PM must act now

The much-awaited statement has come from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the situation in Manipur. The brief remark was made outside the Parliament yesterday in his usual or customary few minutes before the monsoon session begins. Usually, such brief statements before the sessions are just appeals to the Opposition and treasury members not to lose their tempers and uphold dignity and decorum at the ‘temple of democracy’. No doubt, it was too late, and the Opposition is justified in questioning the PM’s delayed response.  But it is unfair and painful for the Opposition’s suggestions for a democratically elected government to ignore national interests in promoting bilateral and unilateral issues and give precedence to some ethnic frenzy in a small state. Can the Opposition deny that all is not hunky dory with major superpowers? Such ethnic or other violences are a universal phenomenon and India is no exception. However, such an excuse too cannot necessarily be pardoned or pushed under the carpet. And, in a democracy, the Opposition has a right to nail the government on such occasions and the ruling dispensation has to respect such criticism and make course corrections. If necessary, with all humility, tender an unconditional apology or give a convincing reply with facts and figures as to why the violence is continuing for close to three months despite its best efforts.

What pains one  is that even our judiciary becoming partisan and the most revered Lordships too are wearing the ‘coloured glasses’ when looking at things differently over the happenings in various states. None should object to the Supreme Court taking suo moto action of the unabated violence in Manipur and the failure of the state and Central governments. Also, for warning the government that it would not hesitate to step in. Yet, shouldn’t the court done the same even in case of such incidents in other states too? The latest large-scale violence in West Bengal, where Hindus were prevented from taking part in the panchayat polls, is an example. Shouldn’t the people question the Lordship for their duplicity? Moreover, the present ethnic violence under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dispensation should not be viewed in isolation, without going into the genesis or root cause for such a massive outbreak. Does it have any political moorings too? It is not denying the fact that Manipur is as sensitive as any other border state either with China on the East or Pakistan on the West. Manipur has a border with Myanmar, a known disturbed nation, where political instability becomes a normal phenomenon. Added to that it has a tremendous influence by the expansionist China, which envy India’s progress and appears to have become aggressive and restless as the day passes. It is unable to fathom the new dispensation at New Delhi, which not only built massive infrastructure all along its border, but also procuring required jet fighters and surveillance gadgets, besides further strengthening the disputed waters in Indian Ocean with its Navy. Ever since Modi took reins, New Delhi is giving sleepless nights to the hitherto aggressive China, by successfully countering its every effort – whether in Galwan or other border areas in Arunachal Pradesh. That resulted in putting Manipur on the boil since independence or later when the state was formed in the early fifties.

It is no secret that since Independence, the Congress government at the Centre had been indifferent to these northeastern states bordering China – from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh to close to Uttarakhand. And, the rogue nation succeeded in annexing a huge chunk of Indian land in the upper reaches of the Himalayas like Ladakh in the strategically important Aksai Chin area. The Congress or it allies will not  discuss these facts. Despite the infamous statement on Ladakh by the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, who was thrust upon by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, overlooking the stakes enjoyed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. None can also dare deny credit to Patel, the first Home Minister, who ensured annexation of all the princely states into independent India. In other words, the Manipur problem has also existed then. And it has two predominant sects – Meiteis and Kukis. While Kukis are said to be tribals and live in Hilly areas, the Meiteis in the plains. They might have lived in peace and tranquillity despite their problems. The successive state governments chose to turn a blind eye when large-scale conversions were taking place in the Hill areas where the tribal communities got attracted to food and money and embraced Christianity. Incidentally,  plain areas were not accessible to them due to poor infrastructure existed then, simply because of the government’s apathy. It got snowballed into a major problem, when the Congress started feeling the heat from weaker sections among  Meiteis, while it chose to continue reservations to the tribals even after they embraced other religions, knowing well that it is not constitutionally tenable. Realizing their mistake, the Congress promised Meities reservations in the SC category. But for reasons best known to the party, it opted to put the proposal on hold. That, perhaps, resulted in them losing power to the rightist BJP in the elections. And, the BJP government has only made efforts to implement the Congress’ promise and the issue had gone to the High Court which stayed the government’s decision. The government then moved the Supreme Court which ruled in favour of it

That led to tempers getting frayed  among both the major communities resulting in continuing violence in the state. It should be emphasized that the state government miserably failed to contain the tempers or convince the aggrieved Kukis that their rights will not be hampered. In the same breath, none should be hesitant to blame the Centre too, though partially. Although Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who took a brave decision to abrogate Articles 370 and 35A to make Jammu and Kashmir an integral part of India, appears to have miserably failed in handling the Manipur issue. Whether it was for political gains or not, it is too early to draw any conclusion. But, failure is a fact. He simply failed to act against the West Bengal government for the recurring violence, despite the caustic remarks by the High Court and Supreme Court. That being a fact, one wonders why the Modi government is hesitant to invoke Article  356 and impose President’s Rule in states where the law and order are deteriorating. Against that backdrop, the crocodile tears shed by Modi and his assurances, indeed, have not gone well even with his unstinted supporters, as he let them down badly. Whether the Manipur violence, or the World Wrestling Federation chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh’s episodes will haunt the BJP-headed National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre as well the party in the upcoming state and later Lok Sabha elections. Time for Modi to act! That to dismiss the Biren Singh government in Manipur to save whatever grace left and to reestablish the lost credibility among the majority of masses. This is in the wake of people having some hope that Modi alone can steer the nation to greater heights and would like him to continue even after 2024 by ensuring his party yet another massive victory. Now, it’s the turn of Modi to decide his destiny as well as the party and salvage the slipping image. He has to take strong decisions hereafter as he pronounced in case of corruption. Will he or won’t he, only time will tell.