TODAY -

Unannounced bandh : Self-propelled movement?
- The Sangai Express Editorial :: August 18 2015 -



There was no announcement. None of the organisations spearheading the ongoing movement for enactment of a mechanism effective enough to control influx into the State gave any call for bandh or general strike.

Yet, many of the roads criss-crossing Manipur valley were blocked.

Thousands of unsuspecting people who came out from their homes for the day’s works were caught in between.

There was public transport service as well as movement of private vehicles in the morning.

Yes, we are talking about August 16 and August 17.

In a way, people were relieving themselves at least for a few hours amidst the turmoil engulfing the State.

People were buying essential commodities or going on urgent works.

There are also hundreds of people who come to Khwairamband everyday to earn a square meal a day.

As there was no announcement of bandh or general strike, they came to the capital town and they were left without any means to go back home except travelling on foot.

All of a sudden all major roads including Tidim Road, Imphal-Moreh road and Imphal-Ukhrul road were blocked and all public transport services disappeared.

The moot question is, who were those people blocking roads and why did they do so.

One need not go far to seek the answer. They are the common people like you and me.

The momentum of the popular movement for enacting a constitutional safeguard for the indigenous people of Manipur is gaining more weights rather than slowing down.

And this is manifested in the spontaneous but unannounced bandh imposed at different localities across Manipur valley.

In another word, the movement has attained a level of self-sustenance.

Apart from the disorderly picture it paints, it carries some highly significant implications.

First, vast majority of the indigenous people feel threatened.

Second, the level of threat perception is common to all the people and uncannily high.

Having said this, we are not exonerating any form of disorderly or violent protest movements.

Hunger strike or fasting as a mode of protest is not something new.

But in the context of the ongoing mass protest movement, it certainly has added a new dimension.

The movement until a few days back was characterised by violent confrontations between police and public.

There is no element of violence or any possibility of physical confrontation in hunger strike. This does not mean police-public confrontations would stop or subside.

While some choose non-violent path like hunger strike, others may still opt to confront the State machinery physically.

As much as the two approaches are contradictory, the objective, however, is invariably only one, protection of indigenous people.

But we must not overlook the fact that bandh, general strike, hunger strike or any form of protest is just a means to get something, not the end in itself.

And one must weigh carefully whether the means one chooses to get something will take him nearer to his objective or do more harm to the overall movement.

As the unannounced bandhs as well the growing number of hunger strikers show, people are determined to carry on the movement until something significant is achieved.

Someone or some group must take the responsibility of coordinating the localised or isolated protest movements. Unannounced bandhs cannot be an answer to the common quest.

Allowing different quarters to pull the mass movement in different directions, we fear, would lead to anarchy and prove suicidal eventually.

We can understand the immense pressure under which the State Government has been reeling since the past 45 days or so but we must say that ILP or no ILP, the issue of influx is a political issue and a grave one which would have serious ramifications on the indigenous people economically, culturally and politically.

This does not necessarily mean Manipur should be closed to the outside world.

The issue should be tackled politically and the Government should reciprocate positively to the threat perceptions of the indigenous people.



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