The news of the upcoming visit by the UPA chairperson and All India Congress Committee, AICC president, Sonia Gandhi is welcome if not for anything else then at least for the white wash Imphal is getting in the government’s desperate effort to impress her. Quite without doubt, Sonia is the most powerful woman in this country, and also one of the most powerful in the entire world. This being the case, it would be an understatement to say the Congress government in Manipur would be afraid of earning even a slight frown from her. We hope she and others from the top echelon of the corridors of power in New Delhi visit the state more often so as to keep the state government on its toes always. They should also in rotation visit all the different towns in the state. At least our streets would be without potholes and garbage piles. Central government officials, bureaucratic and Parliamentary do come visiting teams after teams to the state, but most of them are more interested in heading straight for the border town of Moreh for a feel of the border charm, and shopping offers this quaint town is famous for.
On a more serious note, there are certain issues building up ahead of the visit by the UPA chairperson which needs to be taken note of. The most urgent of course is the issue of the chairman of the UNLF, RK Meghen alias Sanayaima remaining untraced after he was kidnapped by men in uniform and civvies in Dhaka. The strong suspicion is, Indian intelligence had a hand in it, and hence the Indian security establishment would have information on his whereabouts. After more than a month of the kidnap incident, in what can only be described as confounding, there is no official information forthcoming on the matter. Sanayaima was the leader of an unlawful organisation from the establishment’s point of view, but insurgency is a much more complex issue that merely the legal definition of it. The ultimate road to a final settlement would have to follow a different route, or at least go beyond the legalistic parameters. Quite expectedly, Sonia Gandhi’s visit is going to be greeted by not just flag waving Congress workers, but also a bandh called by 17 different organisations. As mentioned in the press releases by these organisations, the seemingly new strategy of counter insurgency planners of the country of picking up radical dissenters to the Indian establishment on the quiet from neighbouring countries where they were based is not restricted to the case of the UNLF chairman alone. They also include the kidnap of Anthony Shimray, considered by many to be the putative successor to the aging NSCN(IM) chairman, Thuingaleng Muivah from Kathmandu’s Trivubhan Airport about a month prior to Sanayaima’s disappearance from Dhaka. They also cited the case of Ranjit Debbarma of the All Tripura Tiger Force, ATTF. Even if Indian intelligence agencies were not involved, a serious probe by Indian into the matter was called for. Even the chief minister Okram Ibobi had assured in public that he would apprise the Central government on the matter. Any failure of the government to at least show appropriate concern can seriously breach the trust and confidence gulf of the public in policies of the Union government, if not for any love for the rebel leaders, than for the seeming casual manner the issue of insurrection is being handled.
The second issue is directly related to the space organisation of the market complexes to be inaugurated by the visiting Congress chief. The government has built four market places. Three over existing historic market structures at Khwairamband, and another brand new one at New Lambulane. The last named is to be a tribal market. Picking up the cue from various representations by prospective vendors, we join issue to plead to the government to not segregate in such a systematic manner. Let them all be mixed market places, with a little more emphasis given to produces by tribals in the New Lambulane market so as to make it convenient for shoppers, as they will then know where to look for which product. In the Khwairamband markets, traditionally one dealt in handloom fabrics (Nupi Keithel or women’s market), another vegetables and fishes, and the third was generally oriented to local hardware goods and generally male produced handicraft products such as baskets, machetes, knives etc, thereby earning itself the name Nupa Keithel (male market). Let these general traditional characteristics of the markets remain to some extent, but let them not be given any ethnic visages.