The politics of economic blockades
IFP Editorial: Claims of bandh-blockade free environment and an ‘improved law and order situation’ has become stale news. Well, how about ending the current economic blockade?
Updated 24 Nov 2021, 3:51 pm
It has become customary for those in power to cite the ‘improved’ law and order situation while talking about the achievements of the government and yet people take it with a pinch of salt. Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the same thing while lauding the BJP government in Manipur for bringing peace and all-round development in the last five years, and also said there has been a significant improvement in the law and order situation in the state. He also claimed BJP rule have ended the era of bandhs and blockade, while the law and order situation in Manipur has significantly improved. One significance of his claim was, he spoke those words in the midst of a 24 hour shutdown of the hill areas called by the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) while an indefinite economic blockade was just beginning. After coming to power in 2017, the BJP led government had managed to broker a temporary peace deal with the United Naga Council leading to the end of the indefinite economic blockade which began on 1 November 2016. This blockade was imposed by UNC against the decision of the previous government of creating the new revenue districts of Kangpokpi and Jiribam, which was against the interests of Nagas as they say.
Altogether seven new revenue districts including Kangpokpi and Jiribam were carved out of the existing districts in the last days of the Okram Ibobi Singh-led Congress government. One indirect result of the four month old economic blockade imposed by UNC was the victory of four Naga Peoples Front MLAs in the 2017 state elections, who ultimately went on to join the BJP-led ruling coalition. The dynamics in those days was the deeply entrenched hill-valley divide combined with Naga-Kuki rivalry over the Kangpokpi district issue. Whatever be the understanding reached with UNC in March 2017, it still remains unresolved. In the south, the agitation over three bills and deaths of nine agitators in which Churachandpur district was practically shut down for nearly 600 days also came to an end after intense negotiations. The three bills including the Protection of Manipur People’s Bill 2015 which was introduced and passed in the state assembly as a result of the ILP agitation, became a bone of contention between the government and hill based CSOs.
Now, the proposed ADC bill has been pushed hard by Hill Areas Committee (HAC) with active support from hill based CSOs and students organisations, in view of the ensuing 2022 general elections thereby causing rift between communities and reopening the chasm of hill-valley divide. After a relative calm for about four and half years, the ghosts of hill-valley divide and bandh-blockade days seems to have come back to haunt the state once again. In the days of indefinite bandhs and economic blockades on the highways of Manipur, when groups of all hue used to resort to such tactics even at the drop of a hat. While the general population had to face immense hardships and suffer, prices of essential items spiral away to the sky as hoarders reap profit. Now, trucks are lining up on the highways again. In such a changing scenario, claims of bandh-blockade free environment and an ‘improved law and order situation’ has become stale news. Well, how about ending the current economic blockade? In 2017, BJP promised to end the Congress legacy of bandhs and blockades and somehow ended it. Now, the party is in power both at the centre and in the state. So, the responsibility of ending it by whatever means lies with the BJP-led government now.
First published:23 Nov 2021, 7:50 pm