By Binoy Viswam
People used to call Manipur the Jewel of India. Later, the government also borrowed that word to decorate their advertisement hoardings. The history, culture and arts of Manipur were evolved through periods of time in which the people played their due role. Meiteis, Kukis and Nagas form the population of the beautiful territory. Meiteis are in large numbers followed by Kukis and Nagas. Facing the odds of life, they were living in peace and harmony.
It doesn’t mean that there were no disputes and clashes in the past. Whenever such incidents occurred, political initiatives and their own wisdom helped them to settle the differences amicably and move forward. Whenever the people of Manipur brought colours to their socio-cultural life it was this feeling of commonness that paved the path for them. That Manipur no more exists today. Everything the people achieved collectively have been shattered to pieces by the divisive polices of the BJP.
The BJP government in Manipur and Centre has totally failed the people of Manipur and their right to have a peaceful prosperous life. It began with the master plan of the RSS who established their control over the strategically important North-East of India. After bringing the state of Assam under its hold, the BJP leadership in Delhi earned Manipur with their strategy of hook and crook. In the election of 2017, the BJP tried and failed to win the majority in the assembly. But with a political aid from Delhi and the support of huge moneybags they could purchase MLAs and could cook up an artificial majority through which they ruled for five years.
In 2022 elections, the BJP put their hands on the shoulders of the Meiteis and Kukis and used all their usual practices to manage the comfortable numbers. Both the Meiteis and Kukis could not understand their long-term strategy of divide and rule. Once the RSS-BJP began their operations the people of Manipur had to pay heavy prices for it. Under the BJP rule the crisis was worsening in Manipur as it happened elsewhere. Issues of unemployment, price rise, land and development were hounding the population of Manipur also. Following the RSS ideology, the BJP government was cunningly telling both the Meiteis and Kukis that the ‘others’ are responsible for their hardships and they are the enemies. The question of tribal status and tribal rights were engineered in such a way that led to the distrust between both the communities. All those happenings on May 3 were the explosion of this discontentment.
That was only the beginning. Following the clashes, arson and firing on May 3, the situation worsened all over the state. After Imphal in the valley, Churachandpur and the hills became the epicentre of the unending conflicts. Violence spread to Bishnupur, Tengnoupal, Kangpokpi, Moreh etc. Extremist elements from both the Meiteis and Kukis were in the forefront of killings and arson which is the norm of riots. The poor, the innocent and the weak are the victims of the violence unleashed according to the game plan of the ruling circles with the blessings of the RSS-BJP. We, the delegation of left MPs, could feel the suffering of the innocent people in all the relief camps.
Both in the camps of Meiteis or Kukis, the sorrows are the same. Women and men, old and young —they are there in thousands (according to government sources 50,648 people are lodged in 349 relief camps but the real numbers are much more).They may be getting food for hunger there. But their basic essentials like healthcare, sanitation, sanitary pads, proper nutrition for kids among others, are lacking. The education system has completely collapsed as most of the children are in the camps and many of their schools burnt. The government call them as ‘relief camps’, but one gets the feeling that it is for the refugees. People are forced to live as refugees in their own country. We could see number of churches and temples and houses that have been burnt to ashes and the people at the surroundings looking at us with burning anxiety in their eyes. All these scenes are testimony to the level of mutual distrust and rage which is the natural outcome of racial hatred that rulers have succeeded in fanning upto any levels.
Seeing the painful plight of Manipur today, the people of India naturally ask ‘where are the state and the Central governments?’ In Manipur, people can only see a zero government. The slogan of maximum governance and minimum government was a big lie. The leader with 52-inch chest and long tongue was behaving like a ‘mouni baba’ throughout these days. He did not utter a single word about the wide spread crisis in the border state passing through an explosive situation for about two and a half months. All branches of government both in the Centre and also in the state are totally paralysed as the natural result of this colossal political inaction. Manipur speaks voluminously about the failure of the government for which the people are paying the price through miseries and uncertainty. For the Manipur crisis, if there is a primary culprit, that will be the governments led by the BJP.
How can a government respond in such a naive manner to a very serious socio-ethnic-political violence luring over its territory? It would be difficult even for the BJP cadres to answer this question. Then came the statement from Eric Garcetti, who is the US ambassador to India, he was extending US support for India to ‘resolve’ the Manipur conflict. It urges the people of India to associate government inaction in India and the US offer for support. All over the world wherever US has intervened, they have only complicated the situation. Palestine and Afghanistan are the closest examples before our eyes. The CPI and the Left are categorically clear in the matter that Manipur should not be further complicated through any sort of US involvement. The ‘atmanirbhar government’ of Narendra Modi should have the courage to prevent any sort of foreign attempts, from near or far, to convert Manipur as their playing field.
In Manipur during our visit the Left MPs could interact with people from all segments of life — intellectuals, civil society organisations, priests of Hindus, Christians, places of worship, who belonged to both Meiteis and Kukis. They had differences in understanding the situation. But they echoed in one voice their feeling that the government has failed. They all demand the resignation of Biren Singh from chief ministership. A study of Manipur crisis would tell us that it is closely interlinked to the land and the wealth beneath it. The hills of Manipur are immensely rich with the presence of various natural resources. That region is generally protected by the Tribal right laws.
Mostly the Kukis live there since time immemorial with their tribal customs and practices. It is true that in the valley due to growing population there is scarcity of Land. Those common Meitei masses who demand tribal status might only be dreaming for a piece of land. But there are political forces and their cronies in the corporate world, who have a nefarious plan to loot the forests and the mineral wealth there. When a party committed to their greed runs the government in Delhi and Imphal, its ‘corporate cousins’ think that their time has come. Behind the divide and rule policy, all those forces of darkness join together and make Manipur a boiling pot. Only a concerted political initiative with people’s participation can save Manipur. (IPA Service)