SANS BLOCKADE POLL MANIFESTO: POLITICS OF SILENCE

This article was published by the Sangai Express ( http://thesangaiexpress.com) on 21 Jan 2011 at http://www.thesangaiexpress.com/sangai-express-news.php?newsid=12499

In the 2007 Assembly election, the Congress maintained a stoic silence on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and swept the polls, brushing aside the challenges of other political parties which had promised to lift the said Act, with certain riders. Learn from the past, is probably one dictum which the Congress sincerely believes in for there is just no other comprehensible reason for its silence on blockades in its election manifesto released with all the accompanying hoopla, topped up with a long list of its ‘achievements’ serving as the preamble, on January 19. In as much as election manifestoes are important for their contents for it is a public document promising what it will do if voted to power (We believe that it is equally important even if the party is not voted to power), it also stands that its silence on any issue of public importance is equally important. The politics of blockade has already taken a heavy toll, not only on the material well being of the people but also on their psyche, which in turn has spawned a deep social and political divide. This is a challenge to the very notion and idea of a Manipur as a social and political entity and the reason why the Congress has deemed it fit to maintain a deafening silence on this very crucial matter conveys some significant meaning. For one, it is an extension of the utter indifference demonstrated by the Congress led dispensation at New Delhi, even as the lifelines of the people here were choked for over 100 days. It was the price of the innocuous Onion that brought down a Government at Delhi some years back, but here we are talking about life saving drugs and medical oxygen, without which life saving surgical operations would not be possible. Or is it a case of the Congress coming under the impression that keeping silent on this issue is the best part of the politics of blockade ? Silence may have its benefits, but not when it comes to the formulation of policies and programmes, especially when it is on something as crucial as economic blockade and not when it has been a case of all the marathon blockades coming under the rule of the Congress led Government, both at Delhi and Imphal. UPA I led by the Congress came to power in 2004 at Delhi and SPF I led by the Congress came to power in 2002 at Imphal.
 In 2005, the State reeled under the impact of the first marathonesque economic blockade which came in the form of the 52 days National Highways cut off against the decision of the State Government to declare June 18 of that year a general holiday as well as to observe the day as Integrity Day. This was followed by the more than 60 days economic blockade in 2010 imposed by the United Naga Council and backed by the All Naga Students' Association, Manipur ostensibly against the decision of the State Government to go ahead with the election to the Autonomous District Councils under the 2008 Amendment but with the shadow of the ‘Bar the entry of Muivah’ to Manipur stand. In 2011 the 121 days of economic blockade followed concurrently on the demand to upgrade Sadar Hills to the status of a full fledged district called by the Sadar Hills Districthood Demand Committee and the Counter-Blockade called by the United Naga Council against what it termed the designs of the State Government to carve out the ancestral lands of the Nagas to create Sadar Hills district. The overnight queues at petrol pumps, the Rs 80 or Rs 90 per Kg of Onion, the Rs 45 to Rs 50 per Kg of potato, the Rs 2000 per filled LPG cylinder in the black market, the Rs 200 per litre of petrol in the black market, in short the escalating prices of all essential commodities took a heavy toll on the people cutting across community lines. On the other hand it also meant substantially lining up the pockets of the fuel cartel and boosting the black marketeers. This is too significant to be missed. It affected the hills and the valley areas and while the impact on the material well being of the people was the most vocal and pronounced, the scar it left on the psyche of the people and the deepening of the social divide is what is more dangerous. The Congress however thinks this is not important enough for the people. A case of arrogance borne out of being in power for ten consecutive years or a case of taking the beaten path of the 2007 election when it swept the polls despite remaining quiet on AFSPA ? Remaining quiet on AFSPA in a sense reflects where the Congress had human rights on its list of priority and the July 23, 2009 BT Road incident is an apt testimony. Either way, it does not augur well for the land and the people.

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