ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Manipur’s Season of Sorrow

Cynical politics by state and centre has devastated this northeastern state.

In Manipur, this “festive” season has turned into a time of sorrow and deprivation. In a state with a long history of crippling economic blockades used as a form of protest, the latest blockade called by the United Naga Council (UNC) on 1 November has extracted a heavy price. With the two highways that represent a virtual lifeline blocked, people are struggling to survive without essential supplies, including petroleum products. This is on top of their daily deprivations of living with patchy electricity, intermittent water supply and a poor road network that speaks of the high levels of corruption and pathetically low levels of governance. Added to this are the challenges posed by demonetisation and an economy without cash.

The current blockade is rooted in a long history of claims and counterclaims of the different ethnicities in Manipur. Many of these issues have remained unresolved. To some, they appear almost unresolvable. Yet these differences have also been the pivot on which politics has turned in the state. As a result, the distance between the mostly tribal groups living in the hills of Manipur, an area that constitutes 90% of the state, from the largely Meitei population that lives in the densely populated Imphal Valley has increased as each becomes more entrenched in its identity and its demands. This distance has been further exacerbated by a politics that thrives on division, on playing out the demands of one group against another. It is this very politics that also governs the state–centre relationship. When the party in power at the centre is the same as the one in the state, there is some semblance of harmony. But when, as at present, it is different, the centre does not hesitate to use these extant divisions to further its own agenda.

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