From June 18, 2001 to June 18, 2019
Manipur : Geo-political reality
June 18, 2001. A calendar date that has been marked in bold in the minds of everyone who stand by the idea of a Manipur as a distinct social and political reality. And it is with this same approach that 2019 will greet June 18 on Tuesday. It has been like this every year after the spontaneous people’s uprising on the said date more than 15 years back. More than 15 years back, but the date continues to hold a special place in the minds of everyone and there could be many who were not born on the day that Imphal burnt, but would nonetheless line up to pay respect to the martyrs on June 18 at Kekrupat this year. What will make this year’s June 18 observation all that more significant lies in the fact that it is now nearly 4 years since the Framework Agreement was signed on August 3, 2015 and the fact that Narendra Modi is back in power after a stupendous showing at the just held Lok Sabha elections. In other words June 18 cannot be understood in isolation of the ongoing political dialogue between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) and one just have to recall how the State erupted in protest after the words, ‘ceasefire without territorial limits’ were inserted in the ceasefire pact on June 14, 2001. Known as the Bangkok Declaration, one can still remember the immediate response of the people and the shut down called by different civil society organisations to protest the declaration and the ultimate mass protest on June 18, in which 18 people were killed in firing and the way in which the then State Assembly building was torched. Likewise offices of different political parties went up in flames with two sitting legislators back then facing the inferno at the Assembly figuratively and factually speaking.
The important question is whether New Delhi has been able to note the underlying meaning behind observing the day so religiously since 2002. Or more importantly has any efforts been made to understand and appreciate the stand of the people of Manipur ? Assurances have been given many times, especially in the run up to the Assembly elections in 2017 that the territorial integrity of Manipur would not be compromised in the face of the Greater Lim demand pursued by the NSCN (IM) and backed by other Naga civil society organisations notably the United Naga Council. However the stand of the people of Manipur is such that June 18 should not be understood only through the prism of territorial integrity but through the canvas of understanding Manipur as a geo-political reality which has a history dating back to over 2000 years and this understanding should not be diluted by any political agreement that New Delhi may strike with the NSCN (IM) or with any other entity. Manipur is much more than just a State of the Indian Union, but a living reality which has a history of its own and this understanding cannot be understood by diluting its existence by imposing any ‘Article’ or diluting the reach and influence of the duly elected State Government. The Government of Manipur cannot be confined only to Imphal or the valley area. This is the stand of Manipur and it is under this belief that June 18 will be observed again in 2019.