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President’s Rule in Manipur

It is rare for a newspaper which has always stood for upholding the tradition of parliamentary democracy to seek the imposition of President’s rule in a state where the CM enjoys legislative majority. However the unprecedented  and ongoing violence in Manipur which has claimed over a hundred and fourteen lives compels this paper to call upon the Union government to rise above partisan considerations and impose President’s rule in Manipur.

Article 355 states very clearly that it is the duty of the Union to protect every state against external aggression and internal disturbance, and to ensure that the government of the state is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. In fact, it bears recall that the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency in Punjab in 1983 when her own CM Darbara Singh failed to control the spate of violence in the state.

What is worse than the killings of innocents, damage to places of worship and the looting of police armouries is the forced exodus and ethnic cleansing: all Kukis from the Imphal valley, and almost all Meitis from the Kuki dominated district of Churchandpur have exited. Senior officials and legislators have also not been spared in this rampage which has taken several companies of the RAF to control over several weeks.
While the government have announced a three member Commission of Enquiry, and also constituted a Peace Committee – the refusal of the Kuki groups to hold a dialogue in a committee in which the CM is present is the symptom of a much deeper malaise in which the composite Manipuri identity is accepted only by one community, viz the Meitis, who claim to be the original inhabitants. While it is true that they were the inhabitants of the Valley, the surrounding hills have been in the possession of Nagas and Kukis – also called Chin and Zo for several centuries. While a majority of Nagas live in the neighbouring state of Nagaland, there are the Naga dominated districts and Kuki dominated districts. The Kukis have their kinsmen in Mizoram and Myanmar. While it suited the colonial masters to strengthen the distinct tribal identities, one has to acknowledge that over the last seven decades the political class has not put in the requisite effort to mobilise people, not on the basis of their primordial identities, but a shared future in which young women and men study, play and work together for strengthening the democratic structures as well for infrastructure development to ensure equitable and sustainable growth.
The genesis of the current problem lies in the fact that on account of the operation of 371C, the Nagas and Kukis can buy lands in the Valley of Imphal, but the Meitis who are OBCc are not entitled to purchase lands in the hills. In fact the issue got flared up when the Manipur High Court advised the government of the state to consider the Mieti request for ST status. The CMs insistence that only particular group is involved in the lucrative narcotics trade is not borne out by empirical evidence based on the number of arrests. In any case the state government has singularly failed both to curb the cultivation and crude processing of poppy , as well as the movement of Kuki kinsmen from the neighbouring Myanmar.