IMPHAL: Where the government has failed, people have stepped in to speak up for peace and reconciliation.
In what is seen as a long-standing need for Manipur, the first major attempt at ethnic reconciliation was made on Wednesday. Civil society groups and thinking heads from three major communities, such as Meiteis (Manipuris), Nagas and Kukis, got together to find a way out of the ethnic imbroglio that has disrupted the state.
On the political front, a BJP MLA resigned alleging that the Centre was playing politics on Manipur’s situation. The lawmaker, Joy Kishan, joined the Congress.
Amid the renewed suspicion and mistrust at each other, the Nagas and the Meiteis, who are in the centre of the conflict, came together for the first time since the outbreak of the violence by sharing the dais at the “all communities get together meeting for peaceful co-existence” in Imphal.
They appealed to the protestors to lift the blockade and the counter-blockade and urged the state’s Congress government to talk to all stakeholders towards finding a solution.
“The market (in Imphal) is a mirror of our society. Let us speak only good things and get involved towards improving the situation,” rights activist Irom Sharmila, who belongs to the Meitei community, said. This was her maiden appearance at a public meeting since she had ended her epic hunger strike in August.
Nimthouja Lancha, another Meitei leader, observed that the root cause of the all-pervasive suspicion was people’s ignorance about one another’s history and cultures.
“Each community must try and understand the other. We feel that the history and cultures of each community should be included in our school curricula. Ignorance often makes a community treat another as strangers,” he said.
Romeo Bungdon, a Naga and leader of All Manipur Tribal Unity, said people should bury the hatchet and move on.
“We can achieve peace only through peace negotiations by involving all stakeholders. The government has to take the initiative to bring them under one platform,” he said.
Prof Rose Mangshi, a social activist, said the situation had worsened due to communication gap among communities.
“We appeal to both sides to withdraw the blockades. We all should sit together and try and find out a solution. When we do so, we will surely achieve solution,” Mangshi, who belongs to the Kuki community, said.
The Kukis are caught in the conflict between the Nagas and the Meiteis. The United Naga Council (UNC), which enforced an indefinite blockade on two national highways since November 1, alleged that by upgrading “Nagas’ ancestral homeland” Sadar Hills to a full-fledged district, the Okram Ibobi Singh government was trying to keep the Kukis in good humour.