Manipur bleeds, Centre fiddles

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The war has begun. Manipur is bleeding. And the issue at stake is not the creation of new revenue districts. At the core lies the agenda of Naga integration or alternative arrangement for the Nagas of Manipur pushed by the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) and its frontal organizations including UNC. The NSCN-IM wants complete sway in the hills of Manipur and tribal politics. Why had they objected to the demand for Sadar Hills or Jiribam districts. They say, the Sadar Hills area is the ancestral land of the Nagas where the Kukis had come to settle and the Nagas will be reduced to a minority if the district is created. However, they are silent on how Sadar Hills became a largely Kuki dominated area after the Naga-Kuki riots. Kishore Thapa, a Nepali had represented the Kangpokpi constituency thrice in the state legislative assembly from 1976 to 1990. Likewise L S John, a Naga had also represented both Saitu and Kangpokpi constituencies which was under the Sadar Hills division. He was first elected from Saitu and in the next term from Kangpokpi constituency. But after the Naga-Kuki riots, the displaced Kukis swarmed into the Sadar Hills area and it became a Kuki dominated region. Ever since, only Kukis have begun to represent the assembly constituencies in the region. And it was the creation of the NSCN-IM and ethnic cleansing aimed at creation of a Greater Nagaland. It is the same in the case of Tengnoupal and Moreh where we have seen a surge in Kuki population after the riots. The NSCN-IM in its efforts to isolate the majority community Meiteis and other tribes for opposing their agenda had been very active in rallying the different communities inhabiting the hills in the name of tribalism against the so-called anti-tribal state government. A case in point is the recent explosion of violence in the hills in opposition to the three ‘anti-tribal’ bills passed by the Manipur legislative assembly. In doing so, the patience of the majority community in the state has been tested long enough. It had so far been kept restrained by the time-tested emotional bond of common historical experience and shared economic interdependence. Yet, it might explode any time. The spurt of counter blockades in valley areas against the UNC sponsored economic blockade is an indicator of the looming cloud of communal tension. Normally, the general public has come to adapt to the periodic economic blockades on the national highways of the state in the last decade. This time, the impact of demonetization has only made matters worse and it is taking its toll on the patience and tolerance of the majority community. Yet, saner elements are trying to cool frayed tempers. At this crucial point of time, the UNC has hardened its stance after the arrest of its leaders including president Gaidon Kamei and the announcement of seven new districts. Somehow, the political masterstroke of chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh in creating seven new districts instead of two seems to have given a jolt to the otherwise cool and calculative politics of NSCN-IM. While it has condemned the creation of new districts with statements and rallies, it has begun to implement the economic blockade and opposition to new districts with bullets and bombs. What more does the government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi need to act against the NSCN-IM and its activities in the state of Manipur supposedly beyond the jurisdiction of the ceasefire? Merely declaring the UNC sponsored indefinite economic blockade as illegal is not enough. Sending in reinforcements for facilitating safe passage to transport convoys on the national highways is also not enough. The central government has been a spectator long enough in the game of integration and disintegration in Manipur. It is public knowledge that the NSCN-IM has ‘unofficial’ designated camps within the state of Manipur. And it has operated from these camps on several occasions to assert its area domination. So, what is stopping the Centre from flushing out the NSCN-IM cadres from the said camps by instructing the security forces stationed here to aid the state government in whatever way it can. The central ministers always makes it a point to cite the excuse of ‘law and order’ as a state subject whenever they are caught in a situation. In recent times, the excuse has become no longer tenable.
Leader Writer: Irengbam Arun  
Source: Imphal Free Press

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