Tough talks, insipid measures
Amid the tempestuous mud-slinging involving Congress and BJP leaders, over who actually should make the first move for lifting the on-going economic blockade being enforced on the two lifelines of Manipur, reports about Union home minister Rajnath Singh meeting chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh at the national capital as well as advising Ibobi’s Nagaland counterpart TR Zeliang could be viewed as the Union government eventually acknowledging that Nagaland too could play a pivotal role in restoring normal transportation of essential goods to neighbouring Manipur. In view of some Nagaland civil society organisations not hesitating to extend moral and physical support to Naga CSOs, which have been making it a point to lay siege on the two national highways that connect Manipur with the rest of the country as a pressure tactics, Rajnath seeking Zeliang’s cooperation in keeping the National Highway-2 open between Dimapur and Mao Gate could be due to the Centre’s realisation that Nagaland-based organisations have not been very helpful in mitigating suffering of the people of Manipur. On account of substantial length of the NH-2 passing through Nagaland, including its capital Kohima, the Nagaland CSOs are apparently harbouring the concept that they have every right to decide the fate of the Manipuris.
Another significant development of the meeting between Rajnath and Ibobi is about the former tersely remarking that if the Government of Manipur fails in its Constitutional duties then the Centre may have to explore other measures under the provisions of Constitution of India to ensure that difficulties of people of Manipur are alleviated, as well as the chief minister insisting that the highway siege should end first before any further steps are taken to hold talk with the agitating United Naga Council. Regardless of efforts being made by the governments and civil society organisations of Manipur to solve the humanitarian crisis, the state government’s inexorable stand that the transportation of goods should be normalised, contrary to the agitating council demanding that two of its arrested leaders should be released without any condition will definitely be a huge stumbling block in relieving the people from the current spell of shortage of essential commodities. Information about the Union home minister assuring a delegation of state CSOs to provide additional central forces for securing the national highways is also unlikely to have the desired impact as neither the Centre nor the state government would have any enthusiasm to use force upon the civilians, especially along the Naga dominated Mao-Senapati section of NH-2, in case blockade enforcers try to foil the plan for bringing in goods with security escorts. Considering the limited options before the governments, more sensible measures for ensuring regular transportation of daily requirements would be to deploy security forces in adequate strength along the comparatively safer Imphal-Jiribam stretch of NH-53 and increase frequency of convoy of goods carriers. Focus on accelerating construction of RCC bridges on the said route and proper maintenance of the road during the working season will also be helpful in achieving the long-term goal of neutralising disruptive acts by elements inimical to interest of Manipur.