Seven year old Tongsin Hangsin was burnt down alive in an ambulance which was taking his injured mother to a hospital. His mother too died after a mob surrounded the ambulance and set it ablaze.
The boy’s mother was a Meitei while his father was a Kuki naga. The father, who was in another vehicle accompanying the ambulance, said his wife made appeal for their lives both in Manipuri and Naga language but in vain.
Heart rending stories like this one have been pouring from Manipur for over two months now. Over 150 residents have been killed in cold blood and over 15,000 have been injured.
Lakhs have been rendered homeless and property worth crores has been destroyed in a state which had had preserved and promoted Hindu culture even when the rest of the north east was burning with dozens of insurgent movements.
Unfortunately the so-called “Double Engine Ki Sarkar” in the state has proved to be an utter failure. Under other circumstances the Biren Singh led government should have been dismissed for its inability to restore peace in the state. However, it is a BJP ruled government and the centre too had been soft paddling over the issue.
Yes, union home minister Amit Shah had visited the state recently and had also called an all-party meeting and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had held a meeting on the situation in the state soon after his arrival from the United States. However these actions were too late and too little.
In the interim the Prime Minister had travelled to the neighbouring Assam but had refrained from going to Manipur which was on fire. He has also not spoken a word on the situation in the state or condemned the violence or even appealed for peace.
While he spoke on a wide variety of subjects during his widely publicised Mann ki Baat, he didn’t even mention about the situation in Manipur or even condemn violence.
No wonder there were protests against him in the state with residents smashing their radio sets to protest lack of reference to Manipur in Mann ki Baat.
Indeed the Prime Minister’s silence on several important issues, even as he might have created a record for one-sided dialogue, is mind boggling.
Such is the grim situation in the state that ordinary residents have looted armouries and have created their own armies to take on members of rival communities. Armed forces also find their hands tied as these forces are under attack from mobs as well as snipers.
The disharmony and suspicion among the communities have grown so much that they have declined to be a part of the peace committee proposed to be set up by the central government.
There is no doubt the ethnic problem is complex in the state and mutual suspicion among the communities had been an open secret over the decades.
It is also a fact that there has been several clashes in the past as the majority Meitei community, living in just about 10 per cent of Manipur’s plains and the minority Naga tribals living in the hilly region had been daggers drawn.
The only main highway to Manipur is through Nagaland and passes through the tribal region. It is often blocked by Nagas leading to disruption of normal supply Manipur including foodgrains and petroleum products.
This “economic blockade” has been causing immense hardships to the people living in the plains. As per official records, the highway was blocked for 139 days in 2016-17. In recent years an alternate road has been constructed through Tripura to Manipur but it is narrow and unreliable.
The complex nature of the situation in Manipur calls for a long drawn strategy that would reassure communities of their security including physical, social, cultural and economic security.
But what is of prime and urgent importance is to curb violence and restore peace in the state. The Biren Singh led BJP government has lost faith of the people.
The least the BJP government could have done was to replace the inefficient Chief Minister although it would be better for the state if central rule is promulgated in the state at least till the time sanity is restored in the state.
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