What happened at Khurai today in which a number of Ukhrul bound vehicles were burned down is nothing short of tragic. No word will be enough to condemn it. In it was evident the complete breakdown of not just law and order, but a big challenge and threat to a beautiful human story of bondage forged by destiny which has now entered the realm of myth. This tragedy however was seen coming and there was not enough done by all who could and should have, but there is no point crying over spilled milk. Now that it has happened, let us hope this is the cathartic moment, and painful though it may be, will be the last the state ever sees. Let us also no longer hide from reality anymore. Let us admit that in the face of what has been happening in the past month or so, it is unlikely the injuries caused to this beautiful folkloric fraternity that bonded the place together, despite the myriad differences between the different communities, will heal anytime soon. We can and do however hope it will ultimately.
At the core of this current problem, let us admit, is the SADAR Hills. The possibility of this beautiful expanse of land in the foothills of the Imphal valley being accorded district status was what led the United Naga Council to impose an indefinite blockade of the state along its lifelines. Amidst this blockade, the government had initially deferred from going ahead to create the district, and there were indications that those who want it would also resort to a similar agitation. Indeed this pressure group too have done it in the past and there is no saying they would not have done it again had the government’s decision not been in their favour. For whatever its wisdom, or the lack of it, the government decided to go ahead to let the matter go in the latter group’s favour, creating not just SADAR Hills district, but six more. We have written about the merits and demerits of the creation of these administrative districts before and we will not return to it again just as yet. We would instead concentrate on the resorts to the government decision, the blockade first, but also the resentment expressed against the blockade in the style of counter-blockades, which have together quite predictably embittered inter-community relationships to the extent we are witnessing now. Nobody will doubt these have been akin to loose cannons hitting wrong targets, and the resultant damages are already immense. Instead of the government, those who ended up lashed are ordinary people many of whom have little or no concern on whether there should be more or less districts in the state, so long as they can eke out their meagre earnings and daily bread. When they become the target so unnecessarily, the friction invariably began acquiring a communal hue, as predicted, including by this newspaper.
There is a Meitei saying: Angang-na maiba saraga mang thalli (When juveniles are allowed to act doctors, the graveyards will be full). This seems exactly what is happening to us today. Our mature and legitimate leadership have abdicated their responsibilities of leading from the front, and by their default, have left politics in the hands of street-fighters and lumpens. The unfolding story of the blockade and counter-blockade is precisely an alibi of this. It is unlikely any government will ever manage to please everybody, especially in an ethnically riven state like Manipur. But when a group is unhappy with the government, and it goes on a shutdown, strike, or in the worst case scenario of outbursts of public outrage, destruction of government properties, all of which may indeed sometimes have the same effect as a blockade, the message is, we are in this together, you may suffer but we suffer as much too. But when a protest is labelled as blockade, the intent becomes different. The message is, I can throttle you to death if I please and there is nothing you can do about it but submit. Unfortunately again, the message is received not so much by the government, but by the people on the receiving end of the blockade. It does not matter if the people the message is intended for can indeed be throttled to death, but embitterment is inescapable. Counter-blockades carry the same message, and reciprocal embitterment. This time this embitterment is probably a lot more because of the extra burden of a cash crunch, thanks to demonetisation. This is the kind of lumpen street politics which have been allowed to become the norm. We are doubtful this sorry state of affairs can be reversed quickly, but we do hope saner voices will emerge soon to at least attempt salvaging the situation.