AA EDIT | Act Before Manipur Fire Engulfs All of Northeast

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

The idea of unity in diversity is not a dream; it’s the bedrock on which the Indian nation state has been built and sustained

Children displaced due to ongoing ethnic violence in Manipur at an exclusive relief camp for children whose parents are guarding their villages, at Lamsang in Imphal West district, Tuesday. (Image: PTI)

Reports of exodus of people belonging to the Meitei community from Mizoram, following the communal clashes in neighbouring Manipur, are the fallout of violence continuing uninterrupted there for nearly three months. Ignoring the assurances held out to them by the Mizoram government, a few hundred people have already left the state after they received threats from an organisation of former militants.

It is unacceptable that the governments at the state level and the Centre have been neither able to restore peace to Manipur nor explain to the country their position on the ongoing violence which, per official records, has claimed over 160 lives. It is equally unacceptable that the governments have not placed before the nation a roadmap to peace. The delay in acknowledging the gravity of the situation, finalising a concrete action plan and implementing it resolutely, while taking all stakeholders into confidence, could pose a serious threat to the entire region, which has seen militancy of various kinds over many decades.

It is a fact that every small state in India would present a robust diversity of people who belong to different religions, castes, tribes, languages, cultural backgrounds, and so on. The idea of unity in diversity is not a dream; it’s the bedrock on which the Indian nation state has been built and sustained for all these years. It is this realisation that led to the creation of a Constitution that celebrated this diversity, of which the northeastern states are no exception. In fact, they represent more of India when it comes to this unique character of the Indian nation. And it is for this reason that Article 371 of the Constitution provides for the protection of the rights and customs of several sects of people in the region. The constitutional provisions cover the religious and social practices, customary laws and even the administration of civil and criminal justice. It has also been ensured that certain communities are represented in legislatures.

The painstaking efforts of the Constitution-makers to accommodate the aspirations of the diverse peoples of India were aimed at ensuring that the idea of independence is shared, cherished and enjoyed by every citizen. All that they created, however, was the foundation and it was for the future generations to build on it so that peace and prosperity resulted.

The obsession of Hindutva with the concept of uniformity runs contrary to the idea of diversity even as it is the mandate of a democratically elected government to administer the country as per the constitutional model. The government must discern the fragile thread of harmony that binds the different communities of the region and do everything in its powers to strengthen it. Delays will only further destabilise the states.