By- Seram Neken
The month of August has long been filled with mixed emotions across the globe. Tears and smiles, celebrations and observances all over the world characterize the onset of this eighth month of the year in Gregorian calendar. In Manipur, the peace loving people of all sections irrespective of their diverse affiliations are now ready to greet August 2018with a 24-hour General Strike to show strong defiance against the proposed extension of Article 371(A) of Indian Constitution to the so called Naga-Inhabited areas other than Nagaland. Although the strike is called by a few Civil Society bodies working in the interest of Manipur’s integrity, it would be a ‘People’s Strike’, which will be and should be supported by all sections of Manipuris, all political parties, all types of unions and associations and so on.
During the many months, the people of Manipur and the government have long been kept in vexed after the so called ‘Framework Agreement’ between India Government and the NSCN(IM) was signed. Having remained concealed for a long time now, the contents of the ‘Framework Agreement’ suddenly opens up in the form of extension of Article 371(A) of Indian Constitution beyond Nagaland to all Naga inhabited areas covering Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Hence, the foremost and most serious issue for this August is ‘Extension of Article 371(A) beyond Nagaland’.
Border Pillar issue, Manipur University impasse, Street Vendors’ protests, VDF’s strike, BoSEM imbroglio and a few other problems are lying unsolved in Manipur Society today. Some issues are under the jurisdiction of state government, while others are beyond the state’s purview. But, as of now, the people of Manipur are witnessing the all-out efforts of the state government led by the Chief Minister N Biren Singh towards bringing solution to the multiple problems facing the state. However, ‘Bandh-less Blockade-less’ state which was pledged by the incumbent government cannot be fully realized amid the hordes of problems arising in Manipur society.
Usually, August has remained a month of Bandhs, Blockades, protests and strikes from the very beginning all over the world.In August, many people around the world celebrate their freedom as many others observe their awes of all hues. It has indeed been a month of tears, as it has been of smiles on the face of another millions. Usually, the government and the civil society bodies of Manipur have been in a hectic schedule to celebrate as well as observe memorable moments in its history. August 2018 will be of greater value to the people of Manipur.
Going back to history, Manipur got freedom from the British yoke on 14 August in 1947, a day before India got independence from the colonial regime after centuries of subjugation. The day has been celebrated as an important occasion in Manipur. On 13of August in 1891, two gallant sons of Manipur - BirTikendrajit and Thangal General made the supreme sacrifice of their lives for their motherland. In the evening of August 13, the British hanged them in public at Imphal Polo ground for their alleged rebellion against the white regime. It remains a red letter day in the history of the once independent kingdom, which later became a part of the Indian sub-continent on 15October 1949.
On August 27 in 1965, people of Manipur spearheaded by the student forces revolted against the artificial famine created out of the Indian businessmen’s hegemony and misrule of the then state’s rulers. Hunger Marchers’ Day every year reminds Manipuris of their claims for the right to food, which was brutally responded with bloodshed. The memorial at PishumChingamacha still narrates the story of students’ power in almost all uprisings to save their basic rights.
The unfortunate incident, in which many students laid down their lives in police firing while protesting against non-availability of rice due to artificial famine in the State, gave birth to All Manipur Students Union (AMSU) which celebrates its birthday on 28 August every year.
A decade ago, on 4 August 1997, people of Manipur demonstrated their defiance against the tendencies to smash the harmonious existence of its indigenous inhabitants. Observance of Manipur Integrity Day and the Integrity Pillar at Imphal Pologround stand testimony to the people’s inherent aspirations for a unified and dignified existence within the Indian political framework.
On August 16 in 2004, student activist PebamChitaranjan burnt himself to death as protest for repeal of AFSPA during the infamous Manorama Murder Issue.
It was on 8 August 2009 that a story appeared in TehelkaMagzine unleashed the series of fake encounter designs orchestrated by state security forces on innocent Manipuris. It really opened the Pandora’s Box, inside which a long chain of encounter dramas remained hidden for long. The story that appeared in August 2009 has demonstrated its last episode now, with the investigative agencies acting on the revelations made by the very perpetrator of the crime.
Controversy-marred Manipur Sports University was an August 2014 gift of NarendraModi government to the congress-ruled powerhouse of sports.
In August 2014, victim families of extrajudicial killings got a sigh of relief, as the Supreme Court directed states to furnish investigation reports on extrajudicial killings. It was surely a welcome development in Manipur where the voices of numerous families remained unattended to by state government for long.
On 3 August 2015, the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) jointly adopted a ‘Framework Agreement’, the provisions of which are still not disclosed to the public even after a year of the agreement.
August seems synonymous with people’s movements around the globe. A host of nations gained independence from foreign occupancy in the month of August in different years. Ecuador became a free country on 10 August 1822 and Uruguay gained independence from Brazil on 25 August 1825.
After years of struggle, Bolivia became a republic on 6 August 1825. Korea, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia celebrate their independence days in the month of August. Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States on 21 August 1959. Vietnam’s revolution succeeded on 19 August 1945. Gandhiji’s Quit India movement materialised on 9 August 1942. India gained Independence on 15 August 1947 with the formation of Pakistan as a Muslim state the same day.
To many nationalities, August is a month of great tragedies. The memory of the August 6 and August 9 bombings on Hirosima and Nagasaki in 1945 still lingers in the minds of peace-loving people of the globe. After these greatest crimes against humanity, Japan declared unconditional surrender on August 15.
In Manipur, this August will be a turning point as it will tighten the stand of Manipuri people towards protecting our integrity and unity.