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EDITORIAL: ‘No Entry’ Growl To ‘Personal Request’ Squeak! Quixotic Decisions

It was definitely a bucket of cold water after a hot shower and it is hard to say which side was left more bemused-those rolling out the red carpet at Senapati district headquarters or those who had imposed a dawn to dusk general strike in Imphal. Word smiths we are, but the temptation to flip through the dictionary or an encyclopedia of the English language and its usage to see what adjective can be used to add that extra zing to the term anti-climax is overwhelming.

In the span of 48 hours Chief Minister O Ibobi convened four meetings in the face of the knock on the door of Manipur from our southern neighbor. With the Lim advocates increasing the volume of the NPF drum beat  in anticipation of Mr. Nephiu Rio’s visit to Senapati district headquarters on May 28, Mr. Okram Ibobi appeared to suddenly find his bearings and he wasted no time in convening a meeting of his Cabinet on May 26 to discuss the ‘crucial issue.’  After the Cabinet meeting, the same day, the Chief Minister convened an All Political Party meeting wherein it was decided that the State Government would bar the entry of Mr. Rio and some of his Cabinet colleagues to Manipur to set up the Manipur unit of the Naga Peoples’ Front, the party which is heading the DAN coalition Government in Nagaland. This decision was endorsed by the Cabinet in yet another meeting held on May 27, just a day ahead of the proposed visit of Mr. Rio. It looked really impressive.

In line with the decision of the All Political Party meeting, which was endorsed by no less than the SPF  Cabinet, our smart police commandos, decked out in their finely starched Khakis and wielding Kalashnikov rifles, suited and booted ‘to kill,’ were dispatched to Senapati district in the morning of May 27. Fittingly the additional force was led by senior IPS officer and ADGP V Zathang and DIG Range I L Kailun, who is also holding additional charge of SSP, Imphal West and our cops, really looked impressive, with the permanent scowl on their faces and massive Raybans to shield the Sun. A sense of déjà vu’ was palpable, for it was just a little more than a year ago that a similar drill was put in place, that time to prevent the entry of NSCN (IM) leader Thuingaleng Muivah to Manipur.

The compelling reason was the same, though the actors had changed. From Muivah and his men to Rio and his Cabinet colleagues, the actors changed but the script remained unchanged-Greater Nagalim. What followed on May 28, 2011 was something that must have left those rolling out the red carpet at Mao Gate and Senapati district headquarters as well as those who had called a general strike on the same day, May 28, totally flummoxed. The flip flop stand of the SPF Government was something which would have left even the most notorious party hopper red faced with embarrassment and so from a “growling no’” Mr. Ibobi changed to a “personal request” squeak. Perhaps the guys from Nokphade can take a leaf or two from the conduct of the Chief Minister or maybe Mr. Ibobi does not have to worry about a job if he is ousted in the next election, as he can always double up as a standup comic.

The reality however paints a very dismal picture. It was at best a desperate attempt at damage control, when Chief Minister O Ibobi convened a press conference in the morning of May 28 to announce to the people that his Government had decided to give the green signal to Mr. Rio and his Cabinet to enter the territory of Manipur and launch the State unit of the Naga Peoples’ Front. Just as the Nagaland Peoples’ Front mutated to the Naga Peoples’ Front, the “communal party” turned into a seemingly harmless political party, which is recognized by the Election Commission of India within the span of less than 48 hours, if we go by the version of Mr. Ibobi. There is no law to stop Mr. Rio from launching the State unit of the NPF in Manipur, was the explanation that the Chief Minister took pains to elaborate to the media, conveniently forgetting that he deemed it perfectly legal to stop Mr. Rio just 24 hours earlier! In a sense we may say that we are fortunate to have Mr. Ibobi as the Chief Minister for none can fault him on not being a gentleman, who is ever willing to acknowledge a “personal request,” this time from his Nagaland counter-part. Certainly our Chief Minister is not a Mayawati or a Bal Thackeray who do believe in such lofty principles!

It is another thing that the DAN Cabinet had decided not to buckle down and go ahead with the proposed visit despite the Government of Manipur making it clear on May 26 and 27 that the door of Manipur would be shut on Mr. Rio and his men on May 28. As things unfolded, the additional State police personnel who were rushed to Mao Gate and Senapati district headquarters to thwart any attempt from the Nagaland Chief Minister to enter Manipur were reduced to mere spectators, when the huge cavalcade of Mr. Rio arrived and zoomed past Mao Gate.

There was something tragically comical about the way in which our tough, smart, Kalashnikov wielding police commandos, were made to hide their tails, courtesy Mr. Ibobi. There was something vaguely disturbing to see life paralyzed in the four valley districts on May 28, courtesy the general strike called by UCM and the energy and life that reverberated at the meeting venue at Senapati district on the same day. Mr. Ibobi definitely needs better and more mature political counsel and it is time he realizes that the Yes Sir men around him are there to massage his ego only. This can lead to embarrassing situations for such a “coterie culture” is bound to make him appear like a born loser in public.

*The Sangai Express Editorials

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