Listening to Karan Thapar’s numerous interviews with Meitei and Kuki interlocutors on the Manipur situation,I carried away the impression that it is not possible to acquire a clear idea of the situation through the haze of pain,grief and anger of the victims,however affecting these are.At the opposite pole neither is it possible to grasp the truth behind the Prime Minister’s outrageous enigmatic silence on it through the vehement protests of people of good will.As Home Minister has revealed recently to anguished visitors,the Prime Minister is monitoring closely every event in the unfolding calendar of brutal conflict and violence.He has not been absorbed only in Mann Ki Baat,public rallies where he routinely denounces Congress and acclaims the glories of the BJP regime,and optics of grand foreign visits.
Then why this long-drawn silence? Here an ancient Hindu adage helps.There is this Sanskrit saying,’Maunam Sanmati Lakshmanam’ (Silence is the mark of consent or complicity).The apparently fortuitous and chaotic large-scale violence and barbarity might have gone on according to plan.The government has either fomented this disorder or actively directed the violence once it had erupted.
Incredible?Yes,impossible? Certainly not.The BJP is known for its tendency to play with fire and take huge risks in such games.
As the reviled heretic of the Left Trotsky had put it in a different context,”If you do not know for certain who is behind any mysterious turn of events ,ask who benefits from it?”.Obviously neither the Meitei nor the Kuki benefits from the bloodshed and arson in Manipur does. But a certain party does,and once you know the context,it is not impossible to guess who it’s likely to be.
That part of Myanmar border is in a perpetual boil with the Myanmar army trying desperately all the time to control the numerous rebel tribal or ethnic minority armies like those of Kachins and Karens who fight bak stubbornly.Both Communist China and the Kuomitang regime had long been active in the region from the time of the Second World War.During that time Japanese forces and the INA had broken through British defense at this point and poured into Manipur and Nagaland like a storm until stopped at Kohima.So this time too it might conceivably be the soft underbelly of India for any enemy country.
Every reason then for the BJP government to ensure that the situation in Manipur remains under control to safegaurd security of India.It is of course possible to canalize numrous ethnonational urges and upsurges along democratic channels and thus settle matters. But Government of India is not in favour of such a solution.The present regime of course swats down such a solution and falls back on its stock in trade, divisive violence.
But the problem is internecine multiple conflicts are too complicated to be to its taste and to be invested in.Hence it chooses to hurtle it in a direction that is familiar ground.Underlying the Kuki-Meitei conflict narrative a new sub-text has started to capture attention.It is the Christian versus the ethnic religions.Apart from churches in Kuki preponderant areas,more than two hundred churches in Meitei regions have been torched. This falls in a familiar territory seemingly making it easier to grasp,rationalize and handle.
This then provides a key to the enigma.Then what is the lookout for democratic forces? For it is useless to provide an explanation of a problem without also providing a solution.The opposition also falls short on this question.
In my view the short-term answer is to press for immediate ceasefire and peace initially in a movement,and then move on to a candid, unconditional dialogue under the auspices of a neutral party.The government cannot be this party for reasons mentioned above.Opposition must lay aside its political interests and try to become the honest broker with a resolute mind and spirit.Provided of course the government does not meddle,admittedly a slim chance. But ideologically and really such an option is the only viable one in the infernal complexity of the present situation aggravated by the day by hate-laden rhetoric and cunning intrigues.
On the part of feuding ethnic groups an indispensable condition must be a clear and firm limitation on their own ethno-national ambitions which provoke anxiety and rancour among others.A clear understanding that they have come to the end of their tether is an essential condition for lasting peace.Ethnonational consciousness and aspirations have developed their identities and seen them through so far,but they are no help in resolving the tangle of anarchic inter-ethnic violence. Above all,action for such a real breakthrough is the need of the hour,not hand-wringing and more tears of grief and anger.
Hiren Gohain is a political commentator