The leave applications submitted by Kuki MLAs not to attend the one-day State Assembly under the pretext of law and order situations and health issues are unfortunate. It has raised concerns and disappointment among the people who have been enduring the aftermath of the events since May 3, 2023.
With nearly 115 days of displacement for both Meitei and Kuki people, the valley appears to have regained a semblance of normalcy, despite sporadic incidents along the periphery of hill districts.
While law enforcement agencies have been swift to respond to any attempts to incite violence, the unfortunate reality is that innocent citizens have borne the brunt of these disruptions, seeking refuge in relief camps or outside the state.
In this present situation, the one-day State Assembly session holds immense significance as an opportunity for Kuki MLAs to demonstrate solidarity and assure their constituents of their safety and the prospect of returning to their homes.
Historically, despite past conflicts between various communities, coexistence has been established, leading to collaborative efforts toward common goals. The Kuki Naga and Kuki Paite (now Kuki Zo) clashes serve as an illustration, with the communities working together harmoniously. Amidst tight security arrangements for the Assembly session, it is crucial to showcase that peace has been restored and normalized.
The impact of violence on ordinary lives is deeply distressing, with internal displacement leading to dire consequences. Healthcare access has been compromised, leading to tragic loss of lives. Essential commodities have become scarce and unaffordable, while local produce remains unsold, affecting farmers’ livelihoods. Families have lost income sources, necessitating a fresh start from ground zero.
As we delve into the plight of those internally displaced, the dire consequences become evident. Tragically, several individuals have succumbed to their ailments due to the unavailability of adequate healthcare facilities. Adding to the distress, the prices of essential commodities have surged to alarming heights, exacerbating the hardships faced by the affected population.
The repercussions extend to the economy as well. Local hill produce, which has traditionally been a source of sustenance and livelihood, now faces challenges in reaching the market. This has deprived farmers of their usual profits from their farming endeavors.
An illustrative example is the price of dressed chicken, which has escalated to around Rs 350 per kg in the Kangpokpi district. Cooking gas cylinders are available in black at around Rs 2500 in the Kuki-dominated hill districts of Manipur.
The time has come for Kuki leaders to reassure their people that peace has been restored, and they can guarantee the safety of those who entrusted them with their representation. The leave applications submitted by six MLAs—Social Welfare and Cooperation Minister Nemcha Kipgen (Kangpokpi AC), Tribal Affairs & Hills Minister Letpao Haokip (Tengnoupal AC), LM Khaute (Churachandpur AC), Kimneo Hangshing (Saikul AC), Letzamang Haokip (Henglep AC), and Haokholet Kipgen (Saitu AC)—have raised concerns over their absence at this critical juncture.
Adding to the complexity, the two organizations, ITLF and COTU, are reportedly obstructing ten Kuki MLAs from participating in the one-day session on August 29 as well as any upcoming sessions.
The pivotal question remains: Will these MLAs bow to the influence of these civil society organizations, or will they rise as active voices for the suffering common people? Leadership by example is needed now more than ever to instill confidence and pave the way for a peaceful future.