By Seram Neken
Delhi means everything. It can stop the violence in Manipur. It can either review the Suspension of Operation (SoO) ground rules or abrogate it. Highways can be opened, if the centre intervenes sincerely. At the blink of an eye from the centre, actions can be taken against the defiant Kuki MLAs who openly instigated violence against communities in the name of demanding separate administration. It can advise the state government to drop the two rebellious ministers who never cooperated with the existing council of ministers. With a green signal from the centre, the special session of the legislative assembly can be convened anytime in order to discuss the burning issue of Manipur. Delhi can monitor and prevent the alleged rude behaviour of central security forces which are evidently siding with one particular section. It can impose Article 355 in the state to meet the security exigencies arising out of external aggression. It can also enforce Article 356, if the situation demands as the constitutional machinery in the state has already failed.
As the mayhem is nearing five months now, people of both sections are facing untold suffering. Nearly two hundred killed, numerous youths still remaining untraced, and over sixty thousand villagers displaced. No abatement of attacks by the heavily armed militants from the hillside. Meitei village volunteers are risking lives to protect the land and property in the periphery of Manipur valley. All sections of people particularly women and youths are in complete unrest. Amid the continued armed attacks by Kuki militants, the unarmed villagers have become helpless victims of the alleged rudeness of the central security forces specially the Assam Rifles. Routine agricultural activities have been paralysed. State’s economy is literally collapsed. However, no sincere effort to bring peace is visible.
Since the very beginning, like-minded political parties in opposition have been seeking the centre’s intervention in Manipur crisis. They even knocked the door of the Indian premier, but it was unnoticed. National leaders of almost all parties including Rahul Gandhi visited Manipur to monitor the crisis and console the victims. Among others, Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi and NCP leader Supriya Sule categorically placed the Manipur issue in the house of parliament during no-confidence motion discussion. The opposition MLAs from the Indian National Congress (INC) have long been seen putting strong pressure on the government to convene a special legislative assembly session, but to no avail. The Congress MLAs firmly protested against the non-inclusion of state issue in the agenda for discussion in the recently held one day session. No word from the opposition was heeded. Quite amazingly, almost all the MLAs from the ruling camp have been remaining silent over the prevailing issue. Their actions are limited to distributing health cards, ration cards, job cards etc. to those in the relief camps. As legislators belonging to the ruling party, they have failed to act.
Almost all organisations in the valley – from the Meira Paibees and local clubs to the issue-specific Civil Society bodies, have involved themselves in one or the other way to bring peace in the state. Individuals in their own capacities have come out to help the conflict-affected people either physically or materially. All-out effort from the end of the general public has been witnessed. A number of civil society bodies have been engaging themselves in mobilising the people while some others are working in the political front to end the conflict. To meet the emergent exigencies, local clubs and Meira Paibees everywhere are seen organising themselves into united fronts area-wise and constituency-wise. Even though the government has totally failed to protect the lives and properties, people are determined to shoulder the responsibility to save the land from aggressors within and without.
Amid the prolonged mayhem, various circles raised the call for unity of all civil society organisations in Manipur valley to protect the age-old state’s integrity. Directly affected villagers from the periphery have appealed to the civil bodies to unite themselves and come to one platform to respond to the aggression under one banner. Unity of command is highly necessary to protect Manipur from any kind of aggression from within or without. First week of July last, a group of individuals at Singjamei bridge point staged a sit-in protest demanding unification of all valley-based organisations to react to the separatist demands of the Kuki militants, Kuki CSOs and Kuki politicians. Sometime later, a meeting somewhere in Patsoi assembly constituency appealed to all CSOs and women groups to come to one platform and fight back the aggressors.
Among the organisations calling for unity of valley-based bodies, ‘Thawai Mirel’, a civil body established during the height of the conflict, raised the slogan of unity among the civil society organisations and women groups. The women wing of the body resorted to hunger strikes and even fast-unto-death demanding unification of the bodies on this particular issue. Rounds of meetings were held with a number of civil bodies to effect the much-sought unity. Positively, almost all groups have conceded to the call. ‘Youths of Manipur’ (YoM), a conglomerate of young people across Manipur valley have spontaneously organised themselves to raise the call for unity of all organisations on this particular issue. First, the youths in thousands met somewhere at Khongman in Thongju Assembly Constituency, and discussed the programme of actions. They approached some leading civil society organisations to unify under a platform. Meanwhile, an advisory group of a few senior citizens in the name of ‘Taragi Cheisu’, has also initiated the formula for unification. Closed door sittings are being conducted to bring unity among the civil society bodies. Such proactive initiatives of certain organisations and individuals to bring unity among the civil society bodies need appreciation and encouragement from all circles.
After a hectic pressure from the Youths of Manipur volunteers on the public leaders, many of the BJP MLAs have once again rushed to the capital to pursue the peaceful solution to Manipur issue. Of course, importance of Delhi in bringing solution to Manipur conflict is known to everyone. However, in what manner the ruling minister/MLAs will approach the central leaders is questionable. It is quite apprehensive whether they have found an escape route to Delhi in such an alarming state of affairs in Imphal. If the so-called public leaders have a firm stand to end the Manipur crisis at all cost, the mission is expected to be successful. Otherwise, the journey will meet a futile end as before. When all BJP MLAs and BJP workers in the state can move the central leaders with a threat to shun the party if their demand is not heeded, only then the centre will react positively. If you have the guts, you can even bring Delhi to Imphal.
(The writer is senior columnist. He is available at email@example.com)