Tripartite talk: Light at the end of the tunnel?

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No doubt, all sections of people living in the tiny but multi-ethnic State of Manipur have been reeling under extreme misery for quite a long time. The reason is obvious. It is the UNC’s indefinite economic blockade imposed since November 1 last year on the two National Highways which connect the State with other parts of the country. Even though, it is the indefinite economic blockade which has turned out to be a perpetual source of misery for all the communities, UNC has been arguing that it was the State’s Congress Government in general and Chief Minister O Ibobi in particular who opened the ‘Pandora’s Box’. They went on record that Ibobi should explore a means to close the same Pandora’s Box. The genesis of the present imbroglio can be traced back to the State Government’s plan to create Sadar Hills and Jiribam districts and subsequent creation of seven new districts including Jiribam and Kangpokpi (in lieu of Sadar Hills). The fundamental argument of the UNC is that Naga people have been divided and their lands have been ‘snatched’ away and given to other communities by way of creating seven new districts.  The counter argument is that, the new districts were created for administrative convenience and no part of the State’s territory belongs to any particular community. In the words of Chief Minister O Ibobi, the whole territory of Manipur belongs to the Government. The arguments and the counter arguments are both interesting and disheartening. The dialectics run parallel to each other and it appears there is no meeting point between the two. But the hard fact remains that all sections of people have been suffering too much for too long on account of the indefinite economic blockade despite the UNC’s repeated clarifications that the economic blockade is not directed against any particular community. The UNC’s point is absolutely valid for all sections of people cutting across community lines and topography have been suffering.  It is also on record that both the State Government and the UNC have advocated dialogues for resolving the issue. This is where the tripartite talk scheduled on February 3 assumes immense significance.

Another tripartite talk was earlier scheduled on November 25 at New Delhi last year but the scheduled talk was aborted as the State Government could not sent any of its official representative. Frankly, we now see a glimmer of hope as a new, fresh tripartite talk has been scheduled at New Delhi on February 3 at the initiative of the Ministry of Home Affairs. As we have already noted that the common people have suffered too much for too long, we would like the hardliners to take back seats and moderates (of both the State Government and the UNC) to take front seats at the negotiating table. We fear that sticking to one’s guns and negotiating from their respective perspectives which seemingly do not have any meeting point would not be able to break the deadlock. Though it is not yet clear what would be the exact roles of the Central Government, we expect positive contributions from New Delhi both as a mediator and as a facilitator. Both the State Government (sic Congress party) and the Central Government (sic BJP) should leave aside all considerations for the forthcoming 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly election although they are rivals. ‘Give and take’ should be the guiding principle of the tripartite talk and electoral considerations should not be allowed to supersede the process of negotiation. The negotiators must be tactful and accommodative enough and they must keep the people’s prolonged extreme misery at the central point of the negotiation process. We don’t expect the tripartite talk to end in damp squib or cul-de-sac. In fact, we, the common people, are hoping that the tripartite talk would at least turn out to be relieving light at the end of the tunnel even if a solution could not be worked out at the first sitting.

Source: The Sangai Express

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