The Manipur High Court has declared on March 3, 2017 that the over four-month-old economic blockade of the state is ‘illegal’ even as it ruled that the persons and organizations imposing the economic blockade are violating the Fundamental Rights of the citizens. The full bench, comprising Chief Justice Rakesh Ranjan Prasad, and Justices N. Koteswor and K. Nobin, passed the order in this regard.
The High Court also took cognizance that tension has been simmering in Manipur due to an economic blockade called by the United Naga Council (UNC) in the state starting from November 1, last year. National Highways (NH) 37 and NH 2 have been badly affected due to the blockade.
Although the blockade started on November 1 when the state government was planning to create new districts by bifurcating the existing Naga-dominated areas, it intensified after the government ignored the agitation and went ahead to declare Jirbam as a full-fledged district. The state government also created new districts of Kangpokpi, Tengoupal, Pharzol, Kakching, Noney and Kamjongin.
According to the UNC, the creation of new districts out of Naga territory without their consent is a deliberate act to suppress the rights of Nagas in the state.
It may be reminded that the High Court has been hearing a Public Interest Litigation, filed by R.K. Joysana, expressing concern over the situation arising as a result of the blockade.
Gaidon Kamei (President), and Stephen Lamkang, (Publicity Secretary), of the UNC which is imposing the indefinite economic blockade appeared before the high court. While six other Office Bearers of the Council who failed to appear before the court were given a last chance to do so on March 23. Both Kamei and Lamkang have been remanded in judicial custody till then.
The High Court while delivering the Judgment observed that this is done to achieve some political wishes amidst the misery of the people, the Order also observed that the state works are obstructed. ‘The blockade imposed by the UNC is hereby declared illegal as per directives of the honorable Supreme Court’, the bench ruled.
Manipur, well know for contributing towards the sporting achievements of the nation through the acclaimed athletes it has produced in different sports is also known for its performing arts and rich cultural heritage but coming to the infrastructure development, the state has been pushed towards the extreme edge. The situation in Manipur is such that most of the youth, at least those who can afford to do so, have moved to other parts of the country in search of better pastures be it in education or profession and have since refused to return to their troubled home state.
This brain-drain is worrisome as most of the educated youth, fearing that they will be forced into armed struggle have settled outside the state. So also the government employees, who have been paying parallel tax on percentage basis from their salary who are silently tolerating the suffering.
Now comes the economic blockade which is not the first of its kind as the state has been creating records for the longest blockades in the country in the past too, while neither the political leaders nor the government could bail out the public in spite of the same violating the Fundamental Rights of the citizens.
This problem is not confined to the state of Manipur, almost in ever state, universities, colleges and community, the pressure groups or the armed militants simply impose such blockades, bandhs or reort to moral policing claiming to be in the interest of the masses, or the indigenous community of their respective state, however, no one can justify how they have been authorized or sanctioned to be the spokesperson or the leaders for any of the demands. In most cases public rallies do not represent the entire community.
The Manipur High Court declaring all such economic blockades as illegal has come as a big relief for the entire state, however, the district administration and all the government organs need to immediately spring into action and perform. The state which will be having a new government by March 11, next should start picking up from where they have been pushed, and not waste time to recall how Manipur has suffered.
The new government to be formed after the verdict on March 11, should take up new schemes to attract all the communities who are working outside the state to return and serve the state and take it forward. The new government should focus on generating more avenues for employment, tap the human resources particularly the youth, taking advantage of the skill development flagship programme of the Central government to create employment and also self-employment.
The masses too should take advantage of the High Court order and oppose all such economic blockades in future. At the same time the people must partake in all government schemes and projects if they are interested in the development of Manipur.