[Reader-list] Are Manipuris less important than Kashmiris?

Grace Jajo gracejajo at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 6 15:02:21 IST 2010

Dear all,

The economic blockade is not imposed by the "Naga rebels".
Please find time to read this piece as well.

Grace Jajo

http://www.hindusta ntimes.com/ Why-the-road- blocks-really- started/Article1 -547310.aspx
Suhas Chakma, Hindustan Times
May 23, 2010
First Published: 01:35 IST(23/5/2010)
Last Updated: 01:37 IST(23/5/2010)
Why the road blocks really started
Manipur is in the news for the wrong reasons again. After the State government foiled the visit of NSCN Chief T. Muivah to Manipur on May 6, the Naga Students Federation joined the fray to block NH-39 and NH-53 — the lifelines of Manipur. The prices of essential commodities shot up. Petrol cost about Rs 200 a litre. It made headlines. But the media and the political parties missed the complete story, again. 
Muivah’s proposed visit only accentuated the blockade of the national highways already imposed by the All Naga Students’ Association, Manipur and the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur on April 11. They have been protesting the elections to be held on May 26 under the controversial Manipur (Hill Area) District Council Act (Third Amendment) 2008. 
As everybody sees the blockade through the Muivah prism, the cause espoused by the students unions has been subsumed. The Manipur (Hill Areas) District Councils Act, 1971 gave the district councils powers to legislate, plan and implement development programmes in the hill areas. It gave these councils full executive powers. 
In the last 39 years, the state government failed to transfer many of the subjects to the district councils. Even executive powers relating to hospitals, primary health centres, high schools and colleges, and roads other than national highways in the hill areas, were not transferred. 
Instead, the Manipur government adopted the controversial Manipur  District Council Act which has been opposed by the tribals. The amended Act destroys the powers of the tribal villages. The Manipur government turned the district councils into its agents instead of truly autonomous bodies. Therefore, the blockade. 
The tribals of Manipur are divided along community lines and have disagreements with regard to the model district council to empower them. Yet, there is no doubt that the Nagas and the Kukis agree that the current Act must go. 
The Imphal valley has been badly affected by the road blocks. The hill areas too have been affected by the counter blockade launched by the United Committee Manipur and women groups since May 11. 
The country will have to pay the price for the mishandling of Muivah’s visit. As the battle lines are drawn on communal lines, civil society groups have been propagating a communal agenda.
Manipur is not monolithic. The hills have the same story to tell about the Imphal valley as Manipur has to tell about New Delhi.
The author is the director of Asian Centre for Human Rights, Delhi
http://www.hindusta ntimes.com/ StoryPage/ Print/547310. aspx
© Copyright 2009 Hindustan Times

----- Original Message ----
From: Pawan Durani <pawan.durani at gmail.com>
To: reader-list <reader-list at sarai.net>
Sent: Fri, 4 June, 2010 4:41:23 AM
Subject: [Reader-list] Are Manipuris less important than Kashmiris?


*New Delhi's inaction on the grim situation in Manipur, whose people are
facing untold hardship due to the economic blockade by Naga rebels, is
shocking and can have disastrous consequences for India, warns Colonel (Dr)
Anil Athale (retd)*

Indians often complain that when they visit the northeast, they are asked if
they have come from India. Conversely, many north-easterners are asked for a
passport, as they are mistaken to be foreigners. There is a communication
gap and there are problems of distance; but lack of governance and the
media's obsession with happenings in Delhi has widened the gulf further.

As the economic blockade of Manipur by Naga rebels enters the second month,
the miseries of common Manipuri citizens have seldom found space on the
so-called national media. The price of petrol has gone up to Rs 150 a litre
and a gas cylinder costs Rs 2,000. Delhi either seems asleep or too weak to
take any action to break this blockade.

I am reminded of another era and another blockade. I refer to the oil
pipeline blockade organised by Assam agitators in 1980s. The idea was
that if the oil remained blocked in the pipeline through winter, the heavy
crude would freeze. Oil experts had warned that if the oil was not flushed
out, the whole pipeline would have to be replaced as cleaning the wax would
cost more than a new pipeline. We had the no-nonsense Indira Gandhi as the
prime minister then. She ordered the army to solve the problem.

Secretly, the army sent its engineers to the Gujarat oil fields and trained
soldiers in complex operations (codenamed *Amar Prem*). Once the army was
ready, in a swift operation, the troops were airlifted to oil fields and in
a fortnight, Operation *Indra Vajra* broke the oil blockade.

The Assam agitation never recovered from that blow and such a tactic has
never been attempted again.

The saddest part is that today the National Socialist Council of Nagaland
rebels are a shadow of their former self. There is very little support for
them in Nagaland, since their leader Thuingaleng Muivah is himself from
Manipur. It is possible to call the rebel's bluff and end the blockade. If
need be, the Indian government should threaten to revoke the ceasefire and
resume operations. But such is the lethargy/indifference of the Centre that
a small group of trouble makers have been holding the whole state of Manipur
to ransom.

The media silence is in glaring contrast to the shrill noises made when a
couple of years ago Kashmir valley faced a similar blockade in Jammu.

But there is another major failing that this episode has brought to light,
namely the utter paralysis of decision-making. Seems Union Home Minister P
Chidambaram is so overwhelmed by the Naxals and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism
that the woes of Manipuris are not registered in Delhi.

Our think tank Inpad was at the forefront of demanding the reform of higher
decision making apparatus and had hoped that now that the National Security
Council and its associate organisations are in place, security issues would
receive due attention and see refined decision-making.

The reason to voice this disappointment is that the kind of deep
psychological wound this would inflict on the Manipuris would create trouble
in the future. Are Indian citizens of Imphal not as important as those
living in the Kashmir valley?

The saddest part is that there is a non-violent solution, though a temporary
one! Manipur has a common border with Myanmar (Burma) at Moreh. A limited
border trade is permitted across the border. What stops the government from
importing petroleum products from Myanmar? The infrastructure up to Moreh is
reasonably developed and the road to the border post runs mostly through
Meitei-dominated (Meitei are the majority ethnic group in Manipur) areas.

Simultaneously, the NSCN must be served an ultimatum -- that their greater
Nagaland demand can only be achieved through peaceful means and violence
would mean an end to the ceasefire.

Our foreign office seems so obsessed with our neighbour to the west that it
fails to think of these alternatives.

On a visit to Nagaland two years ago, I found that the Nagas have no desire
to resume armed conflict. Nagaland is already enjoying the dividends of
peace -- it has the lowest percentage of people below poverty line and
thanks to the reservation policy, many Naga youth are in the IAS, IFS and

Some years ago, when the agitation against the Armed Forces Special Powers
Act was at its peak in Manipur, I had suggested that the least the
government could do was to hand over the Thoubal Palace area to the people
(since British times it has been occupied by the Assam Rifles and was a
reminder to the Meiteis of their humiliation). Somewhere, someone apparently
liked the idea and today the area has a lovely garden and a monument.

The situation in Manipur is indeed desperate and any delay will leave a deep
scar on its people's psyche. After the Bangladesh victory, it was said that
Indira Gandhi not only made history but also changed geography! Her
daughter-in-law (Sonia Gandhi) who is the current supreme leader of the
ruling party, may also get that credit (though with disastrous consequences
for India), for let us make no mistake, the neglect of Manipur's woes by
tolerating the economic blockade would reap a whirlwind of secessionist
movement by the Meiteis.

*Colonel Ani Athale (retired) is the coordinator of Pune-based think-tank
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