Time for Imphal to set the agenda Grasping the reality
Let it be very clear. The ongoing clash is not one along religious divide. Interpreting it as a clash between the tribals and non-tribals would also be missing the wood for the trees. It is not a question of one community riding rough shod over the other and this should negate and neutralise all the desperate attempts that have been peddled to play the victim card. What is however clear is the politics that is at play here and the uncanny knack of some section of the people to fall hook, line and sinker for the game plan that has been whipped up with so much dexterity. And it has been like this since the evening of May 3, when Manipur went up in flames. More like a case of the people of Imphal and the valley districts moving and gyrating in sync with the sound of the drum beats that come from Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Moreh. At the same time it has also been a case of the people who believe in the reality of a place called Manipur falling woefully short of acknowledging the reality and in the process failing to spin out a narrative that serves the interests of Manipur. It was only in the first week of August that Union Home Minister Amit Shah informed Parliament that illegal immigration is one big factor for the ongoing clash between the Meiteis and the Kukis. Prime Minister Narendra Modi who took to the floor of the Parliament the next day more than backed the stand of his Deputy in asserting that the details of the clash has already been spelt out by his Home Minister. Fast forward to September 27 and there is Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar informing a discussion session at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York that ‘One part of the problem in Manipur has been the destabilising impact of migrants who have come.’ The Foreign Minister capped this off with his observation...‘There are also tensions that have a long history.’ In the given context, the tension that the Union Foreign Minister talked about can be seen against the land law, wherein the majority Meiteis can settle in only 10 percent of the total geographical area of Manipur but is forbidden by law to own land in the hills. Lopsided one would say and making it all that more queer is the fact that more than 60 percent of the State population crowd into the 10 percent size of Manipur. This is where the observation of S Jaishankar is interesting and important.
The Kukis have gone to town yakking about the number of MLAs in the House of 60 but the moot point is, the 40 seats in the valley are not reserved for the Meiteis. All the 40 seats are open for anyone and old timers will recollect how the late Professor Gangmumei Kamei was one of the favourites to win from Thangmeiband Assembly Constituency in 1980. The late Professor belonged to the tribal group and this example is being cited to underline the point that none of the 40 seats in the valley area are reserved for the Meiteis, which is not the case for the 19 seats in the Hills. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot contest from any of the 19 seats as they are reserved for the Scheduled Tribe. This reality should be seen and understood against the latter part of the observation of the Foreign Minister and this is where it should be deeply and sincerely studied on why Imphal and the valley districts have not been able to capitalise on the stand of the Prime Minister, the Union Home Minister and now the Foreign Minister. New Delhi’s position, when the Manipur issue was made to figure in the European Parliament is another point that should have been exploited in such a way that it worked to the advantage of Manipur, but unfortunate it is that no worthwhile effort towards this end could be seen. This is where the lack of a visionary leader who can guide Manipur out of the current crisis with head held high is acutely felt. It is also important for the people to come to a definite stand and decide who it is they are fighting against. Remember those who have been threatening the idea of Manipur have Mizoram openly backing their stand, while no other State in the North East region has come forward to bat for Manipur as a distinct geo-political reality. This is how things stand and all steps must be taken keeping in mind this grim reality.