A sense of fairness on the part of responsible people is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for conflict resolution, and the administrators of Manipur, a state on the boil for well over four months, just lack this. The state administration now presents itself before the country and the whole world as an epitome of everything that it should not be — inefficient, arbitrary, irresponsible and unaccountable. And this deadly cocktail is dragging down the border state into an abyss from which it will take generations to come out.
A few days after it restored the Internet, today’s lifeline of communication, and by extension, democracy, the state government has banned the service and reimposed curfew in the state capital following massive protests by students against the murder of two students. It has also decided to extend the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the hill districts where the tribal people live for another six months.
If the visuals of the parading of two Kuki women after stripping them naked gave people outside a glimpse of horror that the state had been witnessing and triggered outrage across the nation and the world, this time it is the pictures of two slain Meitei students that has led to massive protests. The incidents stand testimony to the lawlessness the state has landed itself in, and underscore what the Supreme Court said in August last that “there is absolute breakdown of law and order in that state”.
One should not miss the fact that the victims and the crimes they endured were not accounted for by the state machinery months after they occurred, and it was the surfacing of their photographs and videos that got the government to act. It shows that the government has shown no accountability to its own people nor has it started a process to take the situation back to normal. It tells the rest of the world that it is a government which has no clue about existence of its own people.
The Union government has now sent the chief of the CBI to Imphal to lead the investigation into the murder of the students, and that should be welcome. An assurance that the government will spare no effort to bring perpetrators of the crime to book must help soothe the ruffled nerves of the students. But this urgency has the victims of other crimes questioning the integrity and purpose of the government action. The government must answer them convincingly when they ask about it being selective about expediting probes into cases of deaths and disappearances in the state.
It remains incomprehensible how the mighty Indian State stands as a mute victim when a part of it has been bleeding for so long, and with no administration worth the name. It is equally incomprehensible how it disappears from national agenda and everyone, from the ruling party to the Opposition to the media, behaves as if it is business as usual. The Supreme Court, which made some efforts to bring solace to the victims of injustice, had to warn the government that it would dispense with the panel of former justices if it cannot cooperate with them. Such indifference, such sense of injustice, such discrimination, must stop. Manipur cannot be allowed to remain nobody’s child.