Decoding Hills-Valley improved relations

Peter Pham -Journalist & Social Activist
For the past few years, since the BJP led coalition Government took over in March 2017, the State experienced a tremendous change in governance, political dynamics and law & order situation in the hills & valley districts. Accepted by many, the credit is certainly the sleepless & vigorous efforts invested by CM Biren Singh led Government which includes the BJP Ministers and NPF party that has its stronghold in Naga inhabited areas of Manipur. The political alliance of the BJP and tribal based party like NPF has not only ushered political stability but also established better ties between valley and hill districts especially in Naga areas which was a different story during Congress days. NPF party which was established in Manipur only in 2012 gained its prominence drastically and improved the relations of the Nagas with the Government and other tribal communities of Manipur. Notably, the contributions of NPF party MLA and former PHED Minister like Losii Dikho, to connect tribal leaders with the Government and deal situations during the last 5 years is well acknowledged and lauded. A humble and accessible political figure who is popularly known as “People’s Minister” by many has undoubtly become a face of a popular Government led by another veteran and hardworking Chief Minister, N Biren Singh.
The BJP led coalition Government, since 2017 managed to address most issues related to some hill districts which are hot-beds of agitations, strikes, highway bandhs and blockades as witnessed during those 15 years regime of O Ibobi Singh led Congress Government. A valley centric regime that has seen the worst of political hill-valley divide which also attributed to total annihilation of Congress party in hill districts during recently held Manipur Assembly elections 2022 and also ADC elections in 2015. The defeats of tribal Congress veterans & heavyweights like Gaikhangam, Chaltolien Amo, DD Thaisii, TN Haokip, Victor Keishing and others are clear electoral message of tribal people over the now hardly surviving party. With just 5 Congress MLAs elected from valley areas and zero figure from hills of Manipur, the old National party finally bit the dust in hill districts in the 2022 elections.
Another comparison during the last 5 years of BJP led coalition rule was the frequent visits of Prime Minister Modi and Union Ministers to Manipur every month and CM Biren & his Council of Ministers visiting hill districts every month which was very uncommon during Congress days. The frequent bonding of political leaders and public leaders from the hills created a friendly environment for dealing public issues which was rare during O Ibobi led Congress Government and instead opted for brute and reckless police force to suppress public movements. However, the present BJP led Government chooses to connect and provide space for dialogues with tribal bodies on every issue. Kudos to CM N Biren Singh’s leadership which initiated the Go to Hills, Hills Leaders Day, Meeyamgi Numit, CM da Haisii and many other initiatives which created platform for contacts between the Government and the people, an opportunity for the common people to meet and interact with the CM, Ministers, MLAs and Govt officials. With BJP already expanding its base in all hill districts of Manipur, the new political development will be certainly an expectation of the general public to usher new wave of developments and improved situations. Remember the days of how O Ibobi Singh led Congress Government ruled Manipur for 15 years especially in Naga inhabited areas, many will remember how the Congress Government mainly functioned the administration from CM’s bungalow and Minister’s quarters. From confronting the Naga organizations to subjecting the NPF MLAs to second class Opposition status, the diversion of developmental funds and mega projects concentrated within Imphal valley and selected hill districts, the relations only worsened and widened. Aftermath the infamous 2010 incident where NSCN (IM) general secretary Th.Muivah was denied a visit to his birth place Somdal village in Ukhrul district, Nagas of Manipur were caught between the unending conflicts of the CSOs and unfriendly Government. From boycotting Congress politicians to frequent economic blockade and bandh in some hill districts, the commoners suffered an indifferent Government.