Women belonging to the 'Meira Paibis,' a group representing Meitei community, stage a protest demanding restoration of peace in Manipur, in Imphal. (PTI Photo)
The focus of a good share of the world media will be on India which is hosting the 18th summit of G-20 nations and the government is justifiably channelising all its energies into hosting the event. But, sadly, it has refused to acknowledge a bigger problem that can question this country’s democratic credentials — the continuing unrest in Manipur. The latest from the state is that a section of the people would want the Assam Rifles, a Central government force deployed there to keep the peace, to leave. The local administration has been forced to impose curfew in five districts, and about 40 people, mostly women, were injured while the authorities were trying to enforce restrictions.
The Manipur crisis presents itself as the antithesis of the very ideas of democratic governance and the rule of law. First, a government that failed to anticipate, prevent or stop clashes between two communities continues to be in power there without a question being asked even after four months of unabated violence. Second, it has shown no sense of embarrassment when faced with the accusation of being partisan and would rather shoot the messenger. No democracy in normal course can afford to allow such a fatal schism to prevail and damage the social fabric for this long but, in an Indian state, ethnic violence is seen getting normalised.
The governments at the Centre and in Manipur would be doing a great disservice to the people if they think and act as if the wounds of injustice would heal by themselves. The failure to dress them and apply proper medicine would only deepen the infection of disaffection. Democracy always has the means to treat them, but unless the process is initiated, injustice will keep proliferating. The wound will become a cancer and haunt the people’s memories, like the unburied bodies that are still lying in the state’s mortuaries.