Pointing fingers at some ‘hill leaders’Superficial reality
This is perhaps the first time that Chief Minister N Biren Singh has gone hammer and tongs against some who he dubbed as ‘hill leaders’ for trying to ‘disturb’ Manipur in full public view. That the ‘outburst’ of the Chief Minister came even as a number of hill based voluntary organisations, spearheaded by the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur, had rolled up their sleeves to impose a 24 hour general strike is what is significant and interesting. The bandh call is obviously to up the pressure on the State Government to pass the ADC Bill, prepared by the Hill Areas Committee, in the ongoing Assembly session. Leave aside the technicalities of the ADC Bill and whether it is incumbent on the Government to pass the same or not, but what is interesting is the manner in which the seeming refusal of the Treasury bench to pass the same has led some section of the people to identify the Government of Manipur as representing the interests of only the valley. There may be reasons, logical or otherwise, for holding such a view point but in identifying a Government with only the valley, one is obviously identifying the same with a community and this is what is disturbing. To say that the Government at Imphal bats only for the interest of one community would be taking things too far and here it is significant to note that this is not the first time that this has been done so. This is where one is reminded of the days when the then Congress Government was dubbed as the ‘Government of the so called State of Manipur.’ Not exactly coming back to square one, but a reflection that it will need much more than one term in office for the BJP and coining slogans such as Go to Hills, to make up the trust deficit between the Government at Imphal and some of the suited, booted, politically empowered section of the hill people. As in the valley, leave the common people of the hills out of the hill-valley divide politics, which is a mess by any standard.
It is also interesting to note that the Chief Minister went to the extent of dubbing such ‘hill leaders’ as those people who have no prospects of winning any more elections in the days to come. This is where it becomes significant to note that N Biren Singh was hitting out not only at the members of the Hill Areas Committee, but also some other hill leaders who threw their back behind the proposed Bill prepared by the HAC. If any decision taken by the State Government is going to be viewed through the prism of the hills and the valley, then one may say that the oft repeated hill-valley divide runs deep. This is at one level and yet at another level it may be said to be highly superficial. Depends on how one looks at it, but at the end of the day, it is about recognising Manipur as a geo-political reality. A reality which says that it is geographically very small and what may be applicable to a huge State like Assam may not exactly be suited here. This is the reality and the ‘outburst’ of the Chief Minister should be understood in the context of the reality that is Manipur.