It is as if nothing is happening on the ground. No ethnic clashes, no killings and kidnappings, no incidents of militants attacking villages or taking pot-shots at village volunteers. Even as the state and central forces continue combing operation and destroying bunkers, recover arms caches in several places newer bunkers are coming up again and again establishing the so-called ‘buffer zones’ along the ridges of hills surrounding the valley creating fear and angst among the villagers. It has been more than seven months since the village volunteers have not slept in peace.
Yet, some people and groups are unconcerned and keep pushing their agenda. They are unmindful of the opportunity their agenda had presented to the welcoming arms of conspirators and rabble rousers of the deadly clashes. Remember the re-kindling of anti-Meitei sentiment and voices which led to the Tribal Solidarity rally on May 3. Yet they talk and campaign like theirs is the only solution to take the valley people forward without any concern of extending a helping hand towards working out a viable solution out of the mess we had been dragged into.
Thousands of people who fled their home and hearth in the clashes are still languishing in the relief camps and prefabricated homes living on charity with no hope of returning to their original homes. Women and children are suffering the most in terms of proper healthcare and nutrition besides sanitary facilities in the camps while the students are not able to attend schools even though the state government has taken up measures to fill the gap. Meanwhile, all of them are facing a collective trauma which would take years or even decades to heal. Let us remember the collective trauma we have had to suffer till today from the atrocities of AFSPA and associated human rights violations.
Now also we are at a quandary on which central force to trust or who would be our ultimate redeemer as the security forces move and operate in mysterious ways. It is like neither here nor there. But one thing is sure, the central forces are guarding the ridgelines or ‘buffer zones’ like an official line of control. And attacks from the bunkers continue sporadically. Nobody, including the governments and security forces, seem unconcerned about the need to do away with buffer zones. Still some people go on pushing their singular agenda with debates on the social media and even worldwide campaigns confusing everyone and tangling with the myriad problems facing the state today.
The other day, a United Nations report said that Myanmar became the world's biggest producer of opium in 2023, overtaking Afghanistan after the Taliban government's crackdown on the trade. Myanmar produced an estimated 1,080 metric tonnes of opium, essential for producing heroin, this year, according to the latest report by the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The figures come after opium production in Afghanistan slumped an estimated 95 percent to around 330 tonnes following the Taliban's ban on poppy cultivation in April last year, according to UNODC. The "Golden Triangle" border region between Myanmar, Laos and Thailand has long been a hotbed of illegal drug production and trafficking, particularly of methamphetamine and opium. The total estimated value of Myanmar's "opiate economy" rose to between $1 billion and $2.4 billion -- the equivalent of 1.7 to 4.1 percent of the country's 2022 GDP. This phenomenon is spilling over and creating havoc in our land, forest and environment and society.
In fact, Manipur had become the main transit point for opium and drugs to the rest of the country and the world with the blessings of the narco-terrorists beyond. That is why, thousands of our youth are leaving home to guard villages and Meira Paibis keeping night vigil. So, it is rather strange that some people would keep on pushing their agenda as if nothing is amiss in the state. However, we have a mind to say ‘keep your agenda’ aside for the time being and let us all concentrate on the main problem before us.