Sitting on a keg of gun powder

The Sangai Express
May 11 2010

As we had said before, there would be no winner in the stand off between the proposed visit of NSCN (IM) leader Th Muivah to his birth place, for now it is more than clear that it is the common people on either side of the Lim divide who have been suffering the most. At the moment, two families have already lost their beloved sons and nothing can be more tragic than the death of two young, innocent persons at the hands of security forces, which is there in the first place to ensure the safety and security of the commoners. It is another matter that this has been turned on its head for it is right before our eyes to see and ears to hear that the security forces or personnel are mainly utilised for the VVIPs, who zoom their way around Imphal and elsewhere. Petrol being sold in the black market at Rs 150 per litre, a filled LPG cylinder being sold at Rs 1000 at the least,* prices of essential commodities rising well beyond the reach of the common people, Government functioning crippled for the last three months or so due to the cease work strike, the indefinite economic blockade imposed on NH-39 and NH-53 coupled with the barricades put up all along NH-39, schools going to be closed indefinitely for lack of fuel to ferry students either by vans or buses, oxygen stock running low at RIMS and Shija Hospitals which has led to the cancellation of all routine surgery. The list could go on and on and this is the situation that the people of Manipur have to bear with, both in the valley areas as well as in the hill districts. Such a situation is not new in Manipur, but this is no reason for the Government to go slack on the pressing issues facing us presently. FCS Minister Y Erabot, in his no-nonsense style, has announced that the shortage of essential commodities will be overcome within one week. We wish him all the best, but this seems like a tall order to follow.

As we have witnessed before and as is the wont of the Government, the attention of the powers that be has again focused on NH-53, which connects Imphal to Jiribam. The importance of developing a second life line and upgrading this route to the standard of a National Highway have been the chantings of all political leaders, but so far not much headway seems to have been made. If we remember, it was the then Governor, Dr SS Sidhu who personally took a look at the repairing works done along this route by road during the 52 days economic blockade imposed by the All Naga Students' Association, Manipur in 2005. In some sort of a way, it is amazing that the Chief Minister, yes our very Mr O Ibobi, did not even bother to get a first hand account of the works being carried out along this route at that time, though there have been numerous talks on the need to develop this highway. The Government turning their attention to NH-53 now, would be akin to bolting the door after the horse has escaped. If the situation, which we have just mentioned, had happened in any other States of India, then we well imagine the uproar it would cause in Delhi. On the other hand, it should also be clearly understood that the present situation is an off shoot of the politics behind the demand for a Greater Lim and this is something that should be primarily dealt with between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM). Yes, the people of Nagaland as well as the people of Manipur, which is inclusive of all the ethnic groups existing here, are all stakeholders and they cannot remain lax and need to be on the alert. But staying alert should not be misconstrued as taking another community as the enemy to be targeted. That would amount to committing hara-kiri, all for a cause in which there will be no winners. Manipur is literally sitting on a keg of gun powder and a small spark can turn into an inferno. This is a point that should not be lost on anyone.

* In the present market, petrol costs Rs 45 (approx) and a cylinder between Rs 400-450. On May 13, reports in the papers and conversations with family and friends back home confirmed the price has further rose to Rs 200 per litre for petrol, and Rs 1500-2000 for a mere cylinder. Besides, oil pumps are running dry and one of my friends joked he has started eating outside to save gas.

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