individuals could reduce public angst. The Chief Minister seems to be vocal only when the public outcry comes. When the Prime Minister of India broke his silence over the viral video case ahead of parliament session on July 23, almost all ministers and MLAs of ruling party activated themselves to condemn the incident. It was quite a rare scenario that they even came out in streets to protest. However, in the numerous cases of rapes and murders happened during the last five months, the case of brutal murder of Linthoingambi and Hemanjit being the latest, no minister and no ruling MLA is seen protesting and demanding justice. Even though some MLAs are seen expressing condemnation through the media, their response to the eruption is quite unsatisfactory to the general public.
Sixth, the Prime Minister of India had remained silent for a long time until a viral video of naked parading of two women came up. His stoic silence and refusal to any meeting on the issue have obviously confirmed the apprehension that Manipur issue is not serious to the Prime Minister. Still today, the Prime Minister has not spared even a minute to listen to Manipur issue even from the end of BJP MLAs and ministers. In such a situation, the general public in Manipur seem to have lost confidence in the BJP government in the centre. Amid his hectic schedule, the Prime Minister could have spared a few minutes to listen to whatever grievances his own party’s MLAs may put up.
Seventh, the Union Home Minister could not materialise his commitment of re-visit to the state after 15 days of his first three-day sojourn during the conflict from May 29 to 31. He remained assuring everyone that ‘Manipur territory will not be affected’ and ‘there will be no separate administration’. But the central government has done nothing concrete to halt the unabated armed attacks by Kuki-Chin militants, to stop the continuing area domination in the Meitei villages, and to bring a peaceful settlement of the issue. The Union Home Minister, as a responsible person for bringing political solution to Manipur issue, could have arranged sitting of all legislators of both communities to end the crisis. He could have brought all civil society bodies of both communities to the negotiating table. He could have controlled militant groups under SoO. It is questionable what actions have been taken up by the Union Home Minister for bringing solution to Manipur issue till now.
Eight, the ruling party (BJP) in Manipur has remained defending the party against any kind of criticism from other parties and the public. It has not done any effective job to draw attention of the central leaders towards the ongoing mayhem. Of course, its office bearers are seen in media distributing materials in relief camps, sending memoranda to union leaders and criticising the opposition in media.
Ninth, almost all the elected MLAs and ministers from the ruling camp appear to be in complete confusion nowadays. Some are seen distributing health cards, ration cards and other documents to the inmates in relief camp, which are to be done by government officials, while some others are camping outside the state apparently to stay away from public anger. It is likely that most ruling MLAs are not cooperating and supporting the Chief Minister in dealing with the prevailing issue. It is also rumoured in certain circles that some BJP legislators are pursuing for change of guard in Manipur so that one among them is graded to the Chief Minister’s seat at least for a single day in their lifetime. At home, Ministers and MLAs are more focused on protecting their own properties by engaging local supporters over and above the huge central security forces stationed at their residences.
Tenth, excessive actions of the security forces on student protesters have caused heavy casualties in the strife-torn state on 26 and 27 September last. Indian security forces stationed in Manipur such as the Rapid Action Force (RAF) and the Assam Rifles (AR) acted harshly against the uniform wearing students who were demanding justice for their murdered colleagues. Such mishandling of the situation added fuel to fire thereby amplifying the public outrage. On earlier occasions, general public in the valley areas have already developed notoriety against central forces specially the Assam Rifles for their evidently siding with Kuki militants in the battlefronts.
Under all these prevailing circumstances, the quantum of public rage against the dispensation and against their elected leaders grows day by day. The ongoing drive against narco-terrorists from the soil of this north eastern state of India may take the wrong path. Heavy wedges between the security forces and general people, between leaders and the populace, and also among numerous civil society bodies may crop up in an uncontrollable proportion. It is high time the people’s representatives and responsible political partymen acted in accordance to growing public sentiment in order to avoid diversion from the real issues confronting us all.
(The writer is a senior columnist. He is available at [email protected])