Equating peace with lull in violence Silence of the gun

    21-Oct-2023
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Can peace be equated with the silence of the gun ? Can the law and order situation be deemed to have improved even if a section of the people still do not feel safe and secure to pass through any part of the State ? Can a place be said to have returned to normalcy if there are still thousands languishing in the different relief centres set up across the State ? The Government is best placed to answer these questions and the reported statement or proclamation of the Chief Minister by the sideline of the function held to mark the 132nd Manipur Police Raising Day that ‘90 percent peace has been achieved’ should be seen and understood in the context of the questions raised at the opening of this commentary. Even as the Chief Minister pronounced that ‘90 percent peace has been achieved’, the Co-ordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI) went on record to urge the State Government let the State police function to its optimal level at places such as Moreh. This is where another addendum may be added as a question, ‘Is the State police in a position to function to its full capability at Churachandpur, Moreh and Kangpokpi?’ If the answer is in the affirmative then what is stopping the Government from letting the displaced folks return to their homes at Churachandpur, Moreh and Kangpokpi ? Only the Government can answer this, but it should be kept in mind that even after a lapse of more than 150 days, no Meitei would feel safe and secure to take the Imphal-Dimapur/Guwahati route by road as the route passes through Kangpokpi, forget about going back to the said place. No Kuki would also feel secure to return to their homestead at Imphal and the valley districts. Even today, no Meitei would feel safe and secure to proceed beyond Moirang or even go to Ukhrul by road. Remember there are at least two Kuki villages one has to cross to  proceed to Ukhrul from Imphal by road. The guns have gone silent save for some reports of sporadic gun sounds coming from the foothills. There could be many reasons for this, but it would be foolhardy to equate this with Manipur returning to normalcy. Mutual suspicion and mutual hatred continue and there can be no two ways about it. This is the reality and any attempt to talk peace and normalcy would entail the necessity of admitting the reality. No clear cut answer on the way forward and it is also more than obvious that the Government too does not have a clue on how to put two and two together and chart out a roadmap to peace and normalcy.
Over 20 Meiteis are reported missing, according to a figure put forth by the COCOMI some time. It is not clear how many Kukis are missing as the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum, Committee on Tribal Unity and Kuki Inpi, Manipur have not come out with such a list but it is clear that a number of bodies are still lying unclaimed at Imphal. This is where COCOMI has come in with the rider that the bodies lying at the different morgues may be claimed only when the bodies of the killed Meiteis are handed over. An ugly reality which says that Manipur is yet to take the first step towards normalcy. Standing out amongst the missing are the two young students, Phijam Hemanjit and Hijam Linthoingambi, who went missing on July 6 and photos of them in captivity and their lifeless bodies went viral on the social media on September 25. The story of how Imphal rose in protest after that and the brutal crackdown by the security forces on the protesting students is  the story that has been told, but there is yet no sign that the Government is anywhere near recovering their bodies. From the interrogation of the alleged mastermind of the kidnapping and cold blooded murder of the two young students, the bodies of the two young students are buried somewhere near Lukkhraba Khul in Joujangek. The ‘no sign of anywhere near recovering the bodies’ line should be understood in the context of the alleged disclosure of the mastermind to the CBI. This is where questions can be raised on the ‘90 percent peace has been achieved’ line.