Editorial – MHA Image


The Union home minister, P Chidambaram, came visiting on a two day tour of the state. It is interesting that the frequency of his visit has increased considerably. Although this could be just a coincidence, for the stated purpose of his visit this time was to inaugurate the mini secretariat at Ukhrul, understandably there are speculations in many circles that he would have to have more business than just cutting ribbons of newly created official infrastructures. This probably is an over reach for the itineraries of his visit were known and those who accompanied him can vouch that there were nothing more than announced that he did while in the state. The only problem this time was that the All Manipur Working Journalists Union, AMWJU, decided to boycott all news of the minister’s visit on account of the brutish behaviour of a Manipur Police officer who prevented reporters from covering the arrival of the minister at the Imphal Airport yesterday. This blackout of news has left much more room for un-moderated speculations and this is not always healthy. The moot point is, the next time the Union home minister comes visiting, the state authorities must ensure the state media is taken on board. Only such openness will ensure all unfounded rumours are arrested and only facts become the basis of speculations. This time, the speculations centred on the demand of the United Naga Council, UNC, for an alternative administrative arrangement for Naga districts in the state, with speculators trying to evoke the well known paranoia of the people of the supposed dangers of a dismemberment of the state territory. This is unwarranted rumour. Those of us in the know of things can vouch that the Centre had not only said in no uncertain terms that this would not happen, but also made it clear that no further talks with the Naga body on the issue would be held in Delhi and that the state government would not be left out of these talks. All talks from now on would be in Manipur, though not necessarily in Imphal.
But the fear and apprehension inspired by the Home minister’s visit tells yet another story. For much too long small peripheral states like Manipur has been under the thumb of this ministry. Ironically, this is so even from the time the controversial Manipur Merger Agreement took place in 1949, with the then Union home minister, Sadar Vallabhai Patel, literally arm twisting the then king of Manipur, Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh, keeping him under house arrest in Shillong until he agreed to sign the merger document. It is another matter that as many argue, the merger had already happened in spirit as the Standstill Agreement and the Instrument of Accession Acts had been already endorsed by the Manipur monarchy. But the fact remains that the big brotherly posture of the Union home minister through the decades cannot be written off so easily, for indeed this has been very much a reality. We also know how the Union home minister had earlier caused much distress in Manipur when it without the consultation or consent of the state government, gave permission for the NSCN(IM) leader Th. Muivah to enter the state. On that occasion the state government decided to go against this decision of the Union ministry. The sorry episode left two young men dead and also the entire state reeling under nearly three months of economic blockade along the state’s national highways. But the manner in which the state governments, both of Nagaland and Manipur, have been sidelined is best demonstrated by the way the Centre is holding talks with the Naga rebel group, NSCN(IM). Neither of the state governments has been made a party in these talks, which in any case is not progressing forward much.
This has a lesson. Apart from everything else, visits by the Union home minster as well as bureaucrats under the ministry, must have an added mission of winning back the confidence of the people by and large. He must demonstrate visibly very time that he is not in the state to breathe down the neck of the state, but to discharge his constitutional responsibility and protocol as the Union home minster of this country, to be with people in every corner of the country and listen to their pulse. This can best be done by taking the state government as well as the people into confidence in every visit. The last can be ensured by making it convenient for the state media to cover his visits, and if time permits to have an interaction with them.


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