Yet another boycott call of R-Day No tangible efforts seen

Yet another boycott call of Republic Day. Yet another shut down. This is the story every year and why this is so should be clear to all, whether one subscribes to the reasons or justifications for the boycott call furnished by different armed groups or not. This is besides the point, but what is clear is the fact that there are armed groups, which see no reason to participate in the celebration of a day when the Constitution of India came into force. The important question is whether any efforts have been made to make the armed groups come overground and whether any sincere efforts have been made to engage the armed groups in a meaningful dialogue. So far none of the major groups operating in Manipur and whose influence run deep and wide have come to the negotiating table and there could be many reasons why this is so. This is where the Government need to come out of the mindset to merely appeal to the armed groups to come to the negotiating table and instead explore whatever measures it can to engage the armed groups in some meaningful talks. It is the absence of any tangible efforts from the side of the Government that is disturbing to note. Maybe a change in approach is what is called for. This observation comes in the backdrop of the offer from the proscribed UNLF many years back to hold a plebiscite, after the then Governor of Manipur the late Dr SS Sidhu referred to the armed cadres as ‘dissatisfied brethren’ instead of the oft repeated ‘misguided youth.’ This is an example of how breaking free from the old stereotypes can find takers from the armed groups. It is also significant to note that the only other tangible effort from the State Government came when former Chief Minister Radhabinod Koijam during his short stint in office offered a unilateral cease fire more than 15 years back.
That the offer for a plebiscite and the gesture of the unilateral cease fire were turned down with indifference is another matter, but the plebiscite offer is an example to show that a change in approach can elicit response from the armed groups. The BJP led Government came roaring to power after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, ending the ten years rule of the Congress but so far there is nothing much to suggest that the BJP led Government has adopted a fresh approach to the issue at hand. It will need more than changing the Look East Policy to Act East Policy to break the ice and get in touch with the armed groups. This is not to remotely suggest that the different armed groups of Manipur will willingly come to the negotiating table, but at least some tangible efforts should be put in place. This is what is needed or else boycott of important dates such as January 26 and August 15 seems set to continue. It was not always like this. Those who grew up in the 70s and early 80s will surely remember how 26th January was a day to deck oneself up in the best woollens, go to Kanglapat road and watch the smart boys and girls from different schools stage the march past. To these generations of people, Republic Day must be the day when they first got a taste of the energetic Punjabi bhangra which entertained the spectators no end. After the march past, it was customary for the young boys and girls to catch a movie at one of the cinema halls in Imphal and then snack at some of the more popular eating joints such as Eikhoigi Hotel, Hind Jal Pan, Sangam Restaurant etc. This brief recollection is to underline the point that situation was not always like this and highly unfortunate to see that so far no Government at Delhi seems to have thought it prudent to make some tangible efforts to resolve the situation politically instead of sending in more and more military personnel.

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