Blockades and counter blockades

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Even if the anguish is understandable, it is really disturbing. Of course we are talking about the ongoing economic blockade and counter economic blockade. It’s like adding salt to a bleeding wound. People of this troubled State are suffering miserably due to both internal strifes and external threats. The body polity of Manipur is being torn apart by a vicious cycle of bandhs and blockades, and this has been going on for quite long. No doubt, bandhs and blockades are called to air certain grievances of the people or a section of people, and if possible make the State amenable to their demands. Unfortunately, more often than not bandhs and blockades could not bring the desired results. In many cases, bandhs, blockades and for that matter any form of public agitation simply went on without any positive response from the State because the bodies which were spearheading the agitation could not explore an honourable exit. People’s grievances and aspirations raised through bandhs and blockades may or may not be genuine but the successive Governments of Manipur are never known for acting promptly when it comes to any public issue. It is the common people who suffer the most at times of bandhs and blockades. Those sitting in the power corridors of the Government are least affected. When there is a State-wide bandh or highway blockade, people of all ethnicity suffer equally. In another word, impacts of bandhs and blockades do not discriminate topography, ethnicity, race, religion or language. Even those individuals/organisations imposing bandhs and blockades are not immune to the negative impacts of such agitation.
Yes, an economic blockade is being imposed on National Highways which connect Imphal with other parts of the country. As a result transportation of commodities has been suspended since June 9. The strategy of imposing economic blockades for prolonged periods is abominable. In the same vein, imposing counter economic blockade is equally detestable. We fear counter economic blockades will ever neutralize the impacts of economic blockades. Rather it would only multiply common people’s woes and suffering. If the pluralistic character of Manipur should be upheld, one should never think about adopting any strategy which is akin to the saying ‘An eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth’. If economic blockade is an offensive strategy, counter economic blockade cannot be a defensive strategy. The protagonist of blockades as well as counter blockades should understand that since the dawn of military history, blockade has been a popular politico-military strategy employed by adversaries against each other or unilaterally. But people of Manipur cannot be adversaries forever even if there are many areas of conflicts, distrust and bones of contention. Whether one likes it or not, we are on the same ship. As is witnessed today, blockades were often responded by counter blockades. To cite an example; during World War I, the British denied Germany food and raw materials coming from the rest of the world. This blockade made a significant contribution to the eventual Allied victory, and the hunger it caused weakened the resistance of the Central Powers’ population leading to the holocaust of influenza. The Germans responded with a new counter blockade, unrestricted submarine warfare leading to the belated introduction of convoys. But again we are not enemies and we are not at war.

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