Manipur: Contours of a failed state
The ongoing siege of Imphal on account of the demand for implementation of the Inner Line Permit has reached absurd limits. Free movement of people and vehicles has been curtailed. Worse, the sick and infirm have been most affected due to the frequent disruption in the even tenor of life.
On Tuesday, August 18, Director, Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences, Prof L Deben sharply commented that the institute may be compelled to close down, if the present trend of disrupting medical staff by bandh supporters continues unchecked. He deplored the fact that hospital staff including doctors, nurses, operation theatre attendants and others has been disturbed by the pro-ILP groups. Dr Deben informed that on August 16 four doctors of the hospital commuting in an ambulance were hurled verbal abuse and detained by bandh supporters at Tiddim Road, Singjamei.
It is unprecedented that medical staff would be disrupted from performing their duties and that they would be treated with disdain by protestors. Life has almost come to a standstill in Imphal and its suburbs even as the Ibobi Singh led Government dilly dallies on the ILP issue.
These days we don't get to hear of President's Rule, but the law and order situation in Manipur today has reached such a nadir that it appears rather unusual that the Central Government has chosen to ignore this chaotic state and turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the plight of the citizens of Manipur.
Recently a doctor, made a caustic comment on social media. He appealed to women in their late stages of pregnancy, to defer the delivery date because they would not be able to reach the hospital on account of the protracted protests. He said doctors too found it difficult to reach the hospitals/nursing homes. While this may sound satirical there is a desperation in the ordinary citizens of Manipur which is spilling over on social media.
Manipur seems to suffer from a congenital malady of self inflicted wounds. That people in this day and age would choose to demand that the Government implement the anachronistic colonial instrument – the Inner Line Permit (ILP) to deal with what they claim is unabated influx from outside Manipur and from Bangladesh, shows a complete lack of imagination. This thought vacuum is a result of ghettoised protests and street politics. Many have expressed on social media that no demands can be addressed on the streets and that dialogue is the language of democracy. But anyone who suggests that is seen as the enemy to the cause. It is this politics of subversion where dissenting voices are isolated and intimidated that leads to anarchy.
Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh has his hands full trying to convince his people that the territorial integrity of Manipur would not be affected as a result of the recent Peace Accord signed with NSCN (IM). He is also trying to buy peace from the pro-ILP groups with semantics. Meanwhile life in Manipur is becoming unliveable. No wonder those who can afford to, have moved out and moved on to settle in the metros. Such people support the ILP movement from outside because it does not affect them one way or the other.
How long can a state be allowed to sink into the abyss of disarray before it is pulled up? Someone has rightly remarked that when you live in a conflict zone where people won't change; where they nurture grievances and make a fetish of difference; where they never exhaust a bloody past's capacity to ignite violence, you become a sucker for an easy touch for change. There are many in Manipur today who want their children to grow up in normal circumstances. But what is that 'normal' that Manipur wants? A tough question indeed!
(The views expressed in this piece are personal to the author and not necessarily that of TNT- The Northeast Today)