Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shooting the messenger ?

It comes close to a case of barking up the wrong tree or shooting the messenger ! The outburst against Union Home Minister P Chidambaram for stating that there is no question of compromising the territorial integrity of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh by the United Naga Council recently amounts to missing the target by miles. As the Union Home Minister, Chidambaram is sure to have his takes and views on the Greater Lim issue, but what he said on the floor of Parliament a few days back, is nothing more than what two Prime Ministers of India had said earlier. It is a little surprising to see that the UNC, which otherwise is regarded as a keen observer with a clear agenda guided by political prudence should overlook the subtle but significant points made by two Prime Ministers on the Lim issue earlier. Yes Chidambaram, in line with his personality, spoke out bluntly but let us not forget the recent Independence Day address to the Nation by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Not given to loud talks and rhetorics, the observation of the Prime Minister, “I would like to convey to all political parties and groups of the North East that disputes in the name of States or tribes can only harm us,” is pregnant with meaning and in a way is a direct address to the Lim issue. This is as good as what Mr Chidambaram said on the floor of the Parliament, though we do agree it was bereft of political niceties and diplomacy. Before Dr Manmohan Singh, Atal Behari Vajpayee, during his days as the Prime Minister in the NDA Government delivered a similar message, wherein he said that political consensus is needed to resolve the Lim issue, while addressing a public meeting at Kohima some years back. This is political prudence at its best. The question therefore is why the UNC should be so rankled by the statement of Mr Chidambaram, when all he did was echo the message of the two Prime Ministers in clear cut terms, without dolling it up with political niceties and diplomacy. In such a charged up political scenario, the decision of the apex Naga body in Manipur to extend the 20 days economic blockade by yet another 25 days is not surprising. The 20 days economic blockade announced by the UNC came into force on August 4 and was to wind up by 6 am of August 24, which is today (Tuesday). However as things stand today, the blockade has been extended by another 25 days and to put it bluntly, we will not be surprised if Manipur as a whole remain indifferent to it, as like bandhs and general strikes, economic blockade has also lost its novelty and down the years the rest of Manipur have learnt to cope with what is available, without making much of a hue and cry. This is precisely the reason why there was no response or even the slightest hint of an acknowledgement when the indefinite blockade was suspended on June 18 this year after 68 days of cutting off the lifelines of the State. That the decision to decide the fate of the people of Manipur was taken at Kohima only added to the chagrin of the people and of course no one could have missed the arrogance in the tone of the blockade sponsors, when they announced the suspension of the economic blockade. Much have been said about the demand raised by the NSCN (IM) to integrate all Naga inhabited areas under one administrative umbrella as well as the stiff opposition to this demand by civil society organisations like the All Manipur United Clubs' Organisation and the United Committee Manipur. In fact, before the demand for a Greater Lim became vocal and before this idea was passed on to the Naga civil society organisations in Manipur by the NSCN (IM), AMUCO had demonstrated great far sightedness in organising the massive integrity rally on August 4, 1997, which has since served as the rallying point for all those who stand for a unified Manipur.
After August 4, 1997, Manipur has experienced troubling times, such as the June 18 incident of 2001, the 52 days economic blockade imposed by the All Naga Students' Association, Manipur in 2005 to the stand off between the NSCN (IM) and the State Government over the proposed visit of Th Muivah to his native place sometime in the early part of May this year. The Mao incident of May 6, 2010 in which two young students lost their lives and the 68 days economic blockade that followed are all intrinsically linked to the Lim issue and there is every reason to pre-suppose that the stiff opposition to the election to the Autonomous District Council had something or everything to do with the Lim demand. Otherwise, how can one explain the diametrically opposing stand taken by the Kukis and the Nagas, for the ADCs are meant for the tribal people and these two represent the biggest tribes in Manipur. Or are we to believe that the opposition to the ADC election was solely linked to the third amendment of 2008 ? We do not really comprehend the finer nuances of the politics of the ongoing peace parleys between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India, so we really do not know whether Union Home Minister P Chidambaram is answerable to the various charges levelled against him by the UNC, but one point that is clear to us is, the Home Minister said what other political leaders have said before him, though not as directly and as bluntly as him. The examples of the two Prime Ministers, we have cited above, should be self explanatory. It was not only the statements of the two Prime Ministers, but if we care to minutely study the political developments vis-a-vis the Lim issue, the roll back of the term “without territorial limits” from the June 14, 2001 Bangkok Declaration during the days of the NDA regime, way back in July 2001, should have conveyed the core message. The points we have quoted, obviously blew over the heads of organisations like the UNC. It is a pity that the UNC reacted only against the statement of the Union Home Minister, though the fact stands that two Prime Ministers before him had said much the same thing, though they put it differently.

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