Lifting prohibition : Talk of the day Offshoots of peace talks
At the moment prohibition or rather the decision of the State Government to lift it after more than three decades is the topic of the day, with the anti-liquor lobby underlining its staunch opposition to the stand of the Government. The pending final pact between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) is another issue that continues to make news, with many civil society organisations of Manipur stressing that any agreement should not impact on the existence of Manipur as a distinct geo-political reality. Squeezed in between these two points is the series of sit-in protests held in different parts of the State to demand that the State Government send the needed report to the Centre to include the Meeteis/Meiteis in the Scheduled Tribe list of the Constitution of India. The ongoing political dialogue between New Delhi and the NSCN (IM) has always been an area of concern to the people and the June 18 uprising of 2001 stands testimony to this. On the other hand prohibition or rather the decision to lift it is much more recent but it has indeed grabbing prime spot in all the daily newspapers published in Imphal. In between is the ST demand spearheaded by the STDCM and World Meetei Council (WMC) and clearly Manipur has never been short of issues, if one may add. The ongoing peace talk and the sense of apprehension that it has sown down the years need not be understood only by what happened on June 18, 2001 but has in a way come to define the relationship between the hills and the valley. The seeds of a Greater Lim have spawned many an incident and the connect between economic blockade, which at one point of time entered the vocabulary of the average man in Manipur, is distinct. The connect between the Bangkok Declaration of June 14, 2001, the uprising of June 18, 2001 and the days of protest that followed June 18 the same year and the marathonesque 52 days economic blockade imposed by the All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur in 2005 cannot be simply brushed aside. Not the last such blockade and in many ways, majority of the economic blockades witnessed since then cannot be seen in isolation of the ongoing political dialogue between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India.
Economic blockade is not the only offshoot of the ongoing peace negotiation between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India. The peace talk too may be said to have impacted on the poll prospect of the Congress party in the Naga dominated districts of Manipur and the emergence of the Naga People’s Front may be seen as a political entity rising to fill the void left by the Congress. Mutual distrust came to define the relationship between people of the hills and the valley and in between Manipur witnessed the assertion of identities and interests based on ethnicity. So while one group of people started batting for Naga Nationalism another group started toying with the idea of Kuki identity, best voiced via the ongoing Suspension of Operation pact. In between the idea of Manipur as a distinct political reality was torn apart with the Meiteis standing solidly behind this idea. It is against this reality that prominent civil society organisations of Manipur including United Committee, Manipur (UCM) and All Manipur United Clubs’ Organisation (AMUCO) have taken a strong stand against any idea that can dilute the understanding of Manipur. How the final pact is worked out is anybody’s guess, but history of the land and the reality should not be lost when the final agreement is inked.