‘Solution first, peace later’ sloganPoints to ponder for all
‘Solution First, Peace Later.’ This is the slogan that the ingeniously christened Committee on Tribal Unity (CoTU) and the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), seem intent on living up and by default this means that these two bodies are not ready to give peace a chance. And it stands that for Manipur to come anywhere near the understanding of peace, people on either side will have to demonstrate that they are willing to listen. That is listen to reasoning. To Manipur, the solution that the ITLF and CoTU are seeking falls beyond the realm of discussion. Cannot live with them, meaning the Meiteis, is the line of reasoning that has been peddled for the ‘separate administration’ call, while the fact remains that it was under the supervision of ITLF that the first match stick was struck on May 3 at Torbung located 12 kilometres beyond Chura-chandpur. Imphal and the valley districts retaliated only late into the evening of May 3 and while many may say that the retaliation was bloody, it stands that such a reaction would not have come if gun toting elements had not taken part in the Tribal Solidarity March of May 3 and if houses had not been razed to the ground at Torbung and later at the Meitei settlements at Churachandpur town. The levelled fields at Churachandpur town today stand as mute spectators of the Meitei houses which were bull dozed, pulled down to the ground and levelled to make them look like vast football fields. Students studying at the newly opened Churachandpur Medical College as well as Meiteis staying at Churachandpur back then, were saved not due to the benevolence of anyone but due to the needed action taken up by the State machineries there. It was also more or less the same at Kangpokpi and Moreh, with many still having to live at Relief Centres at Imphal and at the other valley districts. 175 people have been killed on either side of the clash divide while 32 are still missing, including a young man who was a former editorial staff of The Sangai Express. If the May 4 nude parade of two girls grabbed the attention of the Nation, forcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break his silence and utter some words of condemnation, the recent video clip of two Meitei youths being mocked, thrashed, shot dead with their bodies being hacked later and rolled into a ditch has been met with a stoic silence from the people who matter. It is against this reality that the separate administration call, seasoned with the line ‘we cannot live with them anymore’, has been raised and nothing could be more unacceptable than this. Playing the victim card and reaching out to foreign countries, notably the European Parliament and Israel, underlines the reason behind the call for a National Register of Citizens.
More than four months down the line since violence erupted and the clash is today no longer understood only in the context of the direct clash between two adversaries but in the way in which different tactics have been used to discredit the other side. The manner in which attempts were made to portray the clash as one between tribals and non-tribals, as a clash along religious divides and the numerous tactics being employed to garner the sympathy of the country and beyond are starkly visible. It was this desperate attempt to discredit the other side that the story or stories of the clash featured in the European Parliament, in how Israel was sounded etc. The longer the clash is allowed to drag on the more difficult it will become for Manipur to walk the road to normalcy and this seems to be the biggest challenge before the Government. Imphal is literally lost other than just looking up to New Delhi to deliver the magic formula. New Delhi too is still groping in the dark and even as Imphal and Delhi continue to grope in the dark, bodies on either side keep piling up. As repeatedly pointed out in this column, the road to normalcy will have to start from the people. At the same time it is also important to question what it is that Manipur wants. The Kukis have already raised the demand for a separate administration. What is it that Imphal would want ? Can a united voice be raised on this ?