Rasing the call to replace Minister Connecting the dots

Demanding that a Minister be dropped or a new face be appointed in place of the incumbent is par for the course but the demand raised by the Manipur Naga Youth Organisation (MNYO) to appoint a new Tribal Affairs and Hills Minister in place of incumbent Letpao Haokip needs to be seen in the context of the ground reality. No one seems to know how the 10 Kuki-Zo MLAs, much less the two Ministers among them, are dispensing with their official duty, but the call raised by the MNYO to appoint a new Tribal Affairs and Hills Minister in place of the incumbent Letpao Haokip needs to be seen beyond the par for the course understanding. This particular call is again significant in the sense that it has come from a student community representing the Nagas, a community which has maintained a totally neutral stand amid the ongoing ethnic clash between the Meiteis and the Kukis and this raises the question of how long Manipur can afford to continue like this. A Minister in charge of a portfolio as sensitive and important as the Tribal Affairs and Hills lying in a perpetual state of limbo for well over a year, reflects the reality of Manipur today and this is where the deafening silence of the Prime Minister becomes more and more unacceptable. Letpao Haokip and the Depart- ment he represents are but just one example and the more one studies and reflects on the condition that Manipur finds itself in, the more disturbing it gets. This is precisely the reason why this column has been repeatedly questioning how long Manipur can afford to continue like this and why no overt efforts to put the State and her people on the track of normalcy are seen. A voice has been raised against the functioning or non-functioning of Letpao Haokip and one wonders how the departments under Nemcha Kipgen are functioning. One may never know for Commerce and Industries will not hold a place as prominent as Tribal Affairs and Hills for the Naga population, but there is no reason to believe that it would be in a better position. There must be some deep political reasons why the BJP led Government at Imphal has not deemed it fit to drop the two from the Council of Ministers, even though they are among the ten MLAs to have raised the call for a Separate Administration, on the line ‘We cannot continue living with the Meiteis.’
No one knows when Manipur will see normalcy but the fact remains that no Meitei can afford to cross Sekmai in the North, Pallel in the South and Moirang in the West. Likewise no Kuki will be able to step into the valley districts particularly Imphal and this is how the situation has been like since late evening of May 3, 2023. The question is how long can situation continue like this ? Keep intact the territorial integrity of Manipur, but let buffer zones clearly demarcating ‘Meiteis cannot move beyond this or the Kukis cannot cross this line,’ adorn the understanding of Manipur ? Delhi needs to act. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has already admitted that large scale infiltration from across the border is one reason for the ethnic conflagration. Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also toed the same line. Take this reading along with the large scale incursion into Reserved and Protected Forests, the large scale deforestation and the expanding areas under poppy cultivation, the War on Drugs campaign launched by the State Government and one cannot miss the dots that connect the narrative. Place the SoO pact in the line of the dots and the picture of Zalengam metamorphosing in the call for a Separate Adminis- tration will fall in place. It is against this backdrop that the call to drop the Tribal Affairs Hills Minister should be viewed and given the importance it deserves. Likewise it would help that much more if Imphal can clearly spell out how the  Commerce and Industries Department has been functioning since May 3 of 2023.