Blockades of the Beasts
When we stand, out of compulsion for whatever reasons it might be, in long queues for a basic commodity as petrol and gas, a piece of humanity dies within us. On one hand, a few groups that claim to be ‘civil’ have been imposing economic blockades at the drop of a hat, while black marketers are having a field day. Excuse the hoarders who profit from such unrest, but organisations that swear by the interests of the people should at least comprehend how their, not one and not two, but countless number of blockades are affecting the people.
The latest madness is about the creation of two new districts and the Nagas, under the aegis of the frontal organisation of NSCN IM, the United Naga Council, with its objection on the ground of losing their ancestral land. It is ironical to see that those who stand for the creation of one of the districts, the Sadar Hills Districthood Demand Committee, had sponsored a record-breaking blockade in 2011 and the opponents had then as well endorsed a counter-blockade.
Last year when the ‘United Naga Council (UNC) resolved to impose a 10-day economic blockade from midnight of November 2, it stated the council has been compelled to take up democratic form of agitation for immediate political intervention’ (Source: Hueiyen Lanpao).
A ‘democratic form of agitation’? These wordsmiths who came up with expressions like this should be sent away to Burmese jails. They know very well that blocking even medical supplies is a war against humanity but they got a great cover—in the first place—in the system of Indian democracy that they never believe in. If the reasoning is to go on, it will just serve the interest of those who want to drive a wedge, so better should it be stopped. When the ‘other’ people are fighting for their survival then it is a simple equation to find how much they would care about issues like Indo-Naga talks and alternative arrangement and whatever terms these are known by.
Coming back to the point, was the goals of any of these parties realised by sponsoring blockades? It is there for the whole world to see—the government to which all the grievances have been hurled against, are as nonchalant as ever. No wonder, such a trial and error method of attracting the eyes of the authority has never been successful and it is as well one of the primary reasons why this hinterland is so backward, for the collective life and its attitude matters a lot. We cannot ‘think beyond our sumaang’ and our ‘vision’ is as long as ‘the centimetres between our two eyes’.
In a wat, this is a textbook example of the oppressed becoming, or desiring to become the oppressor, or of the Freirean view that ‘the oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors’ and that ‘the oppressed find in the oppressors their model of “manhood”’.
To hell with oppressors and manhood.
It is an open secret that the ties between the hills and valley in Manipur is almost on the edge and our identity is defined only through the narrow lens of parochialism again defined by our ethnicities—even if we possess multiple identities as in being a believer or not, from our occupations, depending on our political beliefs, the music we listen to, the traditions we follow and so on. At the end of the day, when we have no authority to mind the state of affairs, there is a wish for deep mutual understanding between the people but that has remained a dream so far.
In terms of blockades the Nagas have been on the top slot ever since the Government of India had persuaded the NSCM IM faction to come to the negotiating table. One of the ‘successful’ results has been the birth of Naga–Meitei confrontation while India, which was once a party to the conflicts, has become a mediator now.
So many factors can prove why we are underdeveloped provided we consider our culture. Simply put, people love to hate each other with the three primary groups, the Nagas, Kukis and Meiteis as the role models in this forbidden state. When the Nagas blocked the highways, there are also Meiteis who would do their best to rip off the people in the harshest of times with general strikes and all sorts of street politics. No wonder, such a culture of hate and ‘otherness’ has produced a fertile ground of underdevelopment in this entire hinterland called the Northeast India.
If we go by its basic definition, an economic blockade as the name suggests, implies dislocating the economic elements of a region and isolating it and most of these are carried out by a host country. However, in the case of Manipur, Nagaland and Naga-inhabited areas are just transit routes so they have a great chance that their action can have grave consequences. Just like the coldness to the conflict resolution between India and NSCN IM, no other community would understand it when that time arrives.
On the other hand, add to this chronic problem the intermittent issues that plague a place like Manipur. When petrol is sold at Rs 250–500 a litre because of blockade, the people are suffering from acute cash crunch, also because of the recent demonetisation policy of the Government of India. This is also a place where access to cash is a difficult process owing to the low rate of bank penetration. Do any of these affect the government agents against whom the highway thugs are up in arms? The answer is no.
Today, the politically motivated hillspeople in Manipur might have found a primitive tool of using blockades to air their grievances and the valley people have the general strikes, while the ultimate loser in this game of savagery is the common people in both the hills and valley. In this so-called democracy, any anti-human approach can never bring a desirable solution. A few Naga firebrands might love to believe that these are a process of the Naga ‘nation’ however, first, it is a contested issue and second, people can tolerate it willy-nilly but there would be a limit and they will speak out when they say enough is enough.
Destroy the government, bomb its buildings and bring chaos to the lives of the government agents but never test the depth of people’s resilience with both feet. In this condition, there are also people who believe in anti-politics who see this kind of creating farce with blockades and bandhs as a timid confrontation with the government. Those who endorse these barbaric protests should bear this element in mind. It is perfectly clear that these people will always play the communal card but the destruction will be independent of ethnicity or community but based on realpolitik.
Well, it’s time to go and stand in the queue now.