By: Seram Neken
Two months have passed. Violence continues unabated. Hundreds killed; thousands displaced. Huge companies of security forces fled in. Incessant yells of mothers and sisters echoes in the periphery of Manipur valley. Attentive to the arbitrary attacks of armed militants from the hills, poor unarmed youths on roster basis are guarding their lives and properties day and night in village bunkers. Who knows what happens the next moment. As a strict vigil over the suspected activities of central armed forces, women spend sleepless nights in rural streets. For over two months now, schools closed; internet blocked, government offices defunct, curfew still in place and no agriculture activities in fields. Hospitals crowded with injuries, while morgues continue to fill with corpse. Chaos prevails everywhere in both hills and plains. Reality is clearly an external aggression and a serious humanitarian crisis in the north eastern border of the nation, bereft of any serious attention from the powerful Central government of India.
It all broke out on May 3 last when the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur staged a solidarity march in hill districts of the state protesting against the demand for Scheduled Tribe status by Meitei community. Earlier on various occasions, certain civil society bodies along with the so-called Kuki armed groups under tripartite Suspension of Operation (SoO) with the government, had resorted to arson of forest offices and public as well as private properties in Kuki-dominated Churachandpur district. They have long been moulding an anti-Meitei temperament particularly in Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Tengnoupal districts, in defiance of the initiatives taken up by the Government of Manipur as part of its ‘war on drugs’. Kuki politicians, Kuki militants and Kuki CSOs conspired themselves, and orchestrated protests against destruction of poppy plants, eviction of forest land encroachments and identification of illegal immigrants. Their perceived objective is to establish a ‘Kukiland’, where they can freely undertake the drug manufacture and trafficking enterprise. So to say, they dream of establishing a new ‘Golden Triangle’ in the north east Indian terrain.
Knowing everything, the Government of India is still remaining silent. No serious and effective action has been taken up. The powerful Prime Minister of India, who appeared to have strong attachments with the land and people of Manipur when he addressed the nation wearing the Meitei ‘Lengyan’ cloth on his neck, is still mum. Narendra Modi, who frequently visited Manipur in pre-poll days, seems to ignore the people of Manipur while in anguish. Even though Manipur ministers and MLAs including those of the saffron brigade queued up in Delhi for days to meet him, he left for foreign tour without uttering a single word. Numerous political party representatives, women groups and civil organisations sought time for a rendezvous with the prime minister, but to no avail.
Amit Shah, the iron man who visited Manipur during the height of the crisis, who has strong responsibility and ability to tame and normalise the situation, has done nothing tangible except convening a nominal all-party meeting in Delhi. His proposal of a Peace Committee in Manipur turned out to be a flop show due to wrong choice of composition. His promise
of clearing highways for giving passage to essential items remains a lip service. In the allpolitical parties meeting in Delhi, almost all leaders pointed out weakness of Manipur Chief Minister in dealing with the situation and suggested his ouster while some others proposed president’s rule in Manipur. Till today, nothing is seen as an outcome of the parties’ meet. In the aftermath, Manipur Chief Minister called in. On return, Chief Minister Biren Singh narrated to media ‘Union Home Minister would take care of the hills, while he himself would take care of the valley in order to bring normalcy’. Indeed a silly remark as people of Manipur are shouting against ‘Separate Administration’ in the state’.
Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), that rules in both the state and the centre, is the strongest political party today. Naturally, Manipur BJP has a big role to play in bringing peace in Manipur. But to the dismay of people of Manipur, the state party unit isn’t doing anything concrete to woo the central leadership except condemning and doing post-mortem over Rahul Gandhi’s Manipur visit. No actions taken against BJP MLAs who openly instigated communal violence between Kukis and Meiteis. No words spoken against the stoic silence of Prime Minister on Manipur issue. If the allegations of an unholy pre-poll tie-up between the armed groups and its leaders are wrong, then the BJP Manipur has to recommend befitting action against Kuki armed groups for such assertion. Remember, people of Manipur had a lot of expectations from BJP in Manipur.
What is rumour and who is spreading it ? People are appealed to avoid rumour. Responsible individuals, on the other hand, are always claiming improvement of the situation which is never there in the periphery. ‘Adequate security provided’; ‘Situation improved’; ‘No untoward will happen’ etc. – these have become dangerous rumours which diverted the alertness among villagers.
Meanwhile, High Political Drama (HPD) is seen everywhere, where certain civil society bodies are also seen acting in. Unwelcoming political leaders, of national as well as regional parties, except those whom they adore, is obviously proof that they are very much a part of the Drama. The one who frequently advises not to ‘politicise the situation’ is the one who politicises it first. Now we are in a distress state of affairs, we must invite and welcome all leaders of India irrespective of their political affiliations. Parliament session is only a fortnight away now. A healthy and constructive deliberation in the highest legislative body of the nation with active participation of national political parties will obviously be a good move to protect the nation from external aggression, and to relieve the people of the dreadful humanitarian crisis. Thanks to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his recent visit to strifetorn Manipur. Noble endeavour of the congressman could not be stopped at all cost. ‘Resignation Drama’ is untimely, as people are in complete pain now. Government and nongovernment agencies should stay away from such immature orchestration.
Quite amazing and unfortunate is it that unarmed villagers of Manipur are left to defend their lives and properties against attacks by armed militants amid the presence of thousands of central security forces in the state. In spite of having an animated elected government now, the Chief Minister of Manipur is stripped off his responsibility as head of the Unified Command. Centre-state relation under the constitution of India is not maintained properly.
It is high time for the spearheading civil society organisations and powerful women groups to unite together under one platform. It is high time for the politicians of Manipur irrespective of party affiliations to come together under one united voice to save Manipur. Instead of being submissive to the central leadership for all times, state government has to come out boldly and exercise its powers conferred under the Constitution of India. Punitive actions be taken against MLAs who instigated violence between communities, while ministers who defied collective responsibility be sacked. Prevailing situation is to be deliberated in an emergency assembly session, where a strong resolve to protect the integrity of Manipur be taken. Besides addressing the plight of the displaced people, Government must immediately arrange for unhindered farming activities in the periphery, resume classes in educational institutions and activate the administrative offices. Adequate security be deployed in the periphery to ensure unhindered agricultural activities.
Even though the central government is apathetic towards the prevailing mayhem, the Manipur government being a federating unit of democratic India, is quite authoritative to defend the lives and properties of people of Manipur. The head needs to be strong enough to deal with the aggressors with an iron hand.
(The writer is senior columnist available at [email protected])
Manipur Crisis: The head needs to be strong
By: Seram Neken