Blockade politics on the highways Hitting the idea of Manipuri


In 2005 it was against the decision of the Government of Manipur to declare June 18 a general holiday and to observe it as Integrity Day. In 2010 it was against the election to the Autonomous District Council under the 2008 amendment and in 2011 the two “major blockades” that have so far been witnessed have centred around the issue of upgrading Sadar Hills to the status of a district. One was for it and the other is against it. The call for Greater Lim, the model of an Alternative Arrangement, the opposition to the ADC election, the district status demand, all come wrapped under some politically acceptable terms such as ancestral land, administrative convenience, political aspirations of a group of people, asserting the political, social and economic rights of a group of people and other such right sounding terms. Obviously it is the demand of real politiks to couch all these issues under some politically acceptable terms and all of them rest on the premise that these issues have been brought to the forefront for the benefits of the common people. It is another matter that to the average man on the street and to the woman toiling on the paddy field, Greater Lim, Alternative Arrangement or district status for administrative convenience could be anything, but which will make life better for them. Ignorance coupled with poverty can be dangerous and throw in a couple of the deliciously sounding political terms to justify an economic blockade and a situation is thus created to hammer in the nail of social and political divide amongst the people who are not at all versed with the politics of economic blockade. The agenda is simple- create an artificial enemy to justify the economic blockade and carry out the propaganda that throttling the lifelines of a people is the answer to the years of perceived deprivation. The presence of a Government which is primarily there to look after the interest of the rulers has only made things easier for such a propaganda to roost. In other words, the ongoing economic blockade is not going to result in Alternative Arrangement and if at all it does, it will be due to other factors such as a political negotiation. The impression that Delhi or for that matter Imphal will buckle under an economic blockade and work out an Alternative Arrangement or a district status for Sadar Hills is nothing less than a fantastical idea, as much as the impression that violence in the place of a negotiated settlement is the better option. 

No permanent foes and no permanent enemies in politics, is the de riguer of politics as understood today but twist this a little and it stands that an enemy is another di riguer to remain significant for a force, which primarily registered itself in the consciousness of the people through violence or the use of the guns. Bush war, jungle warfare, ambush, etc have all been associated with the NSCN (IM) for ages and in the process for a negotiated settlement with the Government of India, they could not have remained above the compelling need to remain significant in the consciousness of the people who they profess to represent. With complete sovereignty ruled out, a step down was what political expediency demanded and with Delhi more than willing to play ball, as long as the demand for complete sovereignty is dropped, the idea of a Greater Lim began to grow more and more audible. In the process, a perceived foe emerged in the form of Manipur, or more particularly her people who have been synonymous with the political and social understanding of the term Manipuri. On the surface, the blockade politics is against the policy of the Government of Manipur, but scratch the surface and it becomes unmistakably clear that this is aimed at the very idea of a Manipur as a political and social entity and either by design or the inescapable part of the politics, the people who represent the political and social identity of Manipur. And so it stands that today, economic blockades, such as the one in force on the National Highways have become something more than cutting off the lifelines of a State. This is unhealthy as well as mischievous and all the more reason for the people, particularly the people who represent the identity of the term Manipuri to exercise political astuteness and wisdom. And this calls for a more accommodative outlook and to move beyond the mere slogan of Chingtam Amattani.