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Manipur Pays the Price for Centre's Illiteracy or Dishonesty

Amar Yumnam

The recent decision by the BJP-led government in the Centre to extend the Indo-NSCN (IM) ceasefire without any territorial limits can best be explained from two angles. One is the Centre's desire to see continuance of underdevelopment in the north east. The other way of explaining it is by taking recourse to the Centre's illiteracy about issues pertaining to the region. As events unfold, the first explanation is becoming increasingly truer.

Centre's Dishonesty:

It has been the charge of the people in the region that the Centre all along has not been sincere in so far its dealings with the region are concerned. This seems to be established beyond doubt by the recent happenings. For the last quite a few years, the thinkers from the region have been insisting that the region should be taken away from the clutches of the Home Ministry and be put , as in the case of the others, under the purview of the respective purview of the development institutions. Indeed, it would amaze any development analyst that even the development agency, the North Eastern Council is under the Home Ministry.

For the last few years, we have been observing increasing assertion by the people of North East origin in different spheres of Indian polity, starting from sports to politics. This definitely has not been to the liking of the Indian policy makers. They have been so used to playing the paternalistic role and have all along thought with arrogance that they are the superior beings. Though the mandarins in Delhi have been using arguments so invalid in the context of the realities that the region has been a favoured one from the perspective of Centre's investments. This is an argument which simply does not hold water if we look at the size of the absolute investments made as against the threshold requirements for the development of the region.

However, despite the Centre's efforts the region, as I said, has started asserting itself in all spheres of life in India. Besides, in the last few years, we see a strong emergence of a regional identity and increasing interaction among the different ethnic groups in the region. Here we must put on record that, the increasing interaction among the people of the region is due to the efforts of the civil society in the region and not because of efforts of the government of India. This definitely has caused sleeplessness to the Indian policy makers in Delhi.

So the government led by the party adept in playing the communal card started looking for an opportunity to nib in the bud this coming into prominence by the people of the North East and destroy the strength built up by the civil society in the region. It may be of interest in this context that, only a few months back the home ministry had cast aspersion on the sincerity of the NGOs working in the region.

The unfortunate feature in the recent ceasefire extension is the trap in which the Centre has put the NSCN(IM) and thereby projecting the leaders of this organisation as communalists. Since the region, and particularly Manipur has such a strong inner strength of secularism, the first round of reactions and all the events after that had failed to fuel the communal fire. This seems to be causing further sleeplessness to the Central leaders as is evident from the unwarranted delay in taking a final decision on the matter.

Centre's Illiteracy:

The other explanation we can think of is the likely ignorance of the Centre of the realities in the region. The Centre conducts its policies in the region on the basis of reports from the army. There is no think tank based in the region. The "experts" on the region advising the Centre are at best army retirees or those civil servants who had had only a short stint in the region. They do not understand the inner dynamics of the society in the region. The features of this dynamism are such that they need to be constantly observed and reassessed. The "Central advisers" neither have the expertise nor the outlook for such an exercise.

State Destroying State:

In fine, I would like to point out that the situation we now face in Manipur is one where the state destroys itself. The Centre has tolerated, rather been a party to the increasing irrelevance of the constitutional institutions for the sake of satisfying one organisation. We now have 144 Cr. P.C. and Curfew imposed for almost a month, but the power of spontaneous defiance by the people is so strong that the state has no power to enforce observance of its own impositions. The state is destroying itself in Manipur. Or is it that a new state is emerging?

Amar Yumnam is a Professor of Economics in Manipur University. He has been a consultant to many national and international organisation


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