Manipur crisis : Do we have a Government!

Rajendra Kshetri *

'142 people killed, 17 missing in Manipur violence as of July 4'… 5995 First Information Reports (FIRs) had been registered as of July 4, and six important FIRs had been transferred to the CBI for investigation "independently and with transparency."

5,053 incidents of arson had been reported as of July 3…. 181 persons were arrested, and 6,745 were under detention…... 54,488 people were still living in 354 relief camps… The Centre had provided financial assistance to the tune of rupees 101 crores for the management of relief camps…. 30,000 tonnes of rice for sale at Rs 32 a kg and 30 trucks of onions and potatoes had been allotted by the centre for Manipur.

Over 7,150 trucks and oil tankers had carried essential materials from Jiribam into the State… An ex-gratia scheme of Rs 10 lakh had been announced for the families of those who died in the violence and Rs 2 lakh each for the injured victims and for families whose houses were burnt down…schools for classes 1 to 7 has been re-opened from July 5… a three-member commission of inquiry under former Gujarat High Court Chief Justice Ajay Lamba had been constituted to investigate the incidence of violence…'

The above-mentioned/cited lines are excerpts from the State Government's 16-page report submitted to the Supreme Court on 10 July 2023. (I chanced upon this as a news item under the by-line of Krishnadas Rajagopal in the July 11 Kolkata Edition of The Hindu, P.10)

Much water has flowed down the Imphal and the Nambul rivers (figure of speech/writing really, in reality hardly any water to flow) since then. Numbers have increased. Numericals have changed. Figures have gone up. Everything has changed. And yet, nothing has changed. The government, people's government is still not showing any sign of proactive and pro-people actions to ensure safety and security to its citizens.

But how can one say that we don't have a government. Yes we do have a government, an elected government in Manipur, prompt and palpable, to report/ inform the highest Court of the Country, on the prevailing law and order situation in the state. The report seemed to have painted a near perfect picture of a strife-torn state 'slowly returning to normalcy' with some semblance of governance.

Daily happenings, news,reports coming from peripheral villages tell a different story though. Acts of arson, shooting, killing of innocent villagers, attacks against farmers by (suspected) 'Kuki militants' with 'sophisticated weapons' has now become the order of the day.

The wanton destruction of paddy fields /cultivable lands and forced occupation by 'Kuki militants' has made the plight of peasants more pathetic and miserable.Land tillers and farmers are not only wary but worried about a highly likely famine looming large over the Manipur sky.

So a mournful Mother Manipur laments: Don't we have a government ?

An elected ' government of the people by the people and for the people' that can/could rein in and/ or keep a tight rein on the 'Kuki militants'?. A popular government that could ensure full security to the farmers/cultivators for a good harvesting season this year? A government committed to good governance ? A government that performs its 'Raj Dharma' of protecting/saving the lives/properties of citizens?

For over one hundred and twenty days, the people of Manipur have been held to ransom by a handful perpetrators of violence. Despite (tall) claims by the government and security forces on the improved law and order situation in the state ,violence keeps on escalating and death toll keeps counting. Paddy fields are being targeted at the whims and fancy and convenience of 'Kuki militants'.

So a bewildered Mother Manipur bemoans! Where is the government, the ' double engine government' that promises to take care of the 'last man' ?

The government that thundered 'minimum government, maximum governance? Where on earth is the government that loves taking full credit for the sporting prowess of ' Sana Leibak' but remains muted at the time of crisis? An unprecedented crisis that threatens the very existence of Manipur as a geo-political and historical entity.

The more than four-month-old Manipur violence, perpetual as it is, has now invoked international concerns. First it was the US Ambassador to India, who described the Manipur violence as one of 'human concern'. Then, the European Parliament passed a resolution and asked India to end the 'Manipur Violence'.

Even as the move was rightly rejected by India saying, the move betrayed the colonial mindset and the Manipur situation was "wholly and totally internal" to India, such an embarrassment to the country's global image could have been avoided had the government acted fast and swiftly to stop the violence in the first few days of the mayhem.

That the government could have but did not do make 'Ima Manipur- Mother Manipur – wonder if the violence has been 'designed' (to last) by a 'few bad people' who are not sons of the soil but lords over the government? Ima Manipur could not imagine even in her wildest dream how arms of such 'bad people' have entrenched in the administration.

So an anguished Ima Manipur ponders : Don't we have 'a few good men' , a few good bureaucrats , a few good politicians, a few good ministers, who could have stopped , and/ or stopped such entrenchment ?

How could Ima Manipur ever believe that such entrenchments have taken place under the very nose of bureaucrats and ministers who are sons of the soil! Have they all fallen prey to and /or lured/ tempted to a state of narcosis?

Have they all lost all senses, whatever little was left in them , of patriotic fervour? Have they all been blinded by the power of narco-money? Didn't Ima Manipur caution them, dear sons of the soil, to never ever underestimate the power of 'illegal immigrants'.

The involvement of 'illegal immigrants' in the on-going Manipur violence is now no longer a matter of mere speculation. The honourable Governor of Manipur Madam Anusuiya Uikey had already alluded to their presence/involvement in the Manipur mayhem. The same has been acknowledged and stated in no uncertain terms by no less a person than the honourable Union Home Minister Shri Amit Shah himself.

So what stops the government , both the centre and state, from flushing out these ' illegal immigrants' who are creating havoc and masterminding the crisis.

Ima Manipur wonders and can't help pointing fingers at the government for not calling out the 'narco-terrorists'. How many times Ima Manipur has to speak up and remind Babupara and Delhi that the threat posed by these narco-terrorists to Manipur's integrity is actually a threat to India's integrity and national security.

For too long people have suffered immeasurably. For too long people ,affected people and displaced persons have been kept at makeshift shelter homes. For too long displaced persons, innocent victims have been languishing at relief camps. For too long , they all have waited for the government to put back smiles on their faultless faces.

But of course, we have a government that is very prompt and fast in providing relief materials and other incentives to the inmates. We also have a government that is (over) enthusiastic in building /constructing pre-fabricated houses.

But then, here comes, from Ima Manipur, the most pertinent question – the million dollar question: Do we have a government that can and must put an end to this senseless violence?

Do we have a government that can and must say 'Enough is Enough' and not allow a handful of 'kuki militants' to hold common people at ransom?

Do we have a government that MUST perform its 'Raj Dharma' of protecting the lives and properties of people.

* Rajendra Kshetri wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The author is Professor of Sociology at Manipur University, Imphal
This article was webcasted on September 18 2023 .

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