Adding fuel to fire

THE Kangleipak Students’ Association (KSA) alleging excesses by the state police, in the latter’s pursuit to hunt down members of the students’ organisation for orchestrating the on-going movement to demand reservation of eight assembly constituencies for indigenous people, has the potential to snowball into a major issue in case the state authorities do not exercise restraint or convince the agitation spearhead to come to the negotiating table. That the police personnel picked up father of a KSA member after the intended person could not be traced at home appears to be illogical as such measures were heard of only in the case of declared offenders or hardened criminals evading arrest. KSA’s contention about police teams launching search for it members in Thoubal, Bishnupur, Mayai Lambi and Imphal areas also suggest that either the government is trying to subdue the movement by applying pressure tactics or it has already shut the door for negotiation over the issue, which if allowed to persist will certainly create serious social turmoil as was experienced in the past when the ILP agitation brought the state capital to a complete halt on numerous occasions. That over 10 members of KSA have already been arrested in connection with the current stir is also worrisome as such arbitrary detention could infuriate the agitators and lead to even more intense agitation that could eventually derail normal activities, including possible disruption to academic chores. The said issue shaping up for an unwanted showdown between the establishment and the agitators could also be comprehended from women protesters storming Porompat police station on Sunday.

It needs no reminding that though the current movement is centred around the demands for deleting the names of non-locals from the electoral rolls and reserving the eight assembly constituencies, where the non-local population is poised to surpass the indigenes, exclusively for the native people to contest elections or cast vote, the genesis of the current movement is no different from that spearheaded by the Joint Committee on ILP System for implementing an effective mechanism to prohibit or regulate entry of non-Manipuris into the state. Regardless of the report that the education (s) director has directed the school authorities to confine the students in the classroom rather than allowing them to join the KSA-led agitation, such a ploy is unlikely to yield any positive result as could be comprehended from similar movements in the past seeing the proactive participation of students even though security teams were deployed in front of schools and colleges. Moreover, KSA’s assertion that all revolutions and social reformation are brought by students and youths, as well as categorically stating that democratic protests and raising genuine demands are the birth right of the students, indicate that the movement would be sustained at any cost. The current issue also seems to have been aggravated mainly due to the indifferent attitude of the government for none other than chief minister N Biren had assured during the recently held Assembly session to address the matter at the earliest possible. Thus, the message is loud and clear. The crackdown must be stopped and an atmosphere conducive to hold talks with the movement leaders must be created to regain public trust, or else, the situation may further deteriorate and the agitation could be exploited by those elements which are always looking for any opportunity to fan anti-establishment sentiments and create social discord.

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