By RS Jassal
The past decade has witnessed 20-24 economic blockades including bandhs, general strikes ranging from a few hours to a few days & some crossing 62 days too and almost every such blockade ending with signing of some MOU or the other with the Government. Such MOU hardly solved any problems than shelved a problem temporarily, but the oragnisers always took it as a new clause added to the Constitution of India/statutes of the State Government honoring events rolled back with losses incurred in crores including human lives and public properties. It is also surprising that most of the blockades/bandhs fail to convey the meaning & purpose for example examine the current blockade reinforced with hunger strikes to deaths carefully. It is for creating of a revenue District from existing or from readjusting peripheries Sadar Hills (dimensions) which clearly says for administrative convenience for the people meaning by for creating comforts and meeting developmental aspirations pragmatically both for the Govt. & the people who are residing within existing boundaries which needs readjustment as the existing design is unwieldy and under fresh arrangement some areas might go to other District and some from other District might be incorporated into Sadar Hills. But counter bandh is resorted to by other group of people and the counter to counter blockades by certain other sections highlighting objections that particular area(s) should be excluded or otherwise if District is to be declared.
Since impact of this ‘tug of war’ is on the people residing in the valley & its peripheries, and intra hills too so certain organizations have started doing their ‘role in form of blockades far from the scene so that commodities do not move to the hills too. With this panodrama the means adopted to produce comforts are those which can be termed as discomforts (naturally destructive and irritating) in nature. How destructive means can produce comforting results is not understood. Just contemplate:
(a) Movement of people completely brought to halt by bandh putting commuter’s daily wage earners & bread winners + patients to digest inconveniences.
(b) Edible items, fresh items from interior villages and areas for sale getting stuck, medicines and other public life sustainers being burnt, vehicles torched, damaged & completely burnt.
(c) Imagine patients needing medical care moving with permission from blockaders & on return ( since patient detained in hospital) vehicles moving empty getting damaged , driver getting manhandled because vehicle movement w/o patient not justifying its movement. Is it not height of perception options?
(d) Above all in their area of influence, vehicles being moved to city to purchase items of luxury for ‘persons who matter’, who assume the mantle of self governed governance as police on duty are just standby to see who moves and how and least concerned with why because it is democratic to convey your grievance the way you feel like.
After all what is blockade: It is an act of sealing off a place to prevent goods or people entering or leaving for example calendstine move out of timber. Its natural interpretation is illegal movement of timber or rice move out as during first Nupilal movement during colonial rule. Civil societies can do so for a purpose which is causing loss to them & to the State as a whole to stop such leaks and seek remedy.
Can Blockade be done on NH- No rule for or against exists. However symbolic action by public organisations for a common cause can be done as is known in form of ‘Chakkabandh’ or so for a cause which may be affecting like rise in POL prices etc. That is from six hours to 12 hours and maximum 24hours as more than that is only causing further inconvenience to public movement and inviting huge monetary losses which may go overbearing and rottening of the fresh rolling stock including life saving drugs needed by every human being. Author has gone through the initial Act “The National Highway Act 1956” and “The National Highway Authority of India Act 1988”. There is no clear cut responsibility accorded to the State to maintain security for vehicles/ travellers commuting NHs. Nagaland & Manipur are providing security on mutual understanding & at times on directions from the Centre as these two states fall insensitive zone of human relationship. Any reader can correct me if I am wrong. If my interpretation is correct, then Centre is at fault. Centre must constitute NH security Force of two Battalions from Dimapur to Imphal – Moreh included. NH Authority 1988 (if functional) must come forward to spell out its ambit of duties performed so far. Where is HQ? and what all they have done so for to improving life on NH 39(2) & 53 (37). What activities by way of providing passengers/ driver’s rest houses, travellers medical facilities enrooted, hotels, motels enroute have been provided by them so far! Perhaps this is one of fundamost duty of NH A of India has a responsibility in this serious aspect.
For the first time I saw a very good hefty vehicle of National Highways Authorities with some officers interacting will locals all DalliBasti (Kangpokpi) on 30 Oct 2011 asking them why NH 39 (2) is in deplorable condition and not owning their concern why they ignored for decades & making BRTF as a scape goat . How many times their equipment and machineries have been burnt, money looted and workers beaten up by national workers of all hues who really own the nation…. in their restricted zones though. Perhaps the Governments at Centre never realized they would be owning a state like Manipur which they have to run not by LAW but by APPEASEMENTS. It is shame sixty years of independence has given full liberty to people in Manipur to do whatever they feel like and MHA becoming their CAPTIVES.
How to show your grievance other than economic blockade : May be, by resorting to signature campaign, petitioning the authorities , wearing black cloth badges on arms , resorting to fasts in relay etc., Fasts unto death be declared as social boycott as it amounts to committing suicide. Or by any other novel methods thought of. Ideal is relay hunger strike so that the participation of more people is there.
Correct interpretation SHDDC-CSOs meet dated 17 Oct, 2011: SHDDC- CSOs meet at Kangpokpi was an ideal effort of the organizers. It was well attended including my organisation (MCSC). None of us said call off agitation. Support for declaring of Sadar Hills as revenue District was unanimous but definitely majority had recommended to roll back the economic blockade which somehow had been down played in next days Media News. Voice of the Gorkhas was must as they are the third largest community residing within Sadar Hills. Their heads attended but none of them spoke conveying ‘unintended quiet’ over the issue. AMUCO & NIPCO have clarified in favour of lifting of eco blockade. I was given to understand SHDDC would be meeting again (selected persons only) to take final stock of the speakers views to lift the blockade. I hope it happens soon and SHDDC takes initiative to earn good will of all.
End note: – Since we are the State on the extreme end of India map and stores have to fetch in through road transport till 2016 including medicines, gas and other essentials, wisdom dictates, eco blockade along NHs should never be resorted to. It is inhumane and against ethical ways of living harmonious life. Since we have 36 communities living in Manipur, one’s grievance may be heart full rejoicing for other & vice the versa. So, creating the congenial environs to live together will be rewarding. Our sufferings and happiness must be supportive and not made a laughing stock of ourselves. Imagine the cost of petrol, diesel, fair wear and tear of vehicles for engagements of police and costs of central para military forces to bring in stores by Force, which is otherwise our right to get. Perhaps people do not know this cost is deducted against State’s budget and State‘s contribution to national exchequer is quite negligible. Blockade Enforcers need considering this. In all fairness current blockades are appealed to be called off when Chief Secretary is already given the yeoman task to settle the confusion which is well confounded. He may be working out hard to create Districts (besides Sadar Hills) for administrative convenience. Sadar Hill contains Kuki’s, Naga’s, Meitei’s &Gorkhas. It will be first ideal District. So far no voices have come up against creating Sadar Hills but imagine the eastern and western southern tails of this District under question. A household which may be close to Bishenpur PS has to travel through Imphal to Saparmeina PS for registering his grievance/ meeting District authorities. Create the boundaries for cohesive functioning of the administration and boundaries should bind the people of different communities together. Strengthen the hands of the Chief Secretary as political leadership may change but not the bureaucratic bind though final sanction lies with political leadership. Author appeals to the blockaders, anti
blockaders and the third regime of blockaders (case study Kakching Khabam- Thumanpokpi axis) to consider their determined acts & call of the blockade. Please revisit losses of 48 days (2005-06) and 42 days (2006-2007) whereby State suffered Rs. 294.24 and Rs 288.96 crores respectively. For heaven’s sake keep National Highways out of bandhs and blockades. The current duration has already crossed 90 days. So losses can be put around Rs. 700 crores. During current blockades, despite numerous grave provocations by what I would call a bunch of warmongers, attempting to detonate the prevailing fragile security environment_________ the security forces have shown utmost restraint and not reacted towards them. Rather commanders at various levels under both the IGAR(S) andGOC red shield have kept the boiling situation under controland not allowing any UG or unsocial elements to take upper hand under Use these tumultuous circumstances. Three months blockade, SFs themselves suffering for want of their supplies with civil trucks contracted for carriage of rations were burned down etc., the adoption of nurtrality which means demonstrated non-involvement in absolute civil affairs which in Simmering w/o solution since the last two centuries has been highly commendable. It is true Manipur is gradually but steadily inching towards normalcy as in general the people here are yearning for peace. The security forces in Manipur have also proved acting with human face by reaching out to the people through various civic action programs aimed at cultivating peace and harmony in the state. Second, ideal District will be Jiribam. If Tousem and Parbung sub division are added to Jiribam, it will have Muslims, Bengalis, Meitei’s, Khasis (some odd number of Assamese too), Nagas, Hmar’s and the Kuki’s. Imagine it will open many local trade routes into NC Hills areas. More roads will be spread. Tension to dominate ethnically will reduce as no one’s land would be going to be taken over by anyone. People will be happy in their own jurisdiction plus contributing to the collective jurisdiction. More Police stations will come up with extra additional EACs Hill Act will apply to Hill areas & Plain Act for Plains even if Plains & Hills are joined to constitute one compact District. Government of Manipur must declare Sadar Hills District fast. A composite culture typical to Manipur is distinctly in the offing.