Waiting for PC

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At long last, Union home minister, P Chidambaram, will come visiting the state again. This news is received with much expectation amongst the people of the state believing he is here to resolve the impasse over the demand for the Sadar hills district and thereby end the blockade of the state which is now three months old. However we are at a loss as to how even the Union home minster would go about doing this for the problem is indeed a double-edged sword. Let there be no longer any subterfuge on the matter, for so far, though the facts behind the demand and the opposition to it is known, few have ventured to spell it out. The tussle over the SADAR hills is the fallout of ethnic politics first and foremost and then only an administrative one. To put it bluntly, the Kukis want the district while the Nagas would not allow the district to become a reality claiming the land is their ancestral domain. Again, administratively, it is tough to imagine how a mere shift of the administrative headquarters from Senapati town to Kangpokpi will make any difference to subjects of the proposed Sadar hills district for two townships are within an earshot of each other. Indeed for somebody in Sadu Chiru village adjacent to Bishenpur district for instance it would really make no difference if either of the two townships is where the district magistrate’s office is located, for it would virtually be the same the distance he would have to travel to get official work done. He would also have to catch the same bus to reach either of the two townships. Solely on the consideration of administrative convenience, it would have been far simpler if his or her village were to be affiliated to Bishenpur or Churachandpur district. This would be true of many other Sadar hill villages other than those in the vicinity of Kangpokpi. So let not the veneer of administrative convenience and development deficit be used anymore in rationalising, or for that matter delegitimizing the agitation. It is true there are plenty of administrative inconveniences and development deficits in the region, but these have other causes than the ones used for or against the district demand.

What is essential now is to lift the blockade, while allowing the agitation to carry on until the impediments that are inhibiting a resolution are mutually settled between those demanding and those opposing the formation of the district. No government worth its salt can allow a siege of the state to carry on for three months, but this is precisely what has been allowed to happen for so long. We hope the Union home minister, when he comes visiting sends out a message strongly that preferably the matter is settled in a mutually acceptable way between the communities involved in the tussle, otherwise the blockade would be lifted by force if necessary.

Lifting the blockade does not necessarily have to be interpreted as supporting one or the other group, for as per an earlier Supreme Court ruling, disruptive activities along the national highways by any means, violent or non-violent, is illegal. This being the case, if the government were to come down heavily those responsible for the blockade and opens up the highway now, it would be doing so in the spirit of, and indeed in execution of a Supreme Court ruling. This brings up another legal question. By not doing anything to lift the blockade, the government has been breaching a Supreme Court directive and if anybody were to file a legal suite, the government could be held guilty of contempt of the highest court of the country. But the legality of the matter apart, it is bewildering that the government does not think dragging its feet in bringing an end to the siege of the state is a failure to fulfil an obligation it owes to the people of the state. The losses and the misery suffered especially at the low income end of the society, with prices of many essential commodities having risen as much as 100 to 500 percent, is simply exasperating. Thankfully the price of the staple of the state – rice – has been stable because the commodity is grown in the state. This latter fact probably is what has been checking public temper from rising, but let this resilience not be taken too much for granted. Everything has a limit, and that limit of tolerance may be approaching in the case of the state too.

 

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