By our Manipur correspondent
The people of Manipur are confronted with a terrible situation. Large scale sectarian violence was unleashed over 3 days between May 3 and 5.
Source of image: https://www.telegraphindia.com/north-east/manipur-violence-long-existing-deep-fault-lines-that-waited-for-a-spark-to-erupt/cid/1936495
Armed gangs went on a rampage looting homes, shops and establishments, killing and injuring ordinary people. According to the Manipur Chief Minister, over 60 people have been killed, hundreds injured, and at least 36,000 people have been rendered homeless and are living in temporary camps. Crores worth of property has been destroyed.
To escape from the mayhem and anarchy people of Manipur have been fleeing to neighbouring states. While several organisations have appealed for peace, the violence continues. The question that comes to one’s mind is that why are the central and state governments unable to stop the communal and sectarian violence when the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been in force and the entire population has been living under the shadows of the army and paramilitary forces.
The Central Government imposed Article 355 on May 5. Article 355 of the Constitution of India provides an emergency provision for the Centre to intervene and safeguard a state against external aggression or internal disturbances. Thousands of additional troops have been deployed. Shoot at sight orders are in force. The justification given by the governments as to why several north-eastern states have been scorched by communal violence frequently is that people are communal. Inflammatory propaganda has been going on through social media and print and TV hat the violence is because of festering communal enmity between two communities in the region. But this is a blatant lie. People in Manipur courageously protected each other during those difficult days.
To find out who is responsible for the violence we have to ask the question to ourselves, ‘Who benefits from this violence?’ It is certainly not the people. For decades several armed militant groups have been active in the state. They justify their existence pointing fingers at the army, the paramilitary forces and the repressive AFSPA. In turn, the ruling establishment justifies the need for the army and repressive laws pointing to the armed insurgent groups. In this way both the army and the armed groups have justified their existence. But it is the people who suffer from this double assault. The central and state governments have been having frequent dialogues with the armed groups which have been cloaked in secret and not at all transparent to the people.
All these have helped the powers of the status quo to divert the attention of the people from real issues facing them and blame the problems of the state on the people themselves. Even 76 years after independence Manipur remains a backward state in terms of educational and health facilities, infrastructure, connectivity and industrial development. There is such huge unemployment that youth are forced to migrate to other states. On top of this the army and the armed groups have together and separately worked to crush the people and their struggle for rights.
The unbridled violence and anarchy in the state has benefited only some elite sections of Manipur. In order to show that there is democracy in Manipur, elections are organised periodically under the shadow of bayonets. Many governments have come and gone making little difference to the lives of people. The government which is supposed to ensure prosperity and protection of the people has failed miserably. The people remain on the margins in the political process.
Manipur is home to people of many different communities. Together, people of Manipur have been fighting for their human, democratic and national rights. The Indian State has used the Indian army as well as periodic elections to disrupt and crush this struggle.
In spite of lakhs of people protesting against army rule, governments at the centre have refused to withdraw AFSPA. The more the people struggled for peace and growth, the more they have been tyrannised.
The anarchy and violence that has been unleashed at the present time in Manipur is aimed at destroying the unity of the people. It is only the rulers and elite sections of the state stand to gain by this division.
Using the present situation the ruling establishment vilifies the people of Manipur as communal, backward and incapable of ruling themselves. Hence the need for repressive laws like AFSPA and the presence of the military to bring ‘peace and order’ to the state.
We should at this point generalise the situation in India. What the people of Manipur are facing, people in other states too are facing. The ruling class is unable and unwilling to ensure sukh and suraksha, prosperity and security, to people. is the big monopoly houses are only interested in fattening themselves by intensifying exploitation and plunder of all the people, and all the resources of the country. Everywhere, the state rakes up religion, caste, tribal affiliation, nationality, etc to smash the unity of people and disrupt the struggle of people for a new political system. The developments in Manipur and rest of India are pointing out that the ruling class is unfit to rule. People of India need to establish a new political and economic system in which people must be the rulers.