Changing dynamics of bandhs in Manipur

IT seems that the present regime is trying to drive home the message that those who do not fall in line with its scheme of things will be dealt with without any impunity under laws of the land. Considering the rapidly evolving situation arising out of the Manipur University crisis, raiding the varsity hostels at midnight, relentless crackdown on whoever dares to oppose the government, shutdown of mobile data services and the chief minister himself mincing no words in tongue lashing all detractors, it is imminent that Manipur is poised to return to those old days when bandhs/strikes used to be the hallmark of the state. In the first year of its five-year term, the BJP-led coalition government created a record of sort when it successfully brought down incidences of bandhs/strikes or highway blockades, and gave the impression to the commoners that disruptive agitations would be history. Riding on its enviable achievement, the new government carried out a number of campaigns and programmes to reach out to all sections of the society, endeavoured to create a better understanding and bridge both emotional and developmental gaps which were some the root causes for the chronic social unrest. With the people made to believe that the government is here to listen and address public grievances, everything was working as per the wish-list of both the masses and the government. Such happy tidings, however, seem to be dissipating with bandhs/strikes returning with a vengeance of late. Compared to the tranquil debut year in office, crippling public agitations are taking place in the state and consequently compelling the government to suspect everybody as elements inimical to the society.

Two successive agitations in July – the first called to denounce alleged incursion into Manipur’s territory at Kwatha village followed by the second over the Manipur University issue, rung out the message that there are issues pending which could not be solved merely with soothing assurances that the state is destined to see development and eternal peace. Though it is obvious that the N Biren-government would never want to experience the tumultuous times that the previous government struggled with, there are issues that the new government cannot simply wish will fade away with the passage of time. No doubt, N Biren became the first chief minister in many years to be accorded rousing welcomes in Senapati and Ukhrul districts. However, there is no guarantee that similar warmth would be still prevalent in the said districts as could be comprehended from his comments on the Naga political issue evoking outright criticisms from Naga political and civil societies. Such impulsive reactions and other niggling issues indicate that in this issue-infested and multi-ethnic Manipur those at the helm of affairs would be the choicest subject of criticisms. It also rings out the message that whatever public goodwill the government had earned should have been efficiently channelized to sustain the momentum and earnestly worked to keep everybody in high spirit. It is also time that the government introspect reason for the growing government-public dissent instead of harbouring the concept that organisations with vested interests are misleading the public to agitate against the establishment. It would do well for the government to acknowledge that mass strike is protest against an administration as well as an attempt to force changes. If people feel strongly about an issue, then it is obvious that they will participate willingly enough in protests.

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