Nearing the one year mark Break the silence

Today is April 24, 2024 and in a few days from now, May 3, 2024 will be within shaking hands distance. Nearly one year since the clash erupted and over 60 thousand people continue to survive in the different relief centres set up across the State. Many are still missing and nobody knows how many more may be added to the over 200 killed so far. The silence of the Prime Minister continues and it was against this reality that the first phase of the Lok Sabha election was held on April 19, followed by repoll in 11 Polling Stations on April 22. Manipur, like the rest of the Nation will have to wait till June 4 to know who gets to represent the people in the Lower House of Parliament and while this is what may be said with certainty, the pertinent question of what the Government has been doing to restore a semblance of normalcy still hangs heavy in the air. What course of action may be taken up in the coming days is the question that must certainly be dogging the Government at Imphal, but so far there is nothing much to suggest that any concrete action has been taken up to settle things. The slogan, Solution first, Peace later, coined by the Committee on Tribal Unity and the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum, continues to haunt everyone. If Imphal does not have any roadmap to restore a sort of normalcy, a state when the Meiteis may take the road to travel from Imphal to Dimapur or when the Kukis displaced from Imphal and other valley districts may return to the homesteads they once called homes, Delhi should step in and open the avenues to help Manipur take the first step towards normalcy. How about the houses of the Meiteis which have not only been destroyed but levelled to the ground at Churachandpur and Moreh ? Is the State Government working on any plans to address these questions ? In a few days time the ongoing clash would have completed one full year and it is only right that questions be raised to see what steps the Government may have in mind to restore a semblance of normalcy. The guns have fallen silent in the last few days, but the silence of the gun cannot be equated with normalcy and reading otherwise would amount to refusing to acknow- ledge the reality. What has happened to the task entrusted to the Hill Areas Committee Chairman to reach out to the Kuki folks, probably under the ITLF and CoTU ? Is there any progress on this front ? Has the Government used its office to reach out to the Naga leaders, particularly the MLAs of the Naga People’s Front to try and break the ice ? How about taking another look at the Peace Committee which was formed during the early days of the clash and which has proven to be a non-starter ? Can’t Delhi take the initiative to give substance and meaning to such a Committee ?
The task ahead of the Government is clear and there cannot be two ways about it. Chart a roadmap to make Manipur take her first step towards normalcy. New Delhi has on more than one occasion ruled out dividing Manipur along ethnic lines. This may need to be repeated in no uncertain terms. For this perhaps the Centre may invite representatives of the State Government and the Kuki leaders, most fittingly the ten Kuki-Zo MLAs and talk things over. Simultaneously Delhi may explore the possibility of roping in the service of the Naga leaders and the Naga NGOs to see if they can be tasked with the responsibility of putting across each others’ stand  to either party and see how to take things to the next level. These are just suggestions that come to mind, but the fact remains that Manipur cannot afford to continue like this for ever. Manipur has already suffered enough. Over 200 have been killed while many others have gone missing, with no trace of their mortal remains. One year of clash, murder at sight, etc is long enough and perhaps it is time to create space for the moderates on either side to rise and give peace a chance. It also remains that to break the ice, it is important that the Prime Minister speaks. The silence, bordering more on indifference should not continue and this is precisely what the doctor would have prescribed.