Sunday, May 18, 2008

Manipur’s toothless chief minister

By Oken Jeet Sandham

We keep hearing about the worse law and order problem of Manipur and in fact chief minister O Ibobi has been summoned every now and then to Delhi to explain as to why he failed to contain the lawlessness in the state. His second inning as chief minister has not augured well as he was never given a peaceful atmosphere to run the administration by a handful of their own Congress MLAs trying to replace him. These Congress MLAs had been camping in national capital for months pressurizing Congress high command to replace him with Th Devendra. Interestingly, Devendra declined to take on Ibobi’s leadership.

For quite some time Manipur has been boiling. There are many underground organizations running paralleled governments and in fact O Ibobi’s government has reduced to such an extent that it cannot even react to any kind of militant threats in the state. It simply watches so helplessly to the spate of kidnappings of government officials for ransom by militants. The government employees are completely left at the mercy of those perpetrators. There is hardly any day passing without an incident of killing or kidnapping or threat to somebody else. The hospitals are not spared and the RIMS employees used to organize series of protest over the underground threats with the closing of OPD severely affecting patients needing treatment in the OPD. Dr Y Mohen Singh, RIMS Superintendent, said some outlawed organizations were collecting money from its employees. There had been instances of threats from the KCP (MC) with regard to monetary demands, he said.

The recent phenomenon was the killing of 15 migrant laborers by unidentified gunmen in the state. The incident of such nature had never occurred in the past in Manipur, although there had been occasion some 30 years ago of the mass movement by student organizations to drive outsiders out. That time, the movement was not only in Manipur but also other parts of the region particularly Assam. Undeniably, there have been feelings of insecurity in the minds of the so-called indigenous people when influx of outsiders keeps increasing and more so of the illegal migrants from across the international borders. The tiny state of Manipur having a population of about three million is plagued with serious unemployment crises. The state has over five lakh educated unemployed youths. In spite of all these, the indigenous people are generous and kind to outsiders. In fact, no sensible group would resort to doing such madness as a means to drive the outsiders out. There are ways to solve this problem.

Even in the state capital, Imphal, the citizens are afraid of going out after 6 p.m. The administration had, for the first time, imposed curfew in the city from dusk to dawn during “Yaoshang Festival” which is normally organized at night. Even one underground organization, PREPAK, attacked the state assembly with a grenade. A statement issued by the outfit said the grenade attack was its first warning to the leaders of the incumbent government led by Ibobi for his effort to take strong resolutions against underground groups and civilians helping the underground. The militant organizations in the state are ruling the roosts and the Ibobi government is becoming gradually toothless. Citizens have openly come out asking the chief minister to provide weapons so that they could face those underground cadres who have been constantly harassing them.

Can anybody believe that a land of jewels will devastatingly reduce to a land of terror? The land was a pride for every human being with their proud culture and tradition passed on from generation to generation. The people were known for their heroic acts at times of war and even they had proved their patriotism while defending their motherland. Such a place has today become a center of horror.

Understandably, the Congress-led UPA government at the Center is not taking the anarchic situation in Manipur seriously. But it was compelled to use some harsh language after the gruesome murder of 15 migrant laborers by unidentified gunmen last month in the state and this was evident from the comment of union minister of state for defense MM Palam who during a visit in the state said the Center might consider imposing President’s Rule (PR) in Manipur. If he says the Center is considering imposing PR due to the recent killing of migrant laborers in the state, it is unjustified as similar incidents had occurred in other parts of the country too. But if he says that there is no semblance of having any popular government in the state and thus PR is imminent, then he is right.

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