Knowing when to deliver Mount Manipur
One has to give it to them. The BJP surely seems to know what, how and when to deliver and this is exactly what they have done with Union Home Minister Amit Shah announcing that Mount Harriet in Andaman and Nicobar island will now be known as Mount Manipur. To many, Mount Harriet is not just another name or even a landmark at Andaman and Nicobar island but is closely associated as the last home of Maharaja Kulachandra and 22 others who were banished to the island after the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891. Add the fag end of 2019 when Khwairamband Keithel became the epi-centre of the protest against the Citizenship Amendment Bill (before it was enacted) with protesters staying put for the night there and launching a series of protest against the move of the Centre and perhaps the point of what and how will become a bit clearer. Guwahati or Assam may have hogged the media limelight during the days of protest, but it was Manipur which was the epicentre of the series of protest and how the BJP dealt with the protest here was something notable. No police lathi charge of the sort that Manipur has become accustomed to, but the series of protest was given the quiet burial with the Centre deciding to extend the Inner Line Permit System to Manipur, which automatically exempted the State from the purview of CAB which later became an Act. This was how the matter was dealt and without taking away any credit from the people who led the protest from the front, the way the BJP went about settling two issues with one decision was what stood out. With one decision it managed to quieten the voice of protest at the epicentre which was Imphal and with one decision it fulfilled the long standing demand of the people, led by the Joint Committee on Inner Line Permit System (JCILPS) by extending the ILPS to the State. Now it has gone further to name Mount Harriet as Mount Manipur and while Mount Harriet may not have caught the popular imagination, this is something which would have gone down well with many. This is where the timing of the BJP cannot be faulted. Addressing a point which carries immense sentimental value to the people just ahead of the coming Assembly election and it is obvious that the BJP has started laying down its agenda for the coming election.
Extension of ILPS to Manipur and renaming Mount Harriet as Mount Manipur are two issues which obviously will be used to the hilt by the saffron party during their campaigning here in Manipur and it would be interesting to see how the people respond to these points. Perhaps this is where it would be interesting to see if those at the forefront demanding that the Meiteis/Meeteis be granted Scheduled Tribe status within the Constitution of India can push their agenda further to see if it can become some sort of a poll issue in the run up to the election. On the other hand, this is not the first time that Mount Harriet has been brought to the notice of the Government. If one remembers correctly, it as way back in 2003 when a team of journalists from Manipur under the aegis of the All Manipur Working Journalists’ Union (AMWJU) visited the island and on their return submitted a representation to the State Government to construct a memorial at Mount Harriet. The State Government is understood to have also forwarded the same to New Delhi back then and this is a just a brief recollection of Mount Harriet and what it has meant to the media fraternity in Manipur. Now that something more than a memorial has been announced, one has to acknowledge the sense of timing of the BJP leadership.