Manipur blockade: The Congress and BJP must stop shadow boxing
With elections round the corner, the blockade is not just a simple blockade anymore. Both the ruling Congress and the BJP, which is eyeing for the state, are trying to exploit the impasse politically.analysis Updated: Dec 12, 2016 22:56 IST
In Manipur, economic blockades have become a part and parcel of daily life.
The latest one started on November 1 with the United Naga Council (UNC) enforcing a blockade on the highways to protest against Congress chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s move to upgrade Sadar Hills (under a new name, Kangpokpi) and Jiribam to full-fledged districts.
Recently, the state government announced the formation of five new districts other than Jiribam and Kangpokpi: Tengoupal, Pharzol, Kakching, Noney and Kamjongin. The UNC, which claims to represent Naga interests, is vehemently opposed to the creation of the Sadar Hills district out of the Senapati district, with a substantial Naga population. The creation of new districts has been a subject of ethnic strife in Manipur since 1971, when it was first proposed.
The shutdown gathered more steam after the state government arrested UNC president Gaidon Kamei and information secretary Stephen Lamkang, who have been remanded in custody till December 22. Faced with demands for their release for ending the blockade, chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, however, told a national daily, “The law will take its own course.”
Since the start of the blockade, there has been no normal movement of trucks on National Highways 2 and 37 — lifelines that pass through Naga villages — or along the 100-km Imphal-Moreh Road on the Trans Asian Highway No 1. The prices of commodities have gone through the roof.
With elections round the corner, the blockade is not just a simple blockade anymore. Both the ruling Congress and the BJP, which is eyeing for the state, are trying to exploit the impasse politically.
Union human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar, who is the party-in-charge of elections in Manipur, last week charged the Congress government in Manipur for not resolving the blockade issue in the State.
Ibobi Singh, who has been in power since 2002, told a national daily: “The UNC does not respond to our invitations to hold talks on the stand-off and other issues. So we requested Home Minister Rajnath Singh to resolve the crisis by convening a tripartite meeting.” However, his government had backed out of a meeting with the Centre and the UNC on November 15. Home Ministry officials met representatives of the UNC as planned but failed to break the impasse.
The CM has also accused Union home minister Rajnath Singh of double standards, alleging that he has not at all conveyed to state BJP leaders to give the CM concrete proposals on the UNC economic blockade.
“Who is behind the UNC is an open secret,” said Ibobi Singh, indicating the support of NSCN-IM. “NSCN I-M is in ceasefire with Government of India and though intervention from MHA is very much needed to call-off the economic blockade”.
For the BJP, the unrest works to its favour; they are hoping that the public would get disillusioned with the Congress government and vote for ‘development’.
Some, however, feel that the new districts will work in the favour of the Congress in the elections: “The timing [of new districts] is important. The budget for new districts and development work will have to be incorporated in FY 2017-18,” a senior journalist wrote in an editors’ forum on Facebook.
“There is every possibility that the people who will be benefited (read: majority) with the new born district will surely like to see the Congress in power for another term to ensure implementation of the notification (new district) without any hindrance”.