The economic blockade along the two national highways, this time by the United Naga Council, UNC, which was to end yesterday, has been extended for another 25 days on the plea that the Central government has not responded to the demands of the strikers which include instituting a judicial enquiry into the killing of two youth at Mao Gate on May 6 in police firing, demilitarisation of the hill districts, in particular the withdrawal of Manipur police commandos and IRB personnel and the declaration of the recently concluded elections to the Autonomous District Council, ADCs, as null and void, among others. The striking Naga body, it may be recalled had earlier declared it would not have anything to do with the state government and thus there is unlikely to be any resolution reached on the issue with the state government, at least until there has been a climb down by the former from its stance in the regard. Indeed, the state government had on at least two occasions sent high level emissaries to Senapati, the de facto headquarters of the Naga civil society body, to reach out to the strikers to work out a solution but the gesture elicited no response at all.
The uneasy truth is, unless the Centre makes a move, the blockade is likely never to end. This being the case, Manipur might as well brace up to live with what may ultimately be its new and additional reality of perpetual economic blockade. This is so because there is nothing much that the Centre can do than to promise more security forces to ensure that the highways are used. Under the current dispensation of Centre-state relations spelled out by the Indian constitution, the only way the Centre can take over the administration of the state is through the emergency provision of President’s Rule. This is unlikely to happen so easily. The drama hence is playing out on expected lines. Although there is no free movement of traffic along the two highways, under escort by Central forces, freight as well as passenger vehicles continue to move along these national highways. Expectedly, the traffic volume is much reduced, hence although scarce, essential commodities not produced locally, in particular petrol, diesel and other petroleum products have not disappeared from the market altogether. In the meantime the people seem to have already adjusted their lives to this condition already and nobody is seriously complaining or worried. Unlike in the first phase of the economic blockade that lasted all of 68 days, this time around, the passion for and against the blockade too seem to have cooled considerably. Quite remarkably, Manipur is yet again demonstrating the thumb rule that has enabled it to sail through rough and calm times, through humiliating defeats as through resounding victories, reap the fruits of peace as well as bear the burdens internal turmoil – life goes on.
Quite remarkably again, Manipur is again seemingly headed for another tectonic shift in its historical vision. Two centuries ago, growing belligerence from the Ava kingdom in the East had been amongst the major factors that contributed to its Westward vision, which for the good or bad ultimately redefined its cultural and historical moorings considerably, and with it ethnic relations. Today again, the tearing friction within is seemingly inducing another pressure to shift vision again. This new outlook is quite evident in the growing moral support amongst the valley population to the harsh decision of many truckers and transporters to abandon NH-39 in favour of NH-53. The latter is deemed to be more within the control of the state, as its entire stretch falls within the state. It however goes without saying that the latter as it is, was destined to regain its historical importance once the Silchar expressway currently under construction is complete, and particularly in the event of Bangladesh opening to become the link for the proposed trans-Asian highway. But the unfortunate unfolding developments of today are apparently hastening this destiny. As for the worsening ethnic relations in the state, or the widening hill-valley divide, one can only sum up the unenviable moral consequence with a melancholic line from The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk, Literature Nobel Laureate 2006, in describing Turk-Turkish Jew relations in Turkey: “And wasn’t it amazing, to watch these two peoples travel through the twentieth century swaying to the rhythm of the same secret music, never meeting, always at a tangent, but forever linked, forever condemned, like a pair of hopeless twins.”
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