The one day session of the Manipur Legislative Assembly on Tuesday (August) 29), which was not telecast live as was usual, was adjourned sine die after obituary references and after passing a government resolution amid the din raised by the Opposition for a five-day Assembly session to discuss in detail the present crisis in Manipur.
A resolution moved by the Opposition members on the present crisis was not admitted by the Speaker and the intent of the ruling party can be gauged by the statement of the chief minister on the floor of the House that, matter which are sub-judice cannot be discussed in the House.
The matter under sub-judice is specific and the House should have considered the crisis along with ways to bring normalcy as Manipur is facing an existential crisis, like the “Chahi Taret Khuntakpa” of 1819-26 and the Anglo-Manipur War of 1891. But that is not to be as politics overrides all other aspects, including welfare of the people.
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The question arises, do our elected representatives really think about the welfare of the state and the people, or are they only concerned with the chair and the associated perks?
We cannot blame anyone, except ourselves as we get the leaders we deserve by voting for them- “Like rulers like ruled”.
Will we be wiser from this experience in the electoral politics? Hope so, but the chances looks very slim as public memory is very short and Manipur is one of the most corrupt states in electoral politics; voting for a few thousand bucks and a half bottle of liquor. A dry state but liquor flowed like water during elections.
With the Indigenous Tribal Leaders' Forum (ITLF) and the Committee on Tribal Unity (CoTU) opposing the session, without understanding that the House must have the meet by September 2 to fulfil the constitutional obligation, there was a belief that efforts will be made to distract from the session. And that happened with attacks on villages and villagers leading to gun fights with injuries and, till the time of writing, casualties have not been reported though there are social media uploads of it.
In areas overseen by the Central Security Forces (CSF), the firing occurred and they should have retaliated against whosoever started the firing. The CSF may be soft on the unarmed civilians but should come down strongly on those who carry sophisticated weapons and fire them. If they are to sit quietly doing nothing, what is the purpose of their deployment?
For some time, there has been a respite but since yesterday (August 28), intermittent firing have been happening without any intervention though there are reports of some miscreants apprehended by them. The CSF must ensure by their action that whosoever breaks the undeclared ceasefire must pay the price, as normalcy can be thought off only after the firing stops.
In India, armed forces is a holy cow and any criticism of it was taken as anti-national. The armed forces deserve all the respect but one should also understand that there are bad apples among them.
One must recall that in February 2013, one serving Lt Colonel along with five others were arrested by the state police near Pallel, a toen in Kakching district, for transporting illicit drugs worth about Rs 15 crore then and the matter is now in the court after investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
We also need to remember the Rose and other incidents of crime against women of the past where in a few cases individual officers were taken to task though many had escaped punishment for their excesses due to the protection under the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act (AFSPA) and the refusal to accord prosecution sanction. To overlook such black sheep within the armed forces will only impact on the institution.
One needs to understand that the officers and men are drawn from the society and there will bound to be rotten eggs as in the society, despite the rigorous training and dismissing them in time only will enable the institution to maintain the respect it was accorded by the society.
In the present context in strife-torn Manipur, blaming a whole institution is unfair as there are a number of units operating and the finger pointing needs to be specific with rationale and evidence.
Merely slurring an organisation will only distance them and they will also find it difficult to operate to manage the situation.
After the Supreme Court (SC) came down heavily, efforts have been made to ensure essential supplies reaching some of the places where such supplies have been stopped for various reasons. The people in such places were in dire strait and the government’s effort seems slow and only prodding by the SC activate it though it should have been proactive.
There are genuine problems due to the limitation of acceptable drivers to transport the goods, the long distance, road conditions on portions, etc. In fact stopping essential supplies in a conflict is a good strategy to harass and weaken the opponent, but in the present context it only shows pettiness. Although essential supplies are limited, liquor is being brought from Myanmar into the state as substantial quantity was seized. Perhaps, the Village Defence volunteers allows it as they need it for performing their duties!
There is also a tendency for many to join interviews conducted by Youtube channels or mainstream media. But unfortunately most, except a few, had not prepared fully or are not conversant fully with the crisis and fall prey to the interviewer, who has their own axe to grind.
One interviewer continues to harp that the number of illegal immigrants in the state was less than 3,000, which was detected in the first round by a cabinet sub-committee and even the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) believes that it may be around 8,000. But many working in the ground say it was above 10,000 in April, 2023 and the number would have increased by now as the military junta in Myanmar is cracking down hard on the insurgents on their side. And, amid the present law and order situation detecting illegal immigrants is almost impossible, not to speak about taking biometrics.
Unfortunately, very few interviewees were able to bring out that despite the claim of the Kuki and cognate tribes that they are Indian citizens, they petition the European Union, the United Nations and even the Prime Minister of Israel. Will any true Indian citizens do it.
It is necessary that the viewpoint of the Meitei community is put forward but it should be done with facts and not rhetoric. Some have come out very successfully because of their logical and factual approach and has been able to change the narratives of some of Lutyens media and the thinking of the common man elsewhere. We salute them but there are others who made a hash of it.
It is a prerequisite that proper preparations be made and not allow to be needled by the interviewer. Personal baggage may not be brought out in such interview but rather stick to the present crisis tha has persisted for nearly four months now.
The Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), a Meitei civil society group, had met Union Home Minister Amit Shah. But in the present environment, no civil society organisation (CSO) will be willing to talk about peace.
The Union government must be keen that some semblance of peace is brought out urgently as the G20 leaders meet on September 9-10, and it will not want any negative media report from any part of the country. Delhi will want to show that everything is hunky dory domestically and it is ready to be a world leader.
An inkling of peace was peeping about a week ago but with the current fighting in Bishnupur district area, there is no way peace may be given a chance. Anyone talking about peace will be lynched in the frontline, especially with unarmed being targeted and shot.
Also, efforts seem to be on to woo the Nagas in the state by the Kuki through one of their CSO based on the tribal factor but land seems to be more important than the common denominator of being a tribal. There is blow hot and blow cold in their approach with one group blaming the Naga for providing weapons and associating in attacks which was strongly denied and the Nagas are playing hard to catch.
If the conflict in the state continues, it may expand despite the claim of GK Pillai that the Naga sabre rattling is nothing but a hint not to leave them behind in any negotiation.
And, with the arrival of more forces of the Central Security Forces (CSF), there is bound to be major ops, mainly to recover the arms looted during the violence and therefore the pressure will be more in the valley area as more arms were looted in the valley. This will lead to conflict between the CSF and the people and there may come a time when the CSF, which are not targeted in the valley area in this crisis, may be targeted, reminiscence of the 1980s. That will be very sad and a serious retrograde step for the state. All because of poor governance!