As Manipur Burns Again, The Center Chooses To Remain Indecisive

As this magazine goes for print, the inhabitants of Manipur possibly would be getting some kind of relief from the ordeal that started on 11th of April. It was on that day that the All Naga Students Association blocked the National Highway 39 (the lifeline of Manipur) in retaliation to the Manipur state government’s decision to not permit National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) leader Muviah to visit his native village in Manipur. The Manipur state government took this stance as they feared that Muviah’s visit might again instigate unrest in the region. In fact, they even turned down the request from the Center to provide adequate security to Muviah during his visit, forcing Muviah to camp at the borders of Manipur. The situation further flared up when a couple of NSCN (IM) supporters got killed in police firing. What followed after that was an indefinite blockade by NSCN (IM) supporters, which almost drove Manipur to a state of complete collapse. With rice selling at Rs. 100 a kg, petrol at Rs. 150 a litre, to a gas cylinder at Rs. 1500, prices shot up to such an extent that it was out of reach of most in Manipur. It was finally when the Prime Minister intervened, and met the Naga students, that they agreed to lift the blockade, temporarily!

Although for the time being, there would be some momentary respite for Manipur, but the problem is complex and it would require the intervention of the Center on an immediate basis. There are three key stakeholders to this problem. First, the NSCN (IM) – who since decades have been demanding a larger and extended territorial right for the state of Nagaland, which eats into the territories of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, much to the dislike of all the three states. The second stakeholder – the state of Manipur, which has been at the receiving end, and is determined not to allow Muviah to visit his native village for the abovementioned reasons. And the third stakeholder is the Central Government, which has been a mute spectator while the situation moved from bad to worse. In fact, the Center’s stance is nothing unexpected. Neither is it the first time that Manipur faced such a situation nor is it the first time that the Center has chosen to remain silent for such a prolonged period when a state, any state, has been suffering. Be it Telangana, Bodoland, Vidharba, Purvachal or Kashmir, the Center seems to deliberately delay, perchance to seek the maximum political mileage from the same. It has become almost a routine that prior to elections, every political party would commit to honour the demands of regional entities with respect to formation of separate states, clearly to gain maximum political mileage from the announcement and mollycoddling. Once in power, neither do they honour their commitments nor do they provide an alternate workable solution. Territorial problems are ubiquitous to India and lack of political decisiveness has a historical precedence. Kashmir has been a classic case in point where perpetual indecisiveness has not only cost the nation crores of rupees, but most importantly also thousands of lives!

Like I said earlier, every stakeholder to this current problem in Manipur has their own self centered political agenda. First, let us understand Muviah’s agenda. For that, one would have to understand why Muviah decided to time a visit to his native village right now, after so many years. The reason is quite evident. The entire existence of NSCN (IM) and Muviah is based on the creation of a greater Nagaland. And Muviah has been so far unable to negotiate an extension of the ceasefire (which was last extended in 2001) by the Center. In the absence of the ceasefire, Muviah planned this visit to appease the Nagas in Manipur – who incidentally are also the most active cadres of the NCSN. Similarly, in the absence of the ceasefire, the Manipur government also turned down the Center’s directive to provide security to Muviah during his visit, again to appease their own electorate. They could hardly imagine then, that this stance of theirs would inflict more suffering on their own people. Not that the Manipur government wants the Center to extend the ceasefire, which would virtually mean giving up to the demands of NCSN (IM). And finally, as far as the Center is concerned, not only have they been indecisive about giving the ceasefire extension, the Center has neither been capable of providing any kind of clear directives to permanently resolve the crisis.

All in all, it is politics as usual, and like always, it is the common man who is at the receiving end.

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