Lawlessness and its rampantruckus in North Eastern States

James HK

The extent of Lawlessness in the North Easternstates especially, Manipur and Nagaland is just mind-blowing. You drive down the road in the streets of ‘smart cities’ here in Nagaland and Manipur, you get the picture of what lawlessness is at its peak. It is just amazing how these cities have grown without any proper planning and, any premeditated steps taken. How people from every corner of the states jammed up these ‘smart cities’ is another factor of amazement, for purposes known only to them best. And yet people try fitting into them. Even if a kilo of potatoes costs INR 15/- in New Market and INR 25/- at Burma camp, nobody seems care about the monopoly. And how comes a dressed kilo of chicken costs INR 190/- in Imphal while it is INR 300/- in Kohima when most of them are transported to Imphal from this side. From small things like these to great things in these states are governed by lawlessness. And people here have stopped to know who is what and what is being done by others to some others; and everything is just haywire. 

The North East, wherein Manipur and Nagaland exist, is a magnificent and tragic tapestry of people, events and nature. One can be touched by its rivers, rain and mists, overwhelmed by the seeming gentleness of its people and stirred by its powerful and evocative history. With around 220 ethnic groups in the region or around 80 ethnic groups in Manipur and Nagaland alone, there is strength and fragility in its immense diversity here. There are many truths here, conflicting realities, especially in terms of perceptions. Indeed, it is these differing perceptions as much as other issues that stay at the root of most of the conflicts in the region, between India and its perceived North East as well as within the States in focus. There are sensitive issues and complex problems that have defied solution for as long as independent India has existed in these states. There are also special laws, Article 371A which seek to protect the traditions, lands and rights of various hill communities. In fact, in some areas, as a result of such protection, no land can be bought by a “non-local”, even if he or she should live here: there can be no alienation of land. There is also Inner Line Permit (ILP), in place to enter these states. However, these provisions stay toothless all these while and make no difference in making the region protected from intruders. Look at every corner of Dimapur, Kohima and Imphal cities you know exactly what it is.

The case of North East, as a whole, can be said that the tribal people holds a majority of the land in the hills, but two-thirds of the population lives on one-third of the land which we call ‘plains’. In case of Manipur, nearly 60 % of people live in the 10 % of the ‘plains’ while just around 40 % of the people live in the 90 % of the land. What a fallacy! Does that sound right to your right thinking process? How did all these come into such situation today? There have been conflicts in this periphery even before Indian independence and has continued since. People do not appreciate the reasons that Manipur and Nagaland stand today in India; and we know so little about each other, no wonder there is so much misunderstanding amongst us. And there is no cure from dominant communities snatching away every iota of gold from other minor communities. The minimal possibility of development and progress we see will be in the 10% of land, or in the land where the dominant class populate. For reasons like this, there is omnipresent feeling of deprivation and discrimination amongst the people. This feeling surely gives way of volatile circumstances where there is complete absence of governance in the region. And these situations can simply rupture endangering everyone. Look at Manipur, it is still burning and killings have not stopped. A human hunting for another human continues unabated. What say about the Diezephe and Tsithrongse villages in Dimapur? Is it not due to very similar reasons? The events that happened sometimes ago in Peren district have the same line of blood.

Let it be known today that the conflicts in our states, in terms of armed revolts, ethnic struggles or fights against each other or the government of India, no longer draw on the romanticism and idealism that sustained fighting groups and communities for years in the past. Dreams have degenerated into nightmares; the fighters have turned on each other and on the people in whose name they claim to speak and fight. The network of cadres, recruits, informer and political leaders is mostly based on extortion and extraction: extortion from business houses and petty traders, from professionals, contractors and politicians. Very few indeed are spared. The extraction process even involves government officials in our states, and even the top police official has to pay by handing over two (2) to five (5) per cent of their salary to various underground groups. This is where the total breakdown of the law and order situation ensues. When for instance, the top police official, who is supposed to be tackling the problematic menace like extortion, is involved in paying himself, then where on earth, can we expect the rule of the land to be working? How on earth is there going to be governance, in the absence of cutting edge to the machinery of the government?

The last point of lawlessness I would mention is about NLTP Act. In support of the Act, the NBCC seems standing tooth and nail. What a fallacy, I went down to NBCC convention centre in month January for a wedding ceremony of a friend’s daughter, what I saw was bewilderment. All around the convention centre were joints, the booze joints as open as an open secret. I am sure, the pastors and leaders of the church must have just shut their ears and eyes just as well as I did and continued my affair. What about Manipur? The Biren-led government has lifted the ban on sale of liquor in the state partially, or say with certain conditions. One day in December, 2023, I chanced to ask shop keepers in Thangal bazaar, the heart of the city where one could buy drinks in Imphal from a licensed shop; not even a single shop as such exists till today. Where is the part of so called ‘implementation’ of laws and orderliness? For goodness sake, let the law be in the land; and fully functioning. And let there be governance and place proper mechanisms for whatever is in our region, according to law. The fear of every vehicle owner or driver, even two-wheelers, on just sighting the men in uniform (both government and undergrounds) should be replaced with trust and understanding. Then we can say our states have come a long way in improving how states should be. Let not the laws of our land be like the scarecrows upon which the very birds nest and nestle. And the laws of the land should touch every one of us equally; and not bent on any one’s favour: everyone of us I mean, including the bald headed leaders of our states, Manipur and Nagaland. Vive la laws in our land!

The writer is Head and Assistant Professor, Department of English, St Joseph’s College (A), Jakhama.