It is not often that the top honchos from Delhi deem it worthy to pay a visit to Manipur and as things stand today or maybe till yesterday, any trip to the North East by the dhoti clad or suited, booted political class from Delhi is almost always taken as something of a foreign jaunt. At least this was the impression that has been created and though the North East may now figure in Delhi’s scheme of things, it is hard to change one’s perception over night, especially when that perception has been there for more than 50 years or so. Even today, there is a huge disconnect between the people of so called mainland India and the North East and there could be many reasons for this, but one thing which stands out like a sore thumb is the condescending tone that we hear when any political leaders from Delhi refer to the North East. This is the generally accepted trend, but what sets apart the visit of Union Home Minister P Chidambaram to Manipur this time are the various factors at play here, with different players pitching in and trying to draw the attention of the Home Minister. The circumstances too is interesting, coming as it has after Delhi admitted that it has arrested RK Meghen, after two months of silence, the top man of the banned UNLF, but with a twist that took one from Dhaka to Bihar, the demand of the Nagas of Manipur to work out an alternative arrangement for them, since they have already announced their decision to cut off all ties with the State Government, the alternative arrangement taking the form of a separate State or a Union Territory and recently the significant decision taken by the Kuki civil society organisations to extend the provisions of the 6th Schedule to all the hill districts of Manipur. It is amid these issues, some of which are extremely sensitive, that Mr Chidambaram has landed at Imphal on December 14 and it remains to be seen whether his visit will have any positive and long lasting impact or be just another two day visit by a Union Minister to Manipur. As the Home Minister and being the brain behind the setting up of the National Investigative Agency (NIA), law and order will surely figure high on his agenda and the proposed visit of the Minister to one of the designated camps of the ZRA at Chura- chandpur is perfectly in sync with the priorities expected from a Home Minister. We are not sure how familiar Mr Chidambaram is with the finer political and social nuances at play here but we can trust that he has been briefed minutely and updated on all important issues by different Government agencies. It is a question of how he responds to the inputs that will be of prime importance to the people of Manipur. Manipur should not be viewed only through the prism of the armed movement, though this no doubt very important, but Chidambaram should not waste this visit by following the same script drafted earlier and perhaps, he can do something meaningful for the people by reminding the powers that be in Imphal that they are accountable to the people. A thorough internal operation clean up will go a long way in erasing some of the percentage cut remarks, synonymous with this Government and yes the police need to be told that they are not in a circus where they have to perform stunts such as the one we saw during the days of protest against the July 23 incident of 2009.
As we have said, we really do not know how familiar Mr Chidambaram is with the issues as well as its impact on society though he must have been properly briefed on the matter. As Home Minister this will be his first visit to Manipur and we may say that he has personally come face to face with the stark reality here only twice. One was when Chief Minister O Ibobi stood his ground and refused to give in to the persuasion of Delhi to give the green signal for Th Muivah to visit his birth place in the early part of May this year and the other is definitely India’s misadventure with the arrest of RK Meghen and the follow up action. These two instances should be more than enough for a man of his intellect to understand the overall character of the people of Manipur. The changing wind of political direction vis-a-vis the Naga problem, has now mutated to a problem for Manipur and not Nagaland. This is the mother of all ironies. It is not the people of Nagaland who have raised the demand of a Greater Lim, but an armed group, the NSCN (IM), the torch of which was later passed on to the numerous Naga civil societies here. Again it is not the people of Nagaland, who have said that they will have nothing to do with the Government of Manipur but the Nagas of Manipur and it is best left to the wisdom of the people to decide whether the Senapati declaration of July 1 this year had the wholesome backing of the people on whose behalf the decision was purportedly taken. The Orange Festival was an apt example that not every Naga in Manipur share this viewpoint, as the Zeliangrong Union had openly invited the Chief Minister contrary to the UNC stand to boycott his invitation to the festival. The Senapati tripartite talk of December 3, was an exercise in changing the political course of the Nagas of Manipur and what Manipur saw was the shift in the stand of the UNC from a Greater Lim to a separate Statehood for the Nagas of Manipur. It is under this shifting sands of political change and uncertainties that Chidambaram has landed here and it will not be an easy task at all. We doubt or dare we say, we are certain that he will not make any fresh commitments, other than the earlier ones which have been repeated, such as the No Change in Boundary of Manipur. However there is one issue which he can address to without causing any uproar from the people, and that is to critically assess the performance of the SPF Government and why the percentage tag has stuck so aptly to it. Heed the pcs and the ps and qs, Mr PC, is our sincere suggestion.