Bandhs and blockades of Manipur

Usham Somarendro Singh *

Around 300 trucks leave Jiri for Imphal ::  January 16 2017
Around 300 trucks leave Jiri for Imphal on January 16 2017 :: Pix - TSE

One of the main reasons why Manipur is lagging behind in developmental score is undoubtedly blockades. Well, we consumed a lot of days in bandhs and blockades. We have different ethnic composition having different interests; some of the interest is as different as North Pole and South Pole. It just doesn't have any meeting point. All of its different views and interests are reflected in the form of bandhs and blockades. Sure, we can have different opinion and Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression.

But the questions we can ask ourselves are

"Are we doing anything good to ourselves by indulging in bandhs and blockades?"

"Is there any alternative way to protest other than bandhs and blockades and make the Govt. hear our views or anguish?'

"Are we being a little bit intolerant by engaging in this form of protest?"

"Do we really take into account the trauma faced by those people who are trapped in bandhs and blockades?'

By saying this I am not undermining the legitimacy of expressing our protest. It can be for a very right reason, good and authentic cause. I just like to express about the loss that incurred to us by bandhs and blockades and if its number and frequency can be reduced to a level where its impact is minimal.

Well, it is also a fact that we have too many JACs (Joint Action Committee) and too many leaders. It is not wrong to form JACs and to have leaders for a genuine cause and reasons. Leaders always hijack our mind. They can shape public opinion. We just give them the power to do so. But yes, let there be good leaders who hijack our mind for the good cause in a good way

Also, slightly touching into the current issue of blockade and counter-blockade, of the trust deficit and so on, time and again we have been hearing in public forum that the people of hills and valley are brothers. Do we really try to understand it and take it seriously is a debatable matter because if we have taken it seriously enough, our 'trust deficit' should have been vanished or atleast reduced to a tolerable limit.

We have been giving numerous historical examples that reflect that people in hills and valley are infact brothers. Keeping aside the historical perspective and interpretation of many historical events, I would like to put a logical view.

'The closest relative of any human is his/her brothers and sisters and parents and nobody can deny it. They are blood related and live as a family. Next to family, are the sagei/ clan. Father, uncles, grandfathers and grandfather's brothers live as neighbours in a close living space which we sometimes called as leikai. These 'family and leikai' are like social institution and society evolves this way over time.

This seems to be the law of nature, 'The more closely related you are, the closer your living space will be'. Taking this point further, if we look into the relation between Meiteis and Tangkhuls who happen to live in close proximity, they ought to be closely related otherwise they would be living far apart. Their spacial distribution would be far if they are unrelated.

So, the relation between Meiteis and Tangkhuls who live as neighbours have to be closer than the relation between Tangkhul and Angami of Nagaland or Nocte of Arunachal Pradesh who live (100-200) miles away. Because the place where you live in and your relation are closely linked. The closer your living space is, the more closely you are related.

Space influences relation between groups. It is not limited to Meiteis andTangkhul only, it can be relation between Meiteis and Kabuis or any other tribes. We have thousands of years of history behind us to support this. However, having said this, if Tangkhul or any other tribes want to put themselves under the nomenclature of Naga, it is absolutely their choice and no one can interfere it.

Religion or caste is absolutely an individual's choice. Whilst caste and religion remain our individual choice, at the same time, we should not forget the historical relation that bind us together also. If you look from any angle, it does not merit any logical explanation that Tangkhul are supposed to be closer to Nocte of Arunachal than the Meiteis. That is why we have Tangkhul nurabi in Meitei Laiharaoba.

Well coming back to the topic on the loss incurred due to blocakade, let me come to the first point "Are we doing anything good to ourselves by indulging in bandhs and blockades? In economic terms, 'Absolutely not'. Because it is probably one of the factors among many factors for making our state Manipur backward. Out of 365 days, places like Bangalore utillises atleast 300 days minus 48 Sundays optimally.

We hardly use 100 days optimally. Because when you start doing a job and break suddenly in between due to bandhs and blockades, it surely breaks the rythm or so called momentum. When you start again, you have to start from the beginning. So, Manipur now is where Bangalore was at 2000, just because we have lost nearly 10 years in bandhs and blocades.

We have good human resources but we are crawling like snail because of frequent interruption in our activity. That is why Manipuris living outside are more productive, progressive and earn more as compared to Manipuris back home because they have full year available but we have hardly 6 months available in a year.

So, if we are going to indulge in bandhs and blockades, I think we should stop complaining that Manipur is lagging behind, Manipur doesn't have this infrastructure or that infrastructure, Manipur's water supply or electricity is pathetic, roads are miserable, because we haven't done enough, or given enough space to allow ourselves and others, and Govt and private sectors to progress.

So, in doing bandhs and blockades, we are not only protesting to get our demands, we are also indulging in activities that hamper our own progress and growth. It's time we find some other alternative form of protest and replace bandhs and blocakades. Dharna is appealing, rally is still ok, meeting the concerned administrative officers of the concerned department or if required concerned Ministers sounds good. Because, by doing so, we can get what we want without disturbing our normal activities or activities of others.

The other question is what is the Govt. doing? Don't they require to give some 'practical solutions'? It's been happening for so long that Govt. Should formulate some strategies to counter it. Recently a survey gave the loss per day during bandhs and blocakades which run in terms of crores. Economic Blockades lead to 'Economic Erosion' and further to 'Society Erosion'. Since bandhs and blocakades have 'meltdown effect' on economy, some strategies need to be put in place. It impacts the health sector, there has been news of scanty supply of oxygen in hospital during blockade. It means it somehow violates rights of many patients. It's a crime and a crime is a punishable offence.

There can be some 'Rapid Response Team' that comprise of experts on various fields, like Social Scientists, Lawyers, in addition to police force that can attend in emergency situation. Presence of Social scientists and Lawyers can make sure that while police perform their duties, human rights and value are preserved and not violated.

Another question is 'can there be some Highway Protection Force that can make sure the free flow of economic items during economic blockades? If some extra fund is diverted in maintaining such force, their presence can enhance economic growth to much extent by ensuring free flow of economic items. Well, whatever I have expressed above are just my views and I am sure that there can be many experts in various fields who can give many more ways to counter it.

Having said these, I presume that bandhs and blockades will be there. But in those circumstances, we should bear this in our mind that we minimise the impact as less as possible, because it is also our duty to minimise the economic disparity between our state and some of the potentially growing states.

* Usham Somarendro Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on January 18, 2017.

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