TODAY -

The ATSUM blockade

SK Singh *



Manipur has its own name of 'most-bandh-friendly' state across the country. Issues too are innumerably huge. You mention any, there springs forth one kind of a 'bandh-like' protest or reprisal against the state government.

In effect, the CM of Manipur is too over laden with petty issues which normally should not qualify for dragging the CM or the state government into such matters of not too serious. Instances can be cited in their tens but the apprehension is would there be another up rise calling for the CM to intervene.

There of course are major issues which keep the government haunted for seeking a solution. The news of All Manipur Tribal Students Union Manipur,(ATSUM) launching blockade, stingier even, 'economic blockade', is the greatest burden on the Biren-government, for that matter, on any government however powerful.

The ATSUM, on the issue of demands for discussion on the Manipur Hill Areas ADC Bill 2021, in the ongoing Assembly session, imposed 'indefinite economic blockade' on August 5, starting 6 am of the day on all High Ways, NH 2 in particular.

This was after the end of extended total shutdown at 6 am of this day, Friday Aug 5. And expectedly this blockade gets all support from various tribal bodies in the hill districts. The sufferings in the valley as a fallout of the economic blockade can be only imagined.

One can recall how 'economic blockade' on the two National Highways, sounds dreaded to the people in general, more so to the valley dwellers in the course of the five-months-long economic blockade in 2017. The then Ibobi government constituted 7 new districts and Naga outfits imposed that blockade which literally broke the conscience of the people. The Centre, the GOM and the Naga Group finally agreed to lift it.

The sufferings felt in the plains would not be one-dimensional; in fact its impact was shared by one and all settling in the valley where all communities co-exist. The worst was the 'counter-blockade' designed by some valley based CSOs where any commodity of economic relevance was banned from reaching the hill districts.

Sounds too bad, too communal, could be the breeding ground for hatching communal oriented hatred, hostilities of varying grades and intensity. As it is, the atmosphere in respect of inter-caste harmony, inter-faith belief in the state is far from being cordial and any flare up could explode beyond manageable limits.

Even this time around, signs of inter-community flare up are visible. The economic blockade-call is responded with counter initiatives where a certain valley-based CSO, LIPUL condemned the move of ATSUM as prejudicial, uncalled for and utterly biased against the valley dwellers. They too acted fast, like never before and denounced the economic blockade terming it as putting the people in distress.

It was not the end; they retaliated and locked the office of ATSUM at Adimjati complex, Chingmeirong on Thursday Aug 4. Their grievance was that ATSUM should not burden the people in the valley for demands from the government. They even went one step further, that ATSUM should take permission of LIPUL for unlocking of their office.

And ATSUM reiterated that they would continue with the blockade till their demands were met. As expected there were views aired from other hill districts. The Naga Students Union Chandel openly supporting the blockade condemned the Meetei LIPUL for sealing the ATSUM office. They even went on record that such actions were tantamount to 'direct challenge to the tribal community' of Manipur.

Similar overtones were aired from other districts. In particular, Tangkhul Katamnao Saklong (TKS), chooses to term the locking as nothing short of 'motivated attempt to communalize tribal issues'. This situation is ugly, needs handling with more comprehension and tact.

Here comes the role of the political leaders from both communities. Though all the leaders of ATSUM had been released by the government ostensibly without any FIR or cases instituted against them earlier, and blockade could be called of sooner than later, the mind set between two major communities had been injured and healing the HURT would take time, possibly would remain as a scare, however deem in the days to come.

This is human nature and always would call for more matured, understandable handling of the situation. Sporadic incidents like, the beating up of a van driver ferrying milk across the districts and even setting the vehicle to fire would add to flaring up communal overtones at a time when already some form of misconstruing each other in some form or other is brewing up.

The burning down of an Eco-van at Phougakchao Ikhai Awang leikai along Tiddim road NH 2 on Aug 6, was definitely a sensitive matter. At a time when some form of conflict at least on the minds of people, such incidents however sporadic could flare up misunderstanding among communities.

The initiative of the government to suspend mobile data for 5 days was timely. Or else, anti social people with vested interest would exploit social-media with some form of fake news, rumors, to whip up communal mistrust and tension.

Now that the 5 ATSUM leaders were released unconditionally on Aug 8, amidst a pact signed between the government and the ATSUM leaders, the dreaded economic blockade would be called off. As of now there were no words of discontinuing the shutdown even when the leaders were set free without any condition. This issue is tricky for sure; something could be brewing up.

A consultative meeting called by ATSUM is said to be the reason. The ADC Bill imbroglio is the crux of the matter and more wide based consultative discussion is on the way before which the blockade is likely to be in force. The impact of the blockade is felt wide spread across the valley in as much as petrol depots are reported dry and many long lines adore some depots early this morning as this note was under preparation.

One wonders however how even when the 5 ATSUM leaders detained for organizing the blockade, were released unconditionally, the issue of calling off the blockade was not part of the deal. The two components should reciprocate, nothing less, nothing more. That has not happened; more worries are in store perhaps.


* SK Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be reached at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on August 10 2022 .



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