Anxiety in Manipur

It is extremely unfortunate that the Manipur Legislative Assembly should condemn, in the manner it has done, against what it perceived as the ‘clandestine entry’ of Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio to Senapati district of Manipur. The question is whether permission needs to be sought every time any person from Nagaland—or in this case the Chief Minister—has to travel through Manipur. Even then Rio’s convoy was only passing to get to a village in Nagaland and why blame the Chief Minister if to get to that particular village one has to pass by Manipur. The question of not giving the right of way should not have arisen and it is ridiculous to deny such a passage more so during peace time. In a similar vein, it will be equally ridiculous to deny the right of way to persons from Manipur wanting to pass by Kohima and Dimapur to reach Shillong or Guwahati. To go to the extent of politicizing even road travel is therefore unacceptable.

The gesture shown by Naga villagers to Rio at Mao Gate and Tadubi only explicates the inherent desire of the Nagas to live as one. This facet of emotional solidarity of the Naga people cutting across political boundaries from Myanmar, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Assam or Nagaland has been acknowledged as an undeniable fact of life for them. If it can be recalled, even Ibobi Singh had to use this ‘bond factor’ as a last resort when he had to call up his counterpart Neiphiu Rio (who is very much a Naga) to persuade the Naga students in Manipur on his own behalf at the height of the ANSAM economic blockade. 

That Congress leader and Manipur Chief Minister Ibobi Singh had no objection in condemning Rio’s conduct by the House is therefore not only inappropriate but creates confusion about the historic stand that was taken by the party on the integration issue. It may be recalled that more than thirty years ago in 1972, the Congress in Manipur signed an agreement with the then United Naga Integration Council (UNIC), led by veteran Naga leader Rishang Keishing. The UNIC’s subsequent merger with the Congress was based on the condition that the latter would not oppose the unification of Naga areas into one administrative unit and wherein Meitei political leaders gave their assurance to Nagas, on respecting the latter’s sentiment regarding Naga integration. As such the Congress party especially in Manipur must clarify its stand on the issue to the people. 

Rather than blaming the Nagaland Chief Minister on the charges that he was attempting to create a law and order problem or inciting communal insinuation, the outburst of the MLAs from the inner sanctorum of the Manipur Legislative Assembly may end up doing more harm than Rio’s soothing balm to his Naga brothers in Manipur. Regarding the banner reading “Welcome to South Nagaland, Shri Ibobi Singh”, which is raising a hue and cry, rather than ridiculing it, even the Manipur Chief Minister should appreciate the manner of a peaceful democratic protest. It also goes to show that people are prepared to resolve in a peaceful manner and without having to resort to violence and arms any issue with the Manipur Government. To suppress the free will of the people and deny peaceful expression to their cause is not advisable for the Manipur Chief Minister.