More than five months since ethnic clashes broke out in Manipur, leaving at least 176 people dead and nearly 67,000 displaced, peace is yet to return to the troubled state with the ethnic divide only becoming sharper. Internet services continue to be disrupted and at least 96 bodies are lying in morgues still to be claimed by relatives. The situation is so bad that there are virtually no Kukis in the Meitei-dominated Imphal Valley while no Meiteis are willing to risk their lives in the Kuki Zo-dominated hills. No meaningful peace talks have been held between the warring factions and the Centre and state government appear loath to end the unrest in the sensitive state, instead blaming it on an outside hand. The state, meanwhile, has dropped out of the news cycle reinforcing stereotypes about how the north-east really does not matter to the rest of India.
While Kuki Zo MLAs have demanded a separate administration for their community, the Meitei MLAs including Chief Minister Biren Singh have vehemently opposed such a proposition and vetoed any ‘division’ of Manipur. The plight of those displaced and stuck in relief camps is pitiable indeed. Thousands of children are unable to attend school, vigilante groups are taking the law into their own hands and there is complete inaction by the authorities in restoring peace and normalcy. It is almost as if Manipur has fallen off the map of India. The BJP government at the Centre has always accused successive Congress governments of neglecting the north-east and claimed that since 2014 the seven sisters as the states of the region are known have flourished and grown. However, this assertion has been proved wrong by Manipur. The utter silence of the Prime Minister on the crisis gripping the state and the refusal to discuss the issue in Parliament till forced to do so by virtue of a no-confidence motion, has given the lie to the claim that the Centre is deeply invested in the region. Elections are due in neighbouring Mizoram.
The Prime Minister and several Union ministers are bound to visit the state for campaigning. Will they touch upon the Manipur issue because it is a subject that is roiling the region? Politicians of all hues are extremely self serving but it is for the people of the north-eastern region to see through them and call them out for their hypocrisy. Manipur has been burning for five months. It is time the Central and state governments doused the fires by adopting a conciliatory approach so that peace is restored.