India is the most populous country in the world and boasts of maintaining the second largest standing army
Manipur refuses to settle down. However much the governments at the Centre and in the state want to convince the people of the country about the efforts they are putting in to restore peace there, reports from the border state suggest otherwise. The embers of hate keep flaring up there with regular frequency resulting in deaths.
Manipur’s society is yet to resolve the problems dividing two of its communities — the Meitei and the Kuki-Zo — that have resulted in a now over-three-month-old bloody strife. Bodies of 35 people killed last week were still awaiting last rites when new ones were added on Saturday. Reports of mobs going around villages and streets appear intermittently; it was in such a raid that three persons were killed on Saturday morning.
A week ago, buses and houses in the state were set on fire. People who have lived together for centuries are now at war with each other with life showing no sign of returning to normal. It is nearly unbelievable that even legislators of the ruling BJP have borne the brunt of physical attacks.
India is the most populous country in the world and boasts of maintaining the second largest standing army. It is now the fourth largest economy and Prime Minister Narendra Modi keeps assuring his compatriots that it will soon be the third largest. India continues to be a point of attraction for multinational corporations; the country now wields such power that it can write its own business rules and still remain a destination of global capital.
All these developments will pale into insignificance if the government continues to pay no attention to law and order and human lives. No nation that fails to stop its own citizens from attacking each other and setting fire to their houses, educational institutions, places of worship and business establishments can claim to offer a safe workplace to people from other nations. It hardly matters where Manipur figures on the Indian map; the Indian state is duty-bound to protect its residents. Such procrastination and inaction, which some would allege spells tacit support for one of the two communities to continue with the carnage, does not add value to the idea of democracy India professes to uphold.
India has seen communal strife on several occasions in the last 75 years of its existence; in fact it was born amid one of the worst such instances in human history but still went on to become a liberal democracy where people of different faiths sustained each other.
There are no shortcuts to peace — the government must prioritise its plans of action and the item on the top of the agenda can be nothing but the arrests of the perpetrators of violence. An assurance to the wronged people that justice will be done to them and that their tormenters will be made to face the law should come next. The government must drop its high-handed attitude and accept the fact that a state in turmoil for more than three months merits a place in the speech of its Prime Minister. A stitch in time saves nine, but we are late already. It is time we assured ourselves that we can manage with all nine of them, but no more.