They have been saying it for the last few decades. That, the Centre is committed to the preservation of the territorial integrity of the state of Manipur. However, the threat lurks everywhere as different political and ethnic aspirations continue to be nurtured by the powers that be.
When one talks of territorial integrity, most of us are fixated on the possible outcome of NSCN-IM and Government of India only.
The concept of territorial integrity, however, rather encompasses anything which dare threatens our borders and the issues of territorial disputes, homeland aspirations, ownership of state lands, and above all emotional integrity.
And, we should include, for example, the issues of frequent incursions of Myanmar forces on our borders and the border disputes with the state of Nagaland, the problem of illegal immigration of foreign nationals in waves from across the eastern border, GOI negotiations with SoO groups and district reorganisation in the discourse of territorial integrity.
Narco-terrorism is the latest issue which began rearing its head in the said discourse.
As we said before, opposition to the government campaign against drugs and poppy cultivation backed by certain SoO groups have taken centre-stage in the present conflict and it is threatening the very fabric of the territorial integrity with Kuki-Chin-Mizo groups seeking a separate administration through their elected representatives.
The other day, when Chief Minister N Biren Singh and some of his Cabinet colleagues were summoned to Delhi by the powerful Union Home Minister Amit Shah, all here in Imphal was wary and was expecting either fireworks or some positive vibes. Sadly, it turned out to be otherwise.
The threat to Manipur’s territorial integrity and Centre’s assurance of commitment towards continued upkeep of the said integrity had somehow become an old wives’ tale here.
What Manipur is really looking forward to is concrete steps towards an all-time solution and not assurances.
Words are easy, what matters is the action and steps. One such step would be amendment of Article 3 of the Indian Constitution by inserting a proviso that any change in the boundary of Manipur shall require the concurrence of the Manipur Legislative Assembly, and land and resources of Manipur shall vest in the state.
But for the temporary lull, Naga aspirations are still alive, while Kuki aspirations have somehow taken centre-stage at present.
We are at a loss to understand whether Chief Minister N Biren Singh came back to Imphal really satisfied with the Union Home Minister’s assurance. Questions are plenty.
Was he able to place Manipur’s case before the Home Minister with clarity and conviction?
Did he raise the issue of Kuki militants’ involvement in the narco business and their active participation in the present violence against the innocent civilian population inhabiting the peripheral areas of the valley?
Did he point out the repeated violation of SoO ground rules by the said militants while central forces remain a mute spectator?
Did he apprise the Home Minister the public outcry for withdrawal of SoO agreement and loss of faith in central forces among the valley population?
Did he invite Home Minister Amit Shah to visit the state and physically assess the volatile situation?
What about the ministers and state BJP accompanying the Chief Minister? Did they open their mouths? Nobody knows.
Our simple opinion is that, if the chartered Delhi trip was for extracting an assurance from the Union Home Minister it was a waste of public money.
After Chief Minister Biren Singh and his team left Delhi for Imphal, the Kuki MLAs also met the Union Home Minister the next day. And, it is understood that they pleaded their case for either a separate administration or to be a part of Greater Mizoram or for a Union Territory.
Nobody knows what Home Minister said to them also. Yet, it is clear that, the SoO agreement signed between the GOI and Kuki militants still remains in force while Manipur government’s present position on it somehow lacks clarity.