The skirmish yesterday at Kakching Lamkhai in which irate public of the area staged a wildcat violent strike, counter-blockading vehicles going towards Chandel district and in the process torching a freight vehicles carrying essential commodities should serve as a loud warning to the Ibobi government that things can go out of control the longer the imbroglio over the SADAR Hills and the highway blockades resulting out of it is allowed to remain unresolved. The Kakching Lamkhai violence resulted in retaliation to severe injuries caused to drivers coming from Moreh towards Imphal by stone pelting suspected anti-SADAR hills district blockaders near Thamnapokpi on September 23 and a rumour that one of the injured drivers succumbed to his injuries in a hospital in Imphal. Thankfully the information of the death has since been proven false and hopefully the tensions in the area would subside with this news. This time the worst was avoided, but the question is, can it be for much longer if the blockades along the highways continue for much longer?
The government must realise tempers are rising everywhere and the entire state is once again walking on dry tinder. A small spark anywhere can easily set off an inferno everywhere and the longer the blockades is allowed to stay, there would be no shortfall of these sparks. Under the circumstance, the government cannot simply wait and watch as it has been doing all along. It must without further delay take affirmative action. Either agree or disagree to the SADAR Hills district, and then enforce its will firmly accordingly. Or alternatively, if it must continue the waiting game as a strategy to tire out the agitators, it must ensure that the state’s highways are fully secured and functional. Since NH-39 is a long stretch and passes through another state before reaching the plains of Assam, the better alternative is for the government to concentrate its major security focus on NH-53 which is completely within the state territory before touching the plains of the Barak Valley in Assam. The important thing is, there must not be a shortfall of supply of either essential commodities or fuel in the state despite the blockades. Shortfall of these commodities can only add fuel to the growing fire of anger amongst all sections of the people of the state making things more and more volatile. There will be nobody to blame if communal riots come to be triggered off by incidents such as yesterday’s skirmish at Kakching Lamkhai.
On another note, it was encouraging to see the government listen to sane critiques of its slothful action (or inaction) in meeting the crisis of unprecedented price rise on account of the blockades. Following editorial commentaries, including in this newspaper, that by not taking appropriate action when action was demanded, it was encouraging other civil groups, in particular various students bodies, to take the law into the hands, the government has finally come out with a comprehensive plan to control prices of available essential commodities in the markets in the state. This is a welcome step though it should have come much earlier. We hope the government does not slacken its effort and make things return to square one again. This thought is relevant considering another welcome initiative of the government, that of making the Thangal and Paona bazaar area no parking zones, is now witnessing tendencies to return to square one, with vehicle owners breaking the norm and traffic police for whatever their reason, making exceptions of these breaches and turning a blind eye to these law defaulters.
What the government must also be alert about is crisis control strategies in case dangerous skirmishes such as the one at Kakching Lamkhai break out again. Blockade related violence probably cannot be contained altogether, but what must be realised is that rumours have become as dangerous as the actual violence themselves. Rumours of brutal manhandling of passengers and sometimes murder of drivers on the highways have been surfacing frequently and in the charged atmosphere of today, these rumours are very easy to believe and thereafter to spread like wildfire. The police must be on its toes continually to come out with factual statements and findings on these dangerous rumours as soon as it is humanly possible. In the meantime, let the government come out in force and secure the highways so that the scarcity induced tempers which is rising towards a flashpoint is contained and controlled effectively. Nobody wants the tragedy of communal clashes to add to the already overflowing cup of woe of this beleaguered state, or are there people who do?