The Manipur triangle
MANY would be hoping that the February 3 tripartite talks in New Delhi will bring an end to the protracted economic blockade as the siege on the two lifelines of Manipur has not only been causing immense hardships to the common people but also has the potential to heighten communal tension in the multi-ethic society. Without any doubt, the Chief Judicial Magistrate granting bail to two functionaries of the agitating UNC for their participation in the proposed dialogue is to clear some of the obstacles that had been hindering efforts of civil society organisations to bring the parties in dispute to the negotiating table. That the blockade, imposed since November 1, 2016, has been one of the core issues which has been plaguing Manipur could be assumed from the fact that the past three months of UNC agitation had witnessed unknown armed persons slaying security personnel in ambushes along the Imphal-Moreh road, disarming state forces in a Tamenglong district area, torching of vehicles and damaging goods during counter-blockade agitations, civilians suffering injuries in crackdown by security forces against blockade enforcers and fervent appeals from different sections of the society failing to soften stand of the UNC to name a few. The blockade issue is also being raked up by politicians to draw public sympathy in the run up to the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly election.
The latest twist to the effort for ending the blockade is the Kuki Inpi submitting memorandum to representatives of parties, which would be involved in the tripartite talks, that other than ending the highway agitation, the meeting should abstain from reaching any agreement related to the traditional boundaries of the three major communities namely Meetei, Naga and Kuki without the consent of the said communities. Taking into account of the bloody Naga-Kuki clashes in the early 1990s, which had active involvement of cadres of the armed NSCN-IM due to latter’s objective for creating Greater Nagaland, composed of Naga inhabited areas in the north east region and Myanmar, the Inpi’s concern on whether the Delhi talk will lead to an agreement, other than ending the blockade, that would undermine aspiration of the Kuki people is understandable. With the UNC-sponsored indefinite economic blockade creating serious inconveniences to the public and stock of petroleum products left at the nadir, civil society organisations have been demanding that the Manipur government and UNC should iron out their differences through the dialogue process. In-spite of the common people’s wish that the blockade is lifted at the earliest, finding a solution to the vexed issue would be a herculean task as the UNC has been demanding that the decision to create new districts should be withdrawn whereas the state government continues to remain firm that there is no question of rolling back the policy for granting the district status. With elections round the corner, the Congress government is unlikely to take the risk of upsetting the voters in the newly created districts. With numerous indigenous communities settling in Manipur since time immemorial, satisfying interest and aspiration of all the ethnic people would be improbable unless the parties in dispute tone down their tough postures so as to preserve the age-old bond amongst the communities belonging to the Naga, Kuki and Meetei groups.