No longer ‘communal Govt’ Reaching out to the hills

The BJP led coalition Government is no longer the ‘communal Government of Manipur,’ and this is something which Chief Minister N Biren can proudly wear on his hat. No longer untouchables, as far as some of the hill based organisations are concerned and this can be deduced from the warm welcome extended to the Chief Minister when he went for the inaugural function of the 3rd Flower Festival cum Manipur 1st Cherry Blossom Festival at Kayinu village, Mao Gate on November 26. This was not the first time that the red carpet was rolled out for the Chief Minister and one just has to recall his earlier two visits to Ukhrul, including the opening ceremony of the Shirui Lily Festival, the Cabinet meetings held at Churachandpur, Chandel and Tamenglong and packages so far announced for the hill districts. Equal development is the mantra that the Chief Minister has used to reach out to the hill people and this is welcome. The question however is whether it is as simple as this. Will economic packages bring all the hill people to the idea of Manipur as a geo-political reality ? Will reaching out to the hills go some way in bridging the deep hill-valley divide ? These are all questions but remember all these questions are relevant in the context of the ongoing peace dialogue between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM). What makes matter all that more interesting is the fact that the peace process today is no longer only with the NSCN (IM) but also with other groups and how seriously Delhi views the new development can be seen from the visit of RN Ravi to Nagaland some time back to hold talks with the 6 Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs). It is the same thing with the Kuki groups too as the dialogue between the Government of India and the SoO groups seems to be proceeding smoothly.
Central to all the peace talks held with different groups is the identity and existence of Manipur as a geo-political reality and this is something which cannot be dismissed that easily. Reaching out to the hills is fine and in the process getting the ‘communal Government of Manipur,’ tag erased is laudatory, but is this enough ? Can the fissiparous tendencies be addressed by promising economic packages, which some may see as doles from Imphal ? No easy answer here, for not everything is what appears to be. The seeds of the deep divide may lie much deeper than the differences in development between the hills and valley. Moreover can the valley be held responsible for the seeming lack of development in the hills ? Who is responsible for this ? Can the hill based organisations sincerely attempt to answer these questions ? Here is hoping that the BJP led Government will not lose sight of these important questions for losing sight of the overall situation will amount to only treating the symptoms and not the cause of the ailment. The BJP led Government has managed to reach out to the hills but yet at the same time it is also important to keep in mind that it has just started the journey and if reaching out to the hills is to have any meaning, it should get down to the serious business of studying how to understand the unstated but palpable political and social realities.

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