The ongoing economic blockade – What and whose fault?
- Part 2 -

Soubam Nongpoknganba Meitei *

In other words though the National Highway is vested with the Central Government, vide the provisions of National Highway Act, 1953 as well as the Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act, 2003, the control and safety of traffic over such highway lies squarely with the Highway administration as may be appointed / designated by the Central Government who has to take the help of the state police in case, force is to be used for a proper and safe flow of traffic on National Highways.

Further law and order is within state jurisdiction and bandh and blockade being a law and order concern, the state has the exclusive jurisdiction to deal with such a situation and legally, the state government in the present situation cannot blame the central government for not acting. It does not however mean that central Government does not have any obligation in protecting the life and property of the people. It is the fundamental duty of any government to protect the life and property of the citizens and while doing so, if the jurisdictional issues falls in the state list, the central government on its own has every discretion to direct the state government to do the needful.

Therefore the first and basic obligation lies with the state government. However we have not seen any effort on the part of the state government on both fronts viz., to defuse the tension by communicating with the blockading people or to bring solace to the suffering people by ensuring a free flow of supplies on the two highways by using state force, though we have seen some such action very recently particularly after strong direction by the Manipur High Court.

Rather, the Chief Minister has resorted to rhetoricism which has hyped up the emotion of the blockaded people against the blockading people and the Meiteis start considering him as the true representative and hero of them and this is exactly what he had wished so that he can win all the 40 Assembly seats in the valley.

Had he really cared for the people of Manipur, in the very first place, he would not have made a “symbolic declaration to declare” the SADAR Hills as a full fledged revenue district without taking enough precaution to evade any possible repercussion for such declaration to declare when he has the full knowledge that the SADAR Hills District issue is a hornet’s nest, which has been poked once leading to one of the longest economic blockades in history bringing the most miserable days into the state.

Yet the Ibobi Government, when the election is not far, has once again not only poked but stirred the whole hornet’s nest but has stopped short of settling it allowing the issue to linger, bringing once again those miserable days of 2011. The second fact which shows that Ibobi is playing this communal politics of “creating mutual anguish between Nagas Meitei” to earn the votes of Meiteis wholesomely is that he has not acted for a reasonably long time to bring in the goods laden vehicles stranded at the state border which has led to deep scarcity of petroleum products and other essential items which has deeply impacted the psych of the Meiteis in his favour and against the Nagas.

It is not that he could not bring them in, in time to avoid the inconvenience to the people. He seems to be working on the timing. The belated bringing in of the loaded stranded vehicles under security escorts after a lapse of nearly one month couple with his rhetoric that the BJP government is responsible for the blockade and it is trying to destroy Manipur by conspiring with NSCN (IM) has two benefits to him.

First the said inconvenience caused to the people will fill the people and particularly the Meiteis with anguish against the Nagas and the central government of BJP, who has entered into a framework agreement with the NSCN (IM) and secondly Ibobi will be treated as hero of the Meitei as he has made available the essential items to the Meiteis when they are very badly needed and these two benefits shall ensure him a clean sweep of all the votes in the valley which carries 40 out of the total 60 seats in the assembly.

Another pointer is that he has not properly presented the case of economic blockade to the centre while all the time blaming the centre. In his one page letter to the Home ministry which he wrote quite belatedly after 11 days of blockade, he has only said that since the UNC is the frontal organisation of NSCN (IM) which is under a ceasefire agreement with the centre, the Home Ministry’s intervention is required and requested the centre to urge the UNC to call off the blockade.

Apart from this he has not requested any assistance for securing the essential items in transit on the two highways, while throughout he blames the central government of BJP as conspiring with NSCN (IM) to break Manipur and this is exactly why the Home ministry has said, Ibobi has not submitted any concrete plan / assistance to the centre, though he has meekly denied it.

If he has been really serious about the welfare of public, at least he could have requested all possible assistance to the centre, when it is more than clear that constitutionally, the centre cannot directly on its own interfere in law and order issues of the state without invoking emergency provisions of the Constitution, though it has the discretion of giving direction to the state in such a situation.

However being left with no option of remaining inactive, on strong direction by the Manipur High Court and on strong direction by the centre, he has called the high level security meeting and has sent a strong contingent of state force to Mao and has further invoked S. 144 of the CrPC along the National Highways and has further secured them with the combined force of centre and state, which he could have done at the very initial stage of the blockade so as to lessen the pangs of such blockade tremendously, but which he had not done.

On top of all these, Ibobi has purposely avoided the attendance of the tripartite talk with the UNC and the Central Government at Delhi, thereby damaging one of the very good chances of ironing out the differences and stopping the blockade at the bud.

As a matter of fact, Ibobi himself has admitted that anti-incumbency factor is eating the congress base in the state and at the same time the number of scams and corruption charges that he and his government are carrying like the Loktak scam, the airport drug haul, Sekmai dam, etc have far outweigh the party’s chances of a comeback and also the people are wanting a change and on top of this, Modi wave is also playing spoilsport for the congress.

And in such circumstances, by bringing the blockade, first he has succeeded in building up an issue which has overshadowed all other issues which have favoured non-congress and secondly the mess has once again succeeded in opening the unhealed chasm between the Meiteis and the Nagas, and with it, the curtain shall rise to a Shakespearean drama with the Chief Minister of Congress as the Hero and the Sole defender of the Meitei and the NSCN (IM) and its frontal organisation, UNC together to be called as Nagas, as the villain who has choked the Meitei by cutting the lifelines and the BJP as the henchman of the Nagas who is helping the Nagas in destroying Manipur by inserting “without territorial limits” and by signing the framework agreement and keeping the contents therein far from the knowledge of the Manipuris.

And at the end of the drama the whole 40 seats of the valley was found swept by Ibobi. What a lovely drama ! After all democracy is all about number and no one cares from where and how you got the number, for ends shall justify the means and Ibobi has already proved it once in 2011, which he is just repeating this time.

Further, on top of this, an added bonus will be the Kuki votes in his favour if he just can declare the SADAR Hills as the full fledged revenue district immediately before the declaration of date of election by saying that this is as per the central enactment on the basis which all the hill districts have been formed.


* Soubam Nongpoknganba Meitei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
Soubam Nongpoknganba Meitei is an Advocate
This article was posted on December 14, 2016.

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