October 12, 2011
If the economic blockade organised by the Sadar Hills District Demand Committee (SHDDC) is to continue further, it has the potential to develop into an ethnic conflict in Manipur. The SHDDC, has been organising a blockade of national highways 2 and 37 since the past 72 days. The two highways are the lifeline of the state’s economy and the blockade has literally chocked the state out of its fragile economic life. The two highways, the jugular veins of the state’s economic life are preferred targets of protesters inside and outside Manipur. It is reported that the state government is yet to find an amicable solution to the problem.
SHDDC has been spearheading the demand to convert Sadar Hills into a full-fledged district, a demand allegedly pending since 1992. On the contrary, Naga outfits and Naga political parties, like the United Naga Council (UNC) are also agitating against the possible division of what they consider as ‘Naga areas’, should the new districts are formed. Indeed, it is for the government and the protesting parties to find a solution to the issue. However, that does not mean that the state administration can absolve itself from its responsibility of attending to the daily needs of the ordinary citizens who find life miserable in Manipur.
It is reported that ordinary commodity prices in Manipur have skyrocketed since the blockade to such levels, that for instance to buy fuel, people have to pay several times the actual price. Many hospitals in the state have already stopped undertaking surgeries or even admitting patients due to the lack of medical oxygen. Commodities that trickle into the state have to be escorted with heavy security due to threats from the protesters. This not only delays movement of the commodities and affect perishable goods, but also causes a heavy dent upon the country’s and the state’s expenses, which at the end of the day is taxpayers’ money. Various factions of the protesters burned several trucks during this strike, for which the state government today has decided to pay compensation. There is no guarantee however, that no more trucks would be burned or property destroyed.
What stands out however is the apathy of the state and central government in finding means to end the present impasse. Indeed there are shortsighted political benefits by suffocating the people for everyone who have thrown their hats upon the table in Manipur. Driving the people to the verge of an ethnic conflict, which the present blockade has the potential for, given the already volatile environment in the state and in its neighbourhood, is the last curse the state and central government with the connivance of warring fractional interests could deliver to the people living in the region.
In a state like Manipur where the term ‘accountability’ and ‘responsibility’ makes no sense for its government, an ethnic violence would be additional reason for the corrupt state administration to milk more money from wherever it can in the name of security. Understanding this, it must be for the people living in the region to show their intellect and not fall prey to fractional interests.
None can save and serve a community better than the people who make it.