Whenever the state is found wanting in dealing with violent attacks and killings by Kuki militants particularly in the border town of Moreh, a huge uproar will bring life to a halt in the valley with widespread protests and condemnations while the Kuki busybodies scale up their propaganda campaign. Interestingly, the battle cries of the various protests are not the same and take different trajectories.
However, a distaste for central forces deployed in the state remains a common refrain among the valley population and it somehow binds the collective sentiment. On the other hand, a deep resentment against the ruling dispensation and its MLAs, including supporters for not doing enough to quell the violence remains significant among the populace. Voices calling for the resignation of the government, usually a constant demand of the opposition, manages to get a thumbs-up signal from sections of the society and the social media.
As and when such voices come up, sympathetic comments like that of the Chief Minister not being given a free hand in dealing with the situation or of removing him the chairmanship of the Unified Command would begin rearing its head in the public domain. Then, calls for resignation of the Security Advisor or for removing him from the chairmanship of the Unified Command would naturally follow.
In the wake of the recent violent campaign by armed Kuki groups in Moreh resulting in deaths and injury of state force personnel, calls for resignation of the Security Advisor have surfaced from certain CSO collectives and women groups. But, not all CSOs or women groups are voicing the said demand. Therein lies the paradox of the Meitei public opinion or postures. Some might say, Meiteis are not united and it would be their ultimate undoing. There is no ‘Hoi-laoba’ culture among the Meiteis where everyone blindly follows the leader or majority opinion. A democratic spirit runs deep in the veins of the Meitei society and it is a ‘core value system’ which has withstood the wear and tear of time and history.
So now, the ultimate question is would things have been different if Chief Minister N Biren Singh was in charge of the law-and-order affairs of the whole state and still be the chairman of the Unified Command? If one remembers correctly, the first response of the Centre after violence broke out was parachuting a Security Advisor to the state ‘without’ officially invoking Article 355 of the Indian Constitution and vesting all security related affairs to him. In short, the Home portfolio was wrested from the state Chief Minister N Biren Singh and a ‘security advisor’ was put in charge.
Even, a new Director General of Police (DGP) was brought in through inter-cadre transfer. And then, several companies of para-military and central forces arrived to defuse the situation. When Home Minister came to Imphal he vested the chairmanship of Unified Command normally held by the state Chief minister to the Security Advisor. However, the situation did not improve and violence continued. While the Kukis clinged to the sense of security provided for by central forces stationed near their villages and the continuance of SoO, a lack of security and lack of trust for central forces among the valley populace grew in leaps and bounds.
But the crisis refused to go away. Acts of wanton violence continue to happen with attacks on periphery villages followed by retaliation and arson causing death and grievous injury to innocent bystanders with several thousands of people fleeing their homes and seeking refuge in relief camps. Whole villages were uprooted and the umbilical cord attached to the land cut mercilessly. What we must understand here is that the security advisor, Kuldiep Singh does not always act on his own and the Union Home Ministry takes the final call on everything.
Again, the Defence ministry works on a different level and perspective. It is true of the External Affairs ministry as well. Can Mr Biren align the different perspectives of the concerned ministries and act on his own wisdom and on the desires of his people? Could he defy the Centre in the interests of the state? If he could, his name would remain engraved in history.