By: Seram Neken
Silence is a powerful language which we cannot easily decipher. Quietness on a particular issue has varied interpretations. First, a silent individual has either a strong determination in mind or something big being planned. Second, he is listening, watching and observing. Third, he is indifferent towards the victims. Indian Prime Minister’s stoic silence over the ten-week-old Manipur crisis is both meaningful and disastrous.
When the Indian Premier addressed the nation wearing the Meitei Lengyan clothe in his neck, the people of the state were overwhelmed with joy. When the Pradhan Mantri Ji, in his nationwide ‘Maan ki Baath’, lauded Manipuri lady Vijayashanti Devi, who makes clothes from lotus fibres in an eco-friendly manner, people particularly the BJP supporters sensed the unusual pride. When Narendra Modi mentioned the name of Saikhom Surchandra, Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puruskar awardee in his ‘Maan ki Baath’ broadcast, people in this far-off border state felt contentment for the unusual outreach from a nation’s executive head.
On the tragic bus accident in Noney district killing seven students, a teacher and a warden, the Prime Minister tweeted condolences and shared the grief of bereaved families. Modi also mourned the deaths in the massive landslide near Tupul yard railway construction camp in June last year. Almost every year during his stint as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi visited Manipur state for one or the other purpose. It was as if Modi has inalienable attachment and familiarity with the land and people of Manipur. However, such perception has become a deceit now. Amid the prevailing hue and cry all over Manipur, the Indian Prime Minister has been in stoic silence. Not even a single word of mourning of deaths or condemnation of violence is heard from his side.
Prior to the prevailing havoc, union ministers of all ranks used to tour Manipur frequently for a variety of reasons. Now since the crisis began, such visits have apparently ceased. We all remember, BJP union ministers even participated in door-to-door campaigns of its candidates in Manipur constituencies during assembly elections. This had been the attachment between BJP and Manipur. Not only the Indian Prime Minister, but also a number of Manipur Ministers and ruling MLAs are remaining silent on this crucial crisis. What does this muteness mean to the suffering Manipuris ?
Whoever and whatever be the origin of the fire, immediate need is to douse the flames at any cost. Instead of finding an urgent means to stop firing to initiate peace process, certain high profile BJP politicians are indulging in politicising the issue. This goes against the expectation of the people who have been suffering like anything for the last nearly 70 days. Among others, the BJP state president and the lone Union Minister from Manipur have tossed blames on the Indian National Congress for the prevailing mayhem. Being key stakeholders in protecting the lives and properties of Manipuris, both the politicians must have performed their assigned roles as responsible persons in the ruling party instead of hurling blame on the other side. Everyone knows who is politicising such a highly sensitive and serious issue at this crucial hour. This is no time for othering.
On an earlier occasion, Union Minister of State for External Affairs remarked that the state had completely failed to protect life and property. In his second take after days of apathetic silence, the Minister told the media that present crisis is the outcome of long Congress misrule in Manipur. People would have applauded him, if he mentioned a single initiative for solution of the crisis from his end. On the other hand, State BJP president, who is nowadays seen rarely in the media, also seems playing defensive politics by blaming the Congress party for the current unrest. Her repeated post-mortem on Rahul Gandhi’s Manipur visit has nothing to do with finding solution to the crisis, other than politicising the issue. At this juncture, every leader must own the responsibility and find out solutions at its own capacity.
Now the ball is in the court of BJP government at the centre. Amid the apparent indifference of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the prevailing disaster in Manipur, every single utterance from responsible BJP leaders of Manipur is valuable to the suffering people of the state. Quite obviously, every individual in the ruling party, be it MP or MLA, be it ministers or party office bearers, must come out to represent the voice of the people and strike the central leadership to act. Awaiting words from the high command in the midst of incessant killings and arsons is no justice at all.
We must understand ‘why the people of Manipur are shouting against the resignation of Manipur Chief Minister’. People believe that the popular government in state would protect lives and properties of peace-loving Manipuris. However, when the situation does not improve in spite of having the popular government, people would definitely turn against the elected regime. Now after nearly 70 days of complete turmoil, roles of our elected representatives and politicians of ruling party have become questionable.
Excessive loyalty to party high command amounts to bargaining state’s power. Centre-state legislative and administrative relations are clearly defined under the Constitution of India. Clearly demarcated subjects are listed as union list, state list and concurrent list in order to maintain the federal structure of the nation. But to the utter dismay of the people of Manipur, state government in the name of loyalty to party high command, seems to bow down to the centre for every single issue of the state. It is as if the state regime is unable to perform its assigned duties without the words from the central leaders.
After over two months now, it is questionable what the state government and the ruling party have done so far to deal with the unrest.
One, appeals from various circles for convening an urgent state assembly session have fallen on deaf ears. Discussion, deliberation and resolution in the state’s legislative body with presence of people’s representatives from all communities would be a fruitful means to strengthen the government in dealing with crisis. Who or what prevents the government in convening an urgent assembly session ?
Two, no action has so far been taken on the ten MLAs who instigated violence between communities in Manipur in order to demand separate administration. Who or what has halted the government in taking action against the ten erring MLAs as per law ?
Three, what actions have been taken up against the seven BJP legislators from the side of BJP Manipur for prompting communal violence between Meiteis and Kukis ? Whether their actions are permissible under the BJP’s constitution ?
Four, what is the united voice of the Council of Ministers in the present crisis ? To recall, the state cabinet earlier withdrew the tripartite SoO agreement with Kuki armed militants and there was news of centre’s disapproval of the same. In the prevailing situation, whether the said cabinet decision is still alive or taken back for lack of centre’s nod ?
Five, are the two ministers namely Nemcha Kipgen and Letpao Haokip still in the Cabinet fold ? They have practically defied the state government under the leadership of Chief Minister N. Biren Singh and this was disclosed in the signed statement of ten MLAs demanding separate administration. Under the circumstances, are they still remaining in the state cabinet, which has collective responsibility of governance. Why the separatist ministers are not yet dropped from the ministry ? In what way, administration pertaining to the portfolios handled by them would be executed ?
Six, where is the ‘Peace Committee’ constituted after ten days of assurance by Union Home Minister ? Even though some of the 51-member committee have quit, the Committee can well perform the onus task assigned to it. How many sittings have been done, what steps have been taken to bring normalcy till date ?
Seven, the Chief Minister of Manipur has already termed the Kuki armed groups waging war against the Manipuris as terrorists. How many of such terrorists have been booked as of now by the government ? In spite of the presence of thousands of security forces, not a single terrorist has been arrested till today.
Eight, in spite of the chief minister’s assurance for security cover of farmers in the periphery, one farmer was shot at Phubala in Bishnupur district, and a number of farmers are threatened with gunshots. Bunkers dismantled at some places mainly in the valley, while those in hills remain untouched. What does such measures mean to the people ?
How long will the Centre remain counting the corpse ? What does the stoic silence of key persons speak about ?
(The writer is senior columnist available at email@example.com)