MANIPUR IN MULTIPLE CRISES

Imphal Free Press
Oct 24 2011

It is a wonder Manipur continues to trudge along despite so many different forces violently pulling it in different directions, some with the avowed intent of dismantling and destroying it. It is equally a wonder that the people by and large have remained calm and stoic at such times. For it should surprise anybody that without any overt complaint, as if it is what fate has willed them, people queue up for petrol through the night at the petrol pumps which had been designated for rationed distribution of the commodity for the day. This resilience is next to confounding, and obviously it is a boon for the government of the day. But let the government not take things too much for granted. Tempers could explode on the streets without warning as patience all around is being stressed beyond limits. We earnestly hope it does not happen, but it would be prudent for everybody, especially the government, to be wary that even a spark can cause raging infernos in such an atmosphere as the state is in today.
 
Even as the twin blockade by activists of the SADAR hills district demand committee and their Naga adversaries are causing so much hardship and scarcity in the state already, various Naga civil organisations have now begun their campaign to pressure the government to concede to their demand for an alternative administrative arrangement for the Naga districts using the same coercive means. This demand can be read as a euphemism for a separate state and unlike the SADAR hills issue, is more likely to see opposition not just from the government but also amongst a greater section of the people. This is to say, hardships caused by the SADAR hills issue and those by the separate administration demand issue is unlikely to be measured on the same scale, and this is all the more reason for the government to be on alert, less communal bile begins to overflow amongst the public.

It will not help to sweep either the SADAR hills or the separate administration issue under the carpet. They have been simmering for a long time and indeed been boiling over from time to time. For whatever the reason, they are exploding in unprecedented manner now. This being the case, the government to the day must realise, whether they are responsible or not, the outcomes of these unrests will be attributed to them, most significantly by history. If these issues cause extensive damages to the social or political fabric of the state and its people, history would heap the blame on the government. Conversely, it also means this government, being as they are in power in very interesting times, can convert these adversities into opportunities, and have themselves enter into the pages of history in golden letters. For the latter to happen, it goes without saying, they will have come up with imaginative strategies to resolve these crises, and not just sit and watch as have been their wont in the face of overwhelming challenges. The government has been lucky so far, but all of whatever good reputation they have earned can go down the drain if the current challenges lead to any catastrophes.

On the SADAR hills issue so much have already been said. But what has seldom been given much importance is, the two issues are not altogether unrelated. The reaction of Kuki students to the Naga demand for separate arrangement, cautioning that in appeasing the Nagas, interests of other communities in the state should not and cannot be compromised. Perhaps the answer should have to do with a new model of autonomy. Perhaps on the Sixth Schedule model of the Autonomous District Councils, ADC, the government should think of more autonomy to all the districts, not just the Naga districts. Apart from some very vital responsibilities, such as those of security, perhaps all the districts should be given extensive autonomy in many other fields such as education and development activities, although in coordination. As it is, particularly in areas that relied heavily on human resource such as education, primary, secondary and higher secondary schools, where the government has miserably failed to shoulder its responsibilities, the private sector has stepped in majorly. Thus these public agendas are already semi autonomous from the government in Imphal. In any case, where would be the harm in trying out every idea and means possible if the quest is for a return of normal living conditions in the state?

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