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Time To Call A Spade A Spade

The Breaking News:

The news of the United Naga Council (UNC) of Manipur, a conglomerate of several Naga civil societies spearheading the Naga integration campaign, extending the earlier 20-day economic blockade (EB) on Manipur, announced on 23 August, by another 25 days, necessitates a serious soul searching as to the legitimacy of such acts. This 20-days EB announced on August 4, which could be called 2nd phase of EB during 2010, being next to the earlier, 68-days EB (April 11 to June 18, 2010), was to end on August 24. That would have given a sigh of relief to the people of Manipur, Nagas included. Reasons are aplenty. For one, the 1st phase of EB called on April 11 lasted for a whooping 68 days, two solid months and 18 days (surpassing the historic EB for 52 days June 20-April 11 2005), when the 2 live-lines of Manipur NH 39 and NH 53 were ceased by the patriots of Naga-cause.

The suffering in terms of, not only non availability of essential commodities, but also the unduly sky-rocketed prices of whatever is available, resulted to untold suffering of the public. Added to the acute shortage of, say, cooking gas, petroleum products etc, the inability of the administration to streamline the system, further deteriorated the situation. The common man quietly took all these to their stride, quietly and submissively in the absence of any alternative. The miseries include, closure of educational institutions, owing to nonavailability of school transport.

Can any civilize nation think of such a situation where children are denied school for over two months? Petrol sells in the black market for Rs 100/- a liter, for 5 liters of p-oil from the outlet, they have to be in line overnight; cooking gas of standard weight of 16 kg at Rs 1250/ sparingly, this brand weighing only 10 to 11 kg. Majority shifted to the traditional practice of cooking on wood or charcoal fuel, electric stove and the like. Even this day, the last week of August, cooking gas is still a luxury. The position would now only worsen unless some drastic remedial measures are put into position.

Their Grievances:

On the face of this lingering chaos, when the state is limping back to near-normalcy, after the 68-day ordeal, the declaration of further extending the EB by another 25 days, for whatever reasons they could generate, has added salt to the injury and deserve summary condemnation. The reasons propounded by the UNC, are:

i) Institution of Judicial enquiry into the May 6 firing at Mao-gate on the Manipur-Nagaland border, killing 2 Naga students;

ii) Demilitarization of Naga areas;

iii) Removal of the ‘˜wanted’ tags and fixing rewards on Naga leaders and;

iv) Dissolution of the Autonomous District Council election of which was held recently.

The principal driving force latent in this rather heinous step could be the declaration of the Union Home Minister, P Chidambaram, recently in the Parliament, on the 19 August. He said, ‘Every State in India is pluralistic. We can’t wish away this fact. Nagas are there in Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh. It will be inconceivable that we break up the States’.

This message which is different from other words or assurances of the Indian Prime Ministers, both in content and ramification, starting from the one on 12 June, 1995 in Paris, in a scheduled meeting with the NSCN, when the former PM, late Mr. PV Narasimha Rao declared, ‘I believe in political solution……… We should be patient enough and ‘tolerant in tackling the problem’. The statement of the MHA, must have hit hard the conscience of the NSCN, provoking the UNC, a pet organization of the NSCN, to take the extreme step. As usual, behind the hidden agenda of Nagalim, they have to find alibis. And here they are.

Are They Serious And Sincere:

Are the UNC serious enough to settle the 4 demands clamped on the GoI as well as the GoM? The Prime Minister, in his Independence Day speech, stressed the need for open dialogue referring to the disputes in the NE region. He stated, ‘I would like to convey to all political parties and groups of the north east that disputes in the name states or tribe can only harm all of us. Discussion and dialogue are the only options to resolve complex issues’. The UNC and their other civil (or is it uncivil) organizations had been refraining from face-to-face dialogue to resolve the blockade with representatives of the GoM and more recently, with Central team headed by Additional Secretary to the GoI where the GoM is represented by the Chief Secretary.

The Chief Secretary issued a press note only on the 9th August, when the 2nd phase of EB was 5 days old, ‘The State and the Central team expressed regret that the opportunity for a free dialogue was not made use of by the UNC.’ On the 7th, a Manipur Ministerial team along with Central and State officials reached Ukhrul the holy district of the Nagas (being the birth-district of Th Muivah), to sort out the blockade issue. The UNC, however, thought it more diplomatic to avoid a dialogue and thus lost opportunities for a mutually agreeable decision.

Earlier the UNC served an ultimatum to the PM on July 27, in which the UNC declared their decision to sever all political ties with the GoM and therefore sought intervention of the GoI for alternative arrangement. They even demanded that all Manipur security personnel should not enter Naga inhabited areas. Let us look at their demand of removing ‘˜Wanted Tag’ on 2 or 3 leaders of UNC for spearheading the blockade. Some Samaritan filed a PIL in the Hon’ble High Court, which ordered the arrest of the leaders, which job is next to impossible, considering the complicity in the tribal society. The DGP had to appear before the Hon’ble High Court, assured to comply with the orders. Unable to physically cause the arrest, had to issue the ‘˜Wanted Tag’. Nothing unusual, much within the regulations. Now how to go about to rescind this order, only to appease a civil organization?

What System Is In Order:

The question of Greater Nagaland or Nagalim apart, (may be, with parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur), till such time when such a political decision is taken and implemented, the Nagas be it in Ukhrul, or Senapati, or anywhere in the state of Manipur, continue to be natives of Manipur and have to be governed by the GoM and therefore, the state forces should have access to every pocket of the Nagas.

On the contrary, the UNC declared in a press note on August 4, ‘Since Nagas have severed political ties…………….. We, therefore, will not welcome the GoM and their representatives into Naga areas. ‘That was the logic (or otherwise), for them not to turn up for the meeting with the Ministerial team on August 7 in Senapati, their stronghold. Strange! They had put forth certain demands to the Central/State Government, resumed the dreaded blockades, holding 25 lakh odd population of the state at ransom, the government sent their representatives for sorting out the issues, and they refuse to turn up on some pretext or the other. Recall how the two representatives of UNC talked on CNN-IN interview, on the eve of calling off the blockade on June 18, how adamant they sounded, how tuff they showed up.

The 2nd phase of EB for 20 days was also announced just after 5 days of submitting an ultimatum to the PM. I repeat, just 5 days to act for the PM of a country on issues mostly concerning State Government of Manipur. The blockade further extended by another 25 days for not listening to them within the stipulated time of FIVE days.

What Prescription is called for:

And now, for whatever be their grievances with the GoM or GOI, on issues concerning governance, cutting off the only life line of people for any length of time, that too repeatedly, almost whimsically and at will, resorting to criminal activities like beating up of drivers, torching, and occasionally pushing goods truck down the ravines, deserve severest condemnation. While the acts of vandalism could be the envy of hooligans, the inhumane stranglehold deserves the severest action. Enough is enough. Any let up would be too little, too late. Like most things in India, more so in this corner of the North East, unless strict counter measures are taken with an iron hand, such things would take a form of regularity rather than a casualty.

The GoI should, without further delay, deploy Central forces supplemented with Manipur forces, to man at least the NH-39, in Manipur portion, a stretch of around 80 km, if not NH-53, (even keeping on hold the project for Rs. 360 cr. for the NH-53). The people of the State have suffered too much, too long. No organization should be allowed to play with the life of people for so long and so whimsically scores they have to settle with the Government. It’s high time to call a spade a spade.

* The article was written by S K Singh

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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