Manipur: Looking ahead from the vantage point of 2017

At the stroke of midnight, the year 2017 would become history. As we welcome the new year with hopes of a better tomorrow and a more secure and peaceful future, we as a people need to look back at the year gone-by. Each and every one of us living in the troubled State of Manipur fractured with disjointed imagined homelands need to retrospect the years gone by and introspect into our future. No doubt, 2017 added volumes of events to the more than 2000 years old written history of Manipur. Congress party and Chief Minister Okram Ibobi who were ruling the State for record 15 consecutive years were dislodged from the seat of political power. In its place came BJP and its allies. This was a very significant turn of events. In the process of forming the new Government, the State saw a very ugly picture of electoral politics where party-hopping reached its zenith notwithstanding the anti-defection law. But this is not something new in the State for value-based or principle-based politics is still a very far cry in the State. It is also now history how BJP which won just 21 seats out-maneuvered Congress which secured 28 seats and formed the Government with the help of NPF, NPP and of course NDA’s constituent members. Majority of the people welcomed the change, if not the new Government, for Ibobi and his team were in charge of the State’s political affairs for too long. If changes are the medium of advancement and progress, these political changes were long overdue but the only doubtful part is whether the new Government can take forward the State as a whole. The new Government has not yet completed even one year in office and it would be too early to file a comprehensive performance report.
Undoubtedly, the new Government came up with some impressive innovative ideas like the ‘Go to Hills’ slogan, holding Cabinet meetings at hill district headquarters, designation of two days of every month as Hill Leaders Day and Meeyamgi Numit etc. The most landmark event of the preceding year 2016 was the creation of seven new districts which was responded by a more than 100-days long economic blockade on the highways leading to Imphal. One major achievement of the BJP-led coalition Government is the lifting of the suffocating blockade through direct negotiation with the blockade sponsors. The new Government was also successful in resolving the Churachandpur turmoil. But what haunted the collective psyche of the people of Manipur the most in 2017 was the Framework Agreement signed between the Government of India and NSCN-IM two years back. The year particularly the last couple of months were ripe with speculations for a final solution to the protracted dialogue process. It was not just speculations. Even the President of India went on record that the final settlement to the Naga issue was very close. The Framework Agreement and for that matter any solution to the protracted political dialogue have been a serious source of anxiety to a large section of people in Manipur. At the same time, it sounds like manna from heaven to another section of people. It is this deep-chasm which demands serious introspection as we step into a new year. There is no denying the fact that Manipur is a very tiny State. Then is fragmentation of Manipur to fulfill the political aspirations of imagined homelands desirable? Can the different communities progress separately which they fail collectively? Can’t we, as people living together for centuries, devise a formula under which we can live harmoniously and advance collectively? Is there no way to uphold and promote the pluralistic character of Manipur? Or should we sink together in the quagmire of ethno-centric politics? These are some pertinent questions we must introspect as we step into another near year.

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