As we sit in our homes watching the grand celebration of Bhaijaan‘s (Salman Khan) 51st birthday on our TV sets, Manipur continues to reel under an intensely chaotic situation. Life in Manipur had come to a standstill on November 1 when the United Naga Council (UNC) imposed an economic blockade on the highways. The UNC was demanding a rollback of the Ibobi government’s decision to create seven new districts in the state. The Nagas alleged that it is an attempt by the state government to alienate their land and separate the Nagas into different regions. The government refuted the claims and said that the districts were being created for better administration in the state. While one could argue and justify the line of defense being put forward by the government of Ibobi Singh, the sentiments of the indigenous people must be taken into consideration while taking such decisions. While one could argue the pro and cons of the decision, the fact remains that it has hardly helped the lives of common people of Manipur. The prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed, and there is a lack of indispensable items like oil, gas, and medicines.
While the fire in Manipur was set ablaze around 50 days ago, even prior to the announcement of demonetization, no mainstream media outlet (especially electronic media) has come to the fore to discuss the severe conditions in Manipur. For them, Salman Khan’s birthday and Sonam Gupta Bewafa Hai (Sonam Gupta is a traitor) were more important issues than the people of Manipur who were crying for help, but because of our utter racism against the North East, we missed the opportunity of an attempt to douse the fire. Indian National Congress, which is trying to project itself as party that cares for the opinion and sentiments of people, has bluntly ignored the sentiments and opinions of people in North East.
This utter negligence on part of media, civil society and the national parties, towards the voice of the indigenous groups of North East fuels insurgency and created a ruckus. Irom Sharmila, the Iron Lady of India, who remained on fast for a record number of days to peacefully urge the government to revoke Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act AFSPA from Manipur was met with the same lukewarm response by both the media and government. This lack of dialogue creates a substantial trust deficit between the politicians and the indigenous communities who then resort to violence, looting and highway blockades to make themselves heard.
Manipur remains a very important state from a strategic point of view as it forms the gate to the ‘Act East Policy’ of India. A stable, peaceful and developed Manipur will be able to contain the insurgent forces and will also help the government to bolster relations with the East Asian countries. The media should behave with utmost maturity and it must bring such issues to the public discourse. No doubt media has played an essential role in maintaining democracy in India, but it should also give a voice to the aggrieved from every corner of the country.