Published: Published Date – 12:44 AM, Tue – 9 August 22

Editorial: Manipur imbroglio

The economic blockade of the national highways in Manipur called by the All Tribal Students’ union Manipur (ATSUM) has begun to have its impact with trucks being lined up along the NH-2 Imphal-Dimapur highway and NH-39 Imphal-Hiribam highway. The ATSUM called for the blockade to protest against the Manipur (Hill Areas) District Council 6th and 7th Amendment Bills introduced by the BJP government. The students’ body is opposing these two amendments and it feels that the provisions of the Bill must ensure the hills get greater financial and administrative autonomy which is necessary for development on a par with valley areas. The current amendments, they argue, will only help the government with more powers, but not ensure the development of hill areas. Moreover, they feel betrayed that the amendment Bills were not in accordance with their earlier agreement with the government. Like in any case of societal unrest, Manipur has also been witnessing agitations due to perceived unequal development. The root cause of the current spell of unrest is that hill area residents, mainly tribal groups like Nagas and Kukis, feel development is neglected in hill areas, compared to that of valley areas inhabited by the Meiteis.

The impact of the blockade is not just economic and confined to the travails forced on the common man. The more dangerous effect will be on the collective psyche of society as the resultant consequences are likely to drive a wedge between the residents of hill and valley areas. Its signs are already visible. With the blockade choking supplies to non-tribal majority valley areas, a valley-based organisation, Meiti Leepun, had locked the offices of ATSUM as it viewed the blockade was meant to target valley areas. The BJP government’s response to the blockade, at best, can be described as knee-jerk, with the students’ leaders being detained and the internet facility suspended for five days. What is required now is a political intervention to begin negotiations before the situation spirals out of control. Political sagacity and a sense of brotherhood and responsibility should guide the initiative to tackle the situation, rather than taking recourse to the battalion approach where government dumps para-military forces to bring normalcy. Such a tactic had not worked in the past, and it would only push the disenchanted youth into the fold of militancy. This prospect presents a more serious problem to tackle with. After all, among the major theatres of conflict India has witnessed in the recent past is the militancy in the North-East, along with Kashmiri separatism and Left Wing Extremism. India is now heaving a sigh of relief with LWE and Kashmir situation easing a little bit. This is not the time for the Manipur government to depend on serendipity to end the conflict.

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