A conspicuous silence

Imkong Walling

The bloody ethnic violence in the neighbouring state of Manipur is now almost 2 months old. The narrative thus far has been on broad casualty figures, a one-sided Manipur state government and its police force and of late, a silent Prime Minister reportedly disconnected from the domestic turmoil raging in the far east of the country.   

Closer to the epicenter has been a conspicuously taciturn Nagaland state. Manipur’s north-eastern sibling appearing far more distant from the humanitarian crisis, that has been unfolding next door, than the Prime Minister, even as the conflict has claimed over a hundred lives, atleast, and thousands displaced. The human toll could be more but for a lack of concrete figures, the figures are approximate at best. 

The number of people displaced is approximated to range from 50,000 to 1,00,000 with news reports from Manipur quoting the number of the displaced taking shelter in relief camps within the state at around 50,000. It includes Meiteis, who escaped retaliatory attacks in Chin-Kuki-Zo dominated districts and vice versa. 

An unspecified number have fled the Meitei dominated valley districts to other states, including Nagaland, where atleast 2100 Kukis have taken refuge. As reported by The Morung Express on June 23, the number was based on figures collected from host villages, colony authorities and civil society organizations in Dimapur, Chümoukedima, Kohima, Peren and Mokokchung. 

Meanwhile, the Nagaland state government has still to officially acknowledge the development or initiate humanitarian measures as opposed to the steps taken by Mizoram and Assam. 

The indifference is palpable from the all-party meeting convened by the Union Home Minister on June 24, wherein no political representative from Nagaland found mention. It further manifests in the government waiting for requests for aid from the displaced people, as admitted by a senior bureaucrat. The bureaucrat’s statement that the government was in the process of collecting information contradicted with ground officials revealing there has yet been no directive from the higher ups. 

Giving shelter to people escaping violence is as much rooted in human empathy as it is in international humanitarian principles. Compassion for a shared humanity, however, has been lacking on the part of the state government in this particular crisis.  

Another overlooked casualty of the conflict, amid all the stories about the violence and the disruptive propaganda being perpetuated by both the sides, has been an unmistakable partisan narrative emerging from the Meitei-dominated valley districts, where the major press/media publications are concentrated. 

With the exception of some ground reportage by some regional and national news outlets, the ‘other side of the story’ has been rendered virtually out of reach. Shutting of internet connectivity, while a preventive measure for curbing incendiary social media messaging, has had ground reportage by journalists in Churachandpur and in other Chin-Kuki-Zo dominated districts largely confined within. 

Atrocities have been committed by both sides, if not in equal measure; and people on both sides of the communal divide angry and bitter. It is rather easy for someone not directly impacted by the crisis, like this commentator, pitching ideas for solutions. But as a fellow human, one cannot help but be concerned.  

The crisis demands prudent mediation without electoral motive, dialogue, making comprises and perhaps the long delayed national Census.  

The writer is a Principal Correspondent at The Morung Express. Comments can be sent to [email protected]