WHO RULES MANIPUR'S STREETS?


Oken Jeet Sandham
15 Sep 2005
Editor, North East Press Service

In post-Independent India, Manipur state is afflicted by one of the oldest insurgencies. Even after 33 years of statehood, there appears to be no hope in future. The present scene in this once princely state, is of anarchy. In reality, nobody knows who the real ruler is. Any organization, underground or civil or a mere youth or even an individual can dictate to the state government. With several parallel regimes in the state, the people are gradually losing their confidence in the popular Secular Progressive Front (SPF) government headed by O Ibobi Singh.


Okram Ibobi Singh was not well known to the people of Manipur in the arena of the "dusty Manipur politics." But in the post "Bangkok declaration"-general elections in Manipur, he rose like a phoenix from the ashes. He took on the mantle of the Chief Minister when the state was passing through unprecedented chaos.

Although, he had faced serious public rebellions following the Manorama rape and murder case, non-implementation of Meetei Mayek (script), etc., the recent 52-day economic blockade of ANSAM demanding withdrawal of the declaration of the "June 18 as state holiday" gave him one of the severest political trials in the state where emotions and passions usually run supreme. The state is still under a spell of worsened law and order with unprecedented insecurity prevailing everywhere.

The incident of kidnapping of Kh Ashokumar, president of the Manipur University Students Union (MUSU) by an underground outfit and the subsequent state-wide bandh by student organizations demanding his immediate unconditional release, looting on the Imphal-Moreh national highway, continued terrorizing of innocent public by masked gunmen, unexplained killings of innocent civilians by security forces, continued kneecapping of erring teachers and principals of school and colleges by outlawed KYKL, storming of police stations by angry mobs for failure to protect the people, teachers' agitations, lawyers' agitations, Churachandpur bandh, Moreh bandh, Tamenglong bandh, Ukhrul bandh, etc. are nothing but the reflections of the current conditions in the state.

Manipur might be the only state in India witnessing unending turmoil and perhaps Manipur is also the only state in the country to witness calling bandhs to protest against another bandh. The socio-economic condition of the state is severely affected and so are lives , especially of the youth. The future of Manipur is terribly bleak if a strong political decision is not taken immediately.

The state witnessed over 100 bandhs in 2000 and it cost the state domestic product about Rs 4, 479 lakhs daily. According to KYKL, which once banned bandhs and strikes in Manipur in 2003, a single day's bandh in the state leads to a loss of over Rs 9 crores and with 72 bandhs in 2001-2002 the cost to the state exchequer was of a mind-boggling Rs 676.48 crores.

There was nothing novel in Ibobi mooting for a new law to ban economic blockades and bandhs, during ANSAM's indefinite economic blockades on Manipur's two national highways---39 and 53. In 1999, the Government in power had banned all bandhs causing inconveniences to the people. Even the KYKL had once banned calling bandhs and strikes in 2003. All these failed to stop bandhs, strikes, economic blockades, etc. in the state because the government itself was a failure.

Bandh or strike supporters now target public and private property. One of the worst forms of arson in recent times was the burning down of state library by the Mayek (script) activists during its agitation against the non-implementation of the Meetei Mayek in the state.

The Ibobi Government compounded the situation and made a laughing stock of the laws of the land. It imposed laws and withdrew them anytime, only to suit him. Mayek (script) activists were booked under the critical National Security Act (NSA) during violent agitations in the state. Even after he agreed to their demands, the activists still threatened to launch another agitation, if their leaders and other members booked under NSA were not released and their cases dropped , unconditionally. The government caved in under this pressure. There are doubts whether acts even stricter than POTA or TADA would work in Manipur.

The government should not have booked them, only to release them later. Because in the long run, nobody would respect the laws of the land and it would only encourage the people to go to the streets. The failure on the part of the state government to enforce the state machineries thoroughly convinces the people that the streets can rule the state to achieve their goals. It appears that violence is the only means to resolve any issue in Manipur.

Originally published by The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) at http://www.ipcs.org/article/india/who-rules-manipurs-streets-1839.html

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