It is forty three days now since Manipur has been under another siege, yet the any substantive action on the part of the state government is conspicuous by their absence. There are certain matters of the law and its breach that cannot at any cost be allowed to go out of the hands of the government, and ensuring the highways are free of all barriers, manmade as well as those caused by natural disasters. This is even more so for landlocked regions. If a similar blockade was happening at the international level, it would have been clearly interpreted as an act of war. Yet the government continues to drag its feet on tackling the issue. If the state government is unable to handle it, the option of Article 356 of the constitution must have to be resorted to, and a brief spell of Central rule brought in. Even in the face of a complete administrative breakdown, if the Central government continues to turn a blind eye just because this is a state under the Congress and thus a feather in the cap of the Ruling party at the Centre, the blame for all the misery heaped on the ordinary people must be shared by it in equal measures. To break this prolonged impasse what is called for now is decisive action by the authorities, both in the state as well as the Centre.
What the government must also be cautious of is that it could come to a stage when the people by and large begin to take the matter into their own hands. So far, thankfully, there have been very little signs of public unrest. Hopefully this does not happen, but when the ground has been made dry as cinders, a little spark can cause infernos. A few days ago, there were rumours that two truck drivers were brutally killed on the highways causing deep concerns of dormant communal animus being shaken awake. The rumours were proven false and the matter put to rest quickly, thanks to the police which was prompt in ascertaining the truth of the matter. But the incident should have alerted the government of the dangers. In the face of the extreme difficulties, people would be touchy and ready to believe trouble mongers and alarmists, and this can have grave consequences. It is however praiseworthy that the people of the state have shown exemplary maturity every time they collectively came to be under stressful spells like the current one. In the past, be it violent strikes in the valley that crippled life in the entire state for weeks or blockades of the state’s lifelines in the hills, angry and annoyed as they all were, they never allowed a total degeneration of communal sanity to give way to mayhem and chaos.
This however does not mean the government should take things for granted. Every day is a new day and there is no saying public response to similar situations will always remain the same. A few days ago the government issued warnings that it would file FIRs against the leaders of the agitation for the creation of a separate SADAR Hills district on the ground of their call for an armed struggle to have the government concede to their demand. However past experience would have informed everybody, including those on whom the charges have been slapped, that this is just another gimmick and one which will not be executed in earnest. There are also some PIL’s coming up at the High Court not on the issue of the district demand, but on the agitation’s fallout of strangulating the state. There can be no argument that the court would strictly adhere to how the law defines the matter and disregard the politics behind it. In all likelihood, the blockade leaders would be summoned to appear before the court to explain their action, which it is again predictable, would not be honoured by the latter. The state government then would be directed to do the needful, and accordingly the police would issue arrest warrants against the named persons. The latter would go into hiding, and long after the issue has been settled the court orders would remain unrevoked but forgotten by everybody. The script has been replayed so many times before and the repetitive cycle has transported the situation to the realm of the absurd. When will the law of the state ever come to be in the full grip of the government? With those in the government continuing to be the first to breach the law, literally and in spirit, thus surrendering their moral authority to rule, this is unlikely to be in the near future. Pertinently, when will the different communities in the state ever come to see things rationally and not always through lenses jaundiced by narrow communal and ethnic considerations? The real hope for the state must come from them, our leaders having abdicated every public responsibility they were entrusted with.