Something must be done to break the deadlock in Churachandpur. If the agitation for autonomy or whatever else must continue, let it, but everybody must step down a little to have all parties agree the dead bodies still in the Churachandpur mortuary are given a respectable burial. As it is, delaying the last rites for them is only amounting to prolonging the agony of those who lost their loved ones most of all, but for many others too, without much purpose. Life for most is back to normal everywhere, and although the most fervent agitators are still doing their best to make the issue seem like a hill-valley or a tribal-nontribal conflict, the radius of the agitation is continually shrinking. In the end, it may only be the campus of the Churachandpur District Hospital where a visitor gets to have a sense of the tension of the presence of the unburied bodies. Otherwise, even in the heart of Churachandpur town itself, the agitation may have already begun receding into the subconscious. The issue behind the agitation will not be dead whatever the case, and only a wider consensus on a resolution can put it to rest, but in the meantime, let the dead be given the rest they deserve.
Perhaps an impartial inquiry, headed by a justice from a High Court of another state could break the ice. A clear picture of what happened on the night of the sudden outburst of fury immediately after the passing of three bills in the state Assembly, which ostensibly were meant to add up in totality to function like the Inner Line Permit System, in vogue in neighbouring Northeastern states of Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, as well as the next morning when again there were firing in a confrontation at the police station, could put things in better perspective. On the second day’s morning confrontation, the dividing lines were clear, but on the first night this is hardly so, although the popular narrative is that the deaths were caused by police firing. On the first night, among the facts that have been allowed to remain obscure is, it was not just the police who were out on the streets, but also the Assam Rifles. Indications also are, the latter were out on a much bigger scale than the police. This picture can be pieced together even from the daily news reports emanating from Churachandpur during those troubled times. As for instance, in the stone pelting by the mob on that night, 23 Assam Rifles personnel received injuries of various degrees, and by contrast only nine policemen were hurt similarly. However, those who wish to have everybody read the sorry episode as only another manifestation of the hill-valley divide, have never even considered an alternative scenario of the night, given this fact. Be it in the valley or the hills or anywhere else in the world, whenever there have been deaths involved in any movement, it is difficult to go against the popular narrative currents of the movement, and many events that suggest the likely limitations of these narrative currents, often get silenced. This is the power of martyrdom and which is probably why all agitations seek martyrs, although many who end up propelled into “martyrdom” may not have intended to be martyrs at all.
Beyond the immediate consequences of the Churachandpur agitation, it is time for the state to begin considering the question of a comprehensive autonomy model for all its components. Quite obviously, this model must be aimed at allowing each of the components to be themselves without the least compromises, but at the same time designed not to hurt each other. At this moment, if the hill districts feel bound down by the valley districts, the valley cannot even mend its fences without worrying about what the hills would say. What is also noticeable is, the craving for autonomy is more often than not fed by what is optimistically, but also simplistically, believe would be a guarantee the Centre would set up a separate kitty for the autonomous units for it to drop goodies in. This could prove to be a fallacy especially in the present times when there are pressures for ending the special category status for the Northeastern states, thereby limiting their shares of grants from the Centre. From how we see it, the foremost effort of Northeastern states like Manipur, and all their respective regional and ethnic components, must be to learn to live within their means, and if this means is small, to work and manage more diligently to increase it.