More than something is rotten in the state of Manipur. And utter neglect lies at the source of the crippling problems that the people of Manipur are reeling from — for nearly 40 years now. Civil society in Imphal and across the state’s nine administrative districts has been squeezed out between insurgent groups who have found an opportunity to continue to ply their hafta (protection money) trade under the cover of ideology, and the total absence of law and order that the authorities have decided to leave unrepaired and leave conditions ripe for perpetual exploitation. To put it bluntly, Manipur is in ruins.
Why doesn’t the central government, whose mission is to make the Great Indian Success Story an all-inclusive narrative, intervene to at least make that first move of identifying the man-made basketcase that is Manipur? Or do the paltry two Lok Sabha seats and the general apathy of ‘mainland Indians’ towards the North-eastern states make an intervention not worth the while?
In December 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had talked about amending the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 that has been implemented in Manipur since the 1960s. Referring to the Jeevan Reddy Commission’s report, Mr Singh had stated that there were genuine ‘grievances’ of the people of Manipur. Almost three years later, the law that empowers military forces to arrest, shoot and kill ‘suspects’ remains. The reportedly ‘fake’ encounter on July 23 this year of a former insurgent by police commandos has since been followed by other similar ‘unaccounted for’ deaths. In the face of no one being brought to justice and Imphal being, for all purposes, a curfew town where life is increasingly becoming nasty, short and brutish, someone from the venerable government of India — of which Manipur is a part of — should do the right thing: impose President’s Rule and start bringing order back.
For those — both ‘locals’ and ‘outsiders’ — using Manipur for their own devices, such an intervention will be bad news. They will argue their case, pointing to other sources for the mess that is the state. But in a place where roads are crumbling, educational institutions are shut, people are too scared to step out of their houses or of being summarily being dragged out, and where deaths occur without explanations, the Government of India owes it to the people of Manipur to rescue them from oblivion.