This absurdity is acquiring an air of the surreal. Manipur is under siege for over 100 days now, and the governments both in the state as well as the Centre remain nonchalant. The public who suffer the consequences the most too have not stirred making the situation progressively incomprehensible. But let the government be wary, this calm could be deceptive. The tension being such, a spark somewhere can lead to leaping flames everywhere. In the manner things are progressing (or not progressing) if you like, speculations that these developments have dark electoral motives are getting increasingly difficult to dismiss. The argument is, politicians always stand to gain by polarising the people into sectarian vote banks, and by keeping the current extremely divisive standoff raging, and thereby alienating different communities from one another, different sets of politicians are actually consolidating their support bases. If true, this would be most tragic, for the bitter consequences of a division of the society on communal lines would live longer than the brand of politics creating them. As it is, it does not take much to divide the state’s ethnic communities or the geographical regions of the hills and the valley. For too long, generations after generations of politicians have been playing their selfish and self-serving games of fashioning “us” and “them”, “insiders” and “outsiders”, even where there ought to have been only “we”. Today these manufactured xenophobic categories have crystallised to acquire dangerously real visages threatening macabre consequences.
One thing is certain, if the blockade on Manipur’s lifelines continues, the divide between the hills and valley would come to be accentuated manifolds, for those who feel targeted the most, whether it is the whole fact or not, are those in the valley. Since there is already a rift between the two geographical regions, it would not take too much to heighten up the tensions that exist between them to a flashpoint. Even if no overt violence results out of this, the predictable outcome would be the valley, in particular the Meitei community, putting up a retaliatory front by consolidating as a block. Coming as it does before the Assembly elections early next year, it would not be unreasonable to believe there are certain quarters where this phenomenon is being watched with glee, speculating it to ultimately translate into an electoral cash cow.
We hope this is wrong, but in the manner the demand for the Sadar Hills district as well as opposition to it was being patronised, the issue is difficult to be separated from the idea of vote bank creation. Similarly, the same suspicion cannot but be cast on the powers that be in Imphal for doing nothing more than recede into the background to let things drag on at their own sweet pace knowing full well the longer the blockade stays the more the disenchantment of the valley would become. Public anger in the valley could then be orchestrated to constitute a vote bank. Since the population in the valley is much higher and concentrated, in the number game of democracy, sinister electoral calculations, if at all, would be quite obvious.
Even if there are no designs as such, the fact that should have made the administration wary is that the blockade over the district creation is having the very undesirable result of dividing the population up on communal lines. By no stretch of imagination can anybody say this is nothing very much to worry about. Even if these are to be dismissed as farfetched speculations, the state government must swing into action to have the blockade either lifted voluntarily or else cleared using the powers within its command. If it need be, it must seek the help of the Central government. We are also at a loss as to why the Central government has also not lifted a finger yet. After all what are being blockaded are national highways. Furthermore, these highways are ultimately to be part of the trans-Asian highway system, which is why their nomenclatures have changed already. As for instance NH-39 is now AH-2 (AH for Asian Highway). This being so, the Indian government’s responsibility to keep these highways functional is also hence an international obligation.