It is no secret that the North-east is a blind spot for many in ‘mainland India’. But for the government to turn a blind eye at a region which it gets het up about only when a foreign government makes proprietorial noises over it is downright damning. Letting a blockade last two months in Manipur is a dire failure of governance. The state, crucially dependent on essential commodities and fuel from outside, has been crippled by spiralling prices and poor connectivity. This is suicidal in a largely agrarian society. It beggars belief that the people of Manipur have been left largely to their own devices, blockaded as they are by a students’ body ostensibly to protest the decision by the Okram Ibobi Singh government to go ahead with the Autonomous District Council elections.
Various tribal students’ groups opposed this move earlier. But to compound the felony, the Centre, in what can be only considered an inexplicable move, ‘unilaterally’ allowed the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) leader Thuignaleng Muivah to visit Manipur. This, despite the fact that this would be waving a red rag in the face of the Ibobi government, which sees Mr Muivah as a perennial troublemaker. The Centre, fearful of jeopardising a fragile ceasefire in Nagaland, has shied away from reading Mr Muivah the riot act. Thanks to the Centre’s blunder, it is now left with little leeway in breaking the political impasse. It has been reduced to a bystander in a fight between two states, unable either to broker a peace or bring succour to the suffering people of Manipur.
How have things been allowed to get so out of hand? New Delhi has now gingerly begun airlifting essential commodities to the stricken state. It is this kind of ad hocism that has alienated the North-eastern states and left them vulnerable to political machinations of the sort we are witnessing now. There are several politicians in the government and the Opposition who have interest in and knowledge of the North-east. Now would be an appropriate time to draw on their expertise, set up a panel of experts to address the region’s festering problems and come up with timebound solutions. And will someone please lift the blockade before there is yet another disaffected set of Indians whom the Government of India ‘loses’?