It is less than two months since protesters lifted a 69-day siege of the highways which had choked the supply of essential commodities to Manipur after being assured by the Union Government that their legitimate demands would be considered.
Apparently, the Government has failed to effectively address the issue, otherwise the Nagas would not have resumed the agitation that had caused so much hardship to the people:
This time, they have said the blockade will last for 20 days. While some of the demands, like the immediate withdrawal of imposition of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code and ‘demilitarisation’ of the Naga areas by removal of the Indian Reserve Battalion and Manipur Police commandos, are untenable and cannot be met, others like ordering a judicial inquiry into the May 6 violence at Mao Gate, in which two persons were killed and more than a hundred injured, could have been met by now.
There are also demands voiced by Manipuris that need to be looked into. Differing positions require urgent resolution.
The UPA’s failure to prevent a recurrence of crisis stems from its inability to appreciate the issues that deeply affect the people of the North-East.
It took more than two months for the Government to force the Nagas to end the last blockade, with the Prime Minister and his colleagues stepping in only after the agitation had disrupted normal life as never before and all services, including the supply of life-saving drugs, were threatened. It is anybody’s guess how long will it take this time.
Given the belligerence of Naga protestors, the Government should have deployed para-military forces along the highway to prevent another blockade rather than wait for it to happen.
There is no percentage in toeing a soft line with disruptionists, not least because their intentions are wholly criminal and militate against all tenets of democratic protest.
Such blockades have become useful tools for unscrupulous gangs masquerading as ‘insurgent groups’ to extort money from truckers in lieu of a ‘safe passage’ on the troubled highways, create a scarcity of essential commodities so that a black market can thrive, and terrorise the masses into submission.
Tragically, the political class of the north-eastern States has been indifferent towards the problem of violent agitations and shown little or no interest in taming malcontents.
That’s because politicians are often hand-in-glove with those who are behind such protests that ultimately cause more damage to the region than to anybody or any place else.