There are two ways of looking at the way things are developing in Manipur. One is that everybody is taking the law into their own hands. But this leads to the second conclusion, that the establishment in which hands the law should solely rest has lost its moral legitimacy and with it the authority to make the citizen trust it is there to do them good. And so here is Manipur again under a prolonged siege. Even the thought of the creation of a new district is threatening to turn the state upside down, with one group wanting it at any cost and another threatening to oppose it to any extent. Even as the siege is nearing a month, the government remains clueless as to how to proceed. The only thing it has said is that it would not be coerced into doing anything against its will and that it would execute this will on its own once a study by a high powered committee it has instituted to find out how feasible or desirable this proposed new district would be from the consideration of administrative convenience alone, is completed. But at this moment, neither those demanding nor those opposing are willing to step back an inch from where they were despite the government’s show of intent that it would proceed on the issue solely on its own will and not be dictated by any of the agitations.
What about the common man in the meantime? Does the government think that merely instituting a probe committee and arbitrating the deadlocked issue is enough remedy? For while it is doing this, there are people on the streets put to immense hardships. The poorer sections are the worst hit by the blockade consequent price rise, and if things get any worse, there is no saying they would remain calm as they have been. What then would the government do? Would it hold itself accountable for such an outcome? What it should be doing now is to firmly come clear and make the agitators on both sides understand that they cannot hold the entire state to ransom. This must be precisely by demonstrating the state can bring in provision for everybody and any form of prolonged blockades or strikes that indiscriminately make people, men and women, old and young alike suffer for no fault of theirs, would be broken up. In other words, ensure the highways are open although after convincing the agitators on both sides that justice as defined by the constitutional law of the country would be done. To give the devil its due however, we must also add that we give the benefit of the doubt to the committee looking into the matter that it would do what is just, but it must expedite its mission so that the agony of the state is not prolonged. In the meantime, let the government assure essential commodities do not run out from the markets.
If the government is unable to act on the matter then the available alternative of Presidents Rule must be resorted to. This is not altogether an indictment of the government for failing to act proactively on the matter. Nobody has any doubt in a state so badly fractured by ethnic divisions a decision on the SADAR hills will not be easy. Whichever way the decision goes, it will be cause for much bad blood and further challenges to the state’s authority. In other words the blockade is more than likely to stay inordinately. But this is just one dimension of the problem. The complex nature of the ethnic division in the state being such, darker ethnic motives, imaginary or otherwise, of the trouble being the caused by manipulation by the Valley dwellers would be attributed to whatever decision the government takes. Indications of this are already heard on many cacophonous discussion forums on the internet as well as delirious comments to web editions of newspapers from the state aimed at provoking anger, but more often than not inspire only laughter of ridicule. The limitation of the local government being such, it is not an altogether unreasonable conclusion that if at all it is unable bring an early end to the humanitarian crisis developing in the state, Central rule should fill in. Legitimate force used by the Central rule to ensure goods and passenger movements along the highway would not be interpreted as communally biased as so many would be waiting to jump to the conclusion if the state government did so. Likewise, a Central rule’s decision on whether the SADAR Hills district should be created and on what terms, would not be as prone to be smeared with communal colours by those for who have little other constructive things to do than read between the lines to discover non-existent, imaginary, sinister designs behind every political and economic development in the state. Our appeal is, let the government act immediately to ensure flow of goods into the state and in the longer term to settle the SADAR hills issue conclusively and in a manner satisfactory to all parties concerned.