This year due to the prevailing conflict situation, the tradition of Ningol Chakkouba was not observed except for a few who cannot avoid it like those whose daughters or sisters got married recently and this was their first Ningol Chakkouba and even for those it was observed in a low key manner on another date. Diwali was also not celebrated and there was no diyas or candle lightings, which no doubt impacted the sale of candles which are produced in the various relief camps.
The Meitei Christians have even appealed to the other communities to celebrate Holy Christmas in a low key manner focussing only on the religious parts leaving aside the merry making part, taking into consideration the problems faced by the people of Manipur due to the conflict between two communities but impacting all. The All Manipur Christian Organisation had also appealed for a reflective and peaceful celebration of the Holy Day.
On the other hand, the BJP exchanged ladoos in public after the party won the elections in three states and there was euphoria over the defeat of Zoramthanga and his party in Mizoram. This indicates the total lack of understanding the polity of the Mizo. It may be recalled that Zoram People’s Movement was the first party to support the demand of the Kuki-Chin in Manipur which was immediately usurped by Mizo National Party, particularly Zoramthanga with his rhetoric with an eye to the state election realising that his party is losing steam and this was an effort to whip up emotions in their favour, but to no avail. Rather than focussing on irrelevant issues in other states, the political leadership of Manipur should focus on the present crisis as the people are facing the brunt.
Similarly is with the politicians of Mizoram who have a tendency to speak out of turn on the current situation in Manipur like Lalduhoma speaking about the commandos in Moreh. Was he even aware that before 1992 the number of Kuki there was limited in Moreh and only after their arrival and increase in their population has Moreh been turned from a cosmopolitan town into a Kuki dominated one infested with Kuki militants. He should also recollect how Mizo treat the smaller communities in Mizoram forcing all to come under the term Mizo! Our political leadership must rather than poking their nose into neighbouring states must reflect that the per capita income of Mizoram all said and done is more than twice that of Manipur and must take steps to revive the economy.
Taking advantage of the present turmoil, with very limited resources the state cabinet had taken the decision to do away with the prohibition of liquor and the necessary orders is likely very soon. It was expected that this decision will earn about Rs. 600 crore per annum through excise duties and VAT, but if proper and systematic mechanism is not put in place it can lead to conflict and large scale corruption. An expert committee was earlier formed and this decision was perhaps based on the recommendations of this expert committee though as far as this writer is aware there was no public consultation by the expert committee.
No state or country has ever been successful in imposing prohibition and it only breeds corruption, organised crime, etc with the state foregoing duties taxes and duties. However, various organisations have been demanding that the prohibition must be strictly implemented and the failure is due to the utter lack of seriousness on the part of the government machinery to implement the law. Drinking leads to various social, economic and health issues and proper implementation of the prohibition law can minimise such outcomes leading to need for lower investments in these areas. Despite the prevailing situation, the opposition to the decision is bound to arise and may lead to further distrust of the government and one may see more agitations.
The killing of 13 new recruits of a VBIG near Leithao Village in Tengnoupal district under Machi Police Station set a pall of gloom in the valley districts. The 13 dead were reportedly executed after being overpowered and there are claims that they were unarmed and were on their way to Myanmar. If they were armed and there was a real encounter, the anger would have been lesser. The dead comes from various places of the valley including a few who were displaced in the current conflict. The area where the incident happened was free from any violence during the present conflict and this is the first incident. This can set a chain of retribution and perhaps fearing this it was reported that the adjacent village was found empty with all villagers having run away.
The hope of the present conflict bringing in VBIG cadres to assist the villagers and contain them like Chakravyuhu once they are in the valley seems not very successful and the conflict had led to an opportunity for fresh recruitment by the VBIG can be inferred from this incident. Earlier five were apprehended on their way by security forces but many must had crossed the border despite deployment of large number of security forces as the border just can’t be sealed properly and continues to be open in many patches.
Many of those who had been displaced and with their property razed to the ground and with very little effort to resettle them in their original homestead land will surely want to seek revenge, especially the youth and what better way than to join an armed group? This incident can be a turning point on the way how the conflict continues, as the Kuki villages are spread out far and wide with limited population and open to sudden and surprise attacks with disastrous results. .When things are seen moving in a particular direction towards normalcy there is always an incident which leads to the opposite direction. This incident is compounded by the firing on Koutruk and other villages, the latest being the incident as Pukhao Shantipur. The operations to recover weapons at Nungsum and other villages is seen as a single minded effort to unarm the Meitei and this can lead to more joining armed groups.
Due to the ongoing hearing of the PILs filed for restoration of mobile data before the Hon’ble High Court of Manipur and with the observations made by the Lordships, the state government was forced to restore mobile data except for a two km swathe in between a few districts which is considered illogical and impractical. The district boundaries are never straight and keeping out of bound 2 km swathe between the few identified districts is just not technically feasible. Mobile data is not like AK rifles which can be used in the physical conflict and leaving a few areas uncovered does not make any sense. It would have been better if the entire state is allowed to have access to mobile data and if there is large scale misuse, it can again be clamped down.
The order is like the Meitei proverb “Ekaikhangadagi kang kotpa” to show that the situation demands restriction of mobile data but largesse was given to the general public which by any stretch of imagination is just not the case. In fact banning of mobile data is a restriction on the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression. The government ought to totally open up the mobile data in the entire state of Manipur. The service providers are collecting the pre-paid charges and the non use of the mobile data causes loss to the consumers which will be massive in the entire state of Manipur. Will the State Government think about reimbursement of the charges which were collected but mobile data was never allowed to be used? Or alternatively can the state insist upon the service providers to provide separate charges for only phone calls and not for mobile data?
The general election to the Lok Sabha is round the corner and political parties will start lobbying for their candidates and with the prevailing situation, it is almost difficult to conduct elections in the state. The conflict is the first priority and without bringing normalcy, there is likely to be clash between the political parties and the public, especially those who are displaced and those who are involved in the conflict, including those assisting the village defenders. With the CM being charged of being partisans it is now the responsibility of the Centre to bring back normalcy in the state at the earliest. Merely mouthing that normalcy is slowly returning will not bring back normalcy and the two governments must do their acts sincerely rather than approaching any matter with a dichotomous bent of mind.
(The views expressed are personal)