Manipur CM should be more pro-active than re-active

Manipur CM should be more pro-active than re-active
By Ninglun Hanghal, Columnist


Subsequent to Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi’s attempt to make the right political noise, accusing the center government of not consulting the Chief Ministers of the North East, specifically Arunachal, Assam and Manipur;  Nabam Tuki, Tarun Gogoi and Okram Ibobi  dashes to New Delhi after the August 3 Public Announcement of the Naga Peace Accord framework by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.   

Parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur comes under the “nagalim” or the greater Nagaland demand by the NSCN(IM).  Most importantly the state of Manipur is crucial given that the district of Ukhrul, Tamenglong, Senapati, Chandel are inhabited by the Nagas. NSCN(IM)’s general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah himself is from  Ukhrul in Manipur.

Moreover Manipur has witnessed numerous fallout of the peace process in the past– in terms of strong opposition and violent re-actions to the greater Nagaland demand that would include major chunk of geographical areas of the state; The June 2001 incident where 18 youths lost their life during violent protest against the Centre’s announcement for “extension of ceasefire without territorial limits”. The protests were mostly led by Manipur’s valley based civil society.

Ten years later, in May 2010 Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi took on all his might to prevent NSCN-IM leader Muivah from visiting his village in Somdal, Ukhrul. The incident led to the death of two students at Mao gate when the Nagas, mostly from Manipur were preparing to welcome their leader’s home coming.  

Both the incident were commemorated and marked as ‘martyrs days’ in Manipur, though separately. The former is commemorated in the valley and the later in the Naga areas in the hills.

In the two case, it is also clear that  the Manipur Chief Minister was not consulted by the centre before taking the decision.  Fortunately or unfortunately, the incidents turned in CM Ibobi’s favor. He manages to pull the sentiments of the people in Imphal valley, the Meitei populations to be specific, to his advantage. He became their hero and the people’s Chief Minister.

This time too, Manipur Chief Minister Ibobi plays the old game- that he was unaware and not consulted for the framework agreement and had demanded for the framework document from the Home Minister.  CM Ibobi was right in his own right. He had been kept out of the process from the beginning of the cease fire and subsequent peace talk between the NSCN(IM) and the Centre.

In fact even the Nagaland chief minister, TR Zeliang too was neither aware nor consulted of the announcement or the framework, nor other CMs in North East states.

On the other hand the NSCN (IM) or the Centre has their own arguments over the issue of ‘consultation’ with Chief Minister of North-East state.

As far as north-east rebel groups are concern, all talks, ceasefire agreements or signing of documents were held in New Delhi, with central ministers or Government officials. Even civil societies have been making beeline with their memorandums, demands, and propagandas to the various union Ministries in New Delhi. The NSCN(IM) alone is no exception.

There are some pertinent questions that surfaces, whether the state government(s) were not empowered to deal with such matters, or is it that the rebels or the civil society have no trust in the state government(s)? Given the complex and complicated centre – state structure and functioning, this provides ample opportunity for centre and state governments to play the blame game. The situation also breeds more conflicts than solving a problem.

A state like Manipur has seen and is still witnessing several conflicts and problems, ranging from autonomy demand to statehood to sovereignty, besides student bodies and civil society regularly calling for blockade, bandhs in protest against one matter or the other. In such a state of affairs, comes the pertinent role and responsibility of the state chief minister as the head of elected representatives of the people.

Furthermore, the opposition to the territorial issue of the greater Nagalim demand that would comprise of major areas from Manipur has an element of the  tribal , non tribal angle as well. The state CM and majority of the valley dwellers, the Meiteis in particular, feels a sense of proprietorship and ownership of the geographical state of Manipur and were therefore stiffly opposed to it. The demand for greater Nagaland also had its own share of inter-tribal feud leading to bloodshed and clashes.

There are grievances of the tribal inhabitants in Manipur, who feel discriminated and are disadvantaged. Governance and administrations in the tribal areas are nil if not absent. There is minimal development in the hills areas, whereas developments, if any, are concentrated in the state capital - Imphal valley.

In a state that has deep structural divides, between the privileged and less privileged , between the hills and valley dwellers, between tribal and non tribal inhabitants, the Manipur state chief minister should not  be merely re-acting to an issue that is as crucial as sovereignty, autonomy demand and peace processes. He has much greater responsibility in terms of being more pro-active to the situations and issues.   

After more than 15 years of the Naga talks , an alibi that he is not aware and kept in the dark would be arrogance on his part as a three time Chief Minister of a state. Ibobi can do much better than this. To start with, he must accept that the hill tribal dwellers are his own brethren, reach out to them and take them into confidence.