Blockades come and go

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It has been almost a month and half that the United Naga Council (UNC) had called an indefinite economic blockade on the national highways of Manipur in protest against the state government’s plan to convert Sadar Hills and Jiribam into full-fledged revenue districts. And the common people both in the valley and hills mostly in the interior areas are suffering. The suffering has been further aggravated by the impact of demonetization. Life has been thrown out of gear in both the hills and valley and public anger is increasing day by day and if it at all explodes there would be communal riots and mayhem, which no one wants. At the core lies the demand for Naga integration or alternative arrangement pushed by the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) and its frontal organizations including UNC. The much touted ‘mother of all insurgencies’ NSCN-IM or for that matter the BJP in and out of power has been stoking the fire of communal relations in the state for about ten years. It was the BJP government under Atal Behari Vajpayee which signed the infamous Bangkok declaration spreading the territorial limits of the ceasefire beyond the state of Nagaland leading to the June 18 uprising in 2001. Altogether 18 people laid down their lives for the territorial integrity of Manipur and the state burned for about a month till the scrapping of the controversial phrase of ‘without territorial limits’ from the Bangkok declaration. Yet, the powers that be in BJP hierarchy still refuses to understand the complexity of the integration issue and the consequences of any definitive action on the NSCN-IM demand. It is again the BJP government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi which has signed the secretive framework agreement with NSCN-IM. The signing ceremony shrouded in secrecy and refusal to divulge the contents further tested the patience of the people of Manipur. And it has been tested long enough. In this backdrop, the present economic blockade against the Sadar Hills and Jiribam district has added more salt to injury. The counter blockades obstructing supply of essential items to the hill areas are not the handiwork of frontline civil society organizations, but a result of the fury of the common folk in the valley. The UNC economic blockade did not only affect the valley populace but the general population in the hills also. This has been further compounded by the counter blockades imposed at various points by irate sections of the valley. The widespread impact could be seen in the spate of appeals for church organizations and other tribal groups making appeals for lifting the UNC economic blockade. Now comes the question of ‘ancestral land.’ The notion of ancestral land has been stretched enough in the state with everyone joining the bandwagon. UNC and other Naga organizations have been touting the notion of ‘ancestral land’ in making demands with regard to Sadar Hill and Jiribam. How does one qualify the term ‘ancestral land’ with regard to the settlement of peoples in various regions? We shall not go to other regions of the world and shall deliberate on the state of Manipur. Various ethnic groups have been settling in the state since time immemorial. We all understand the theory of melting pot and the emergence of Manipuris through a process of amalgamation and birth of a dominant identity in the region with a sprinkling of peoples of Naga descent and Kuki people. Ethnic groups have merged with the dominant community while other communities remained out of the fold due to colonial interruption. Peoples have come and gone, yet no one should claim land through ancestry. Human migration has been a process throughout the ages. Kukis came and settled in the hills and settled in the hills in later phases. Likewise, non-Manipuris have also come and settled in various areas of the state. And they have begun to identify with the soil.
Leader writer: Irengbam Arun
Source: Imphal Free Press

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