IMPHAL, (Lissy Maru) — “There is a great danger that the Look East Policy that the Government proposes is held hostage by insurgency”, said Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil while addressing the top leaders of the All Manipur Christian Organization (AMCO) in Imphal on September 18. “We need to open Manipur to new opportunities”. He was speaking at a Consultation organized by the Guwahati-based Joint Peace Mission Team to help the leaders of various tribal communities in Manipur to reflect on the consequence of continued armed activities in the state.
The proposed Asian High Way is to pass through Imphal and Moreh linking India and West Asia with Southeast Asia and South China. But initiatives are bound to slow down if the conditions in the states through which the High Way is due to pass are disturbed. There are reportedly over 30 insurgent groups in Manipur, each ethnic group having a few young men under arms to ‘defend their rights’. Once arms are in hand, it is difficult to distinguish between what is defence and what is offence. Instances of extortion and physical violence multiply. A ‘disturbed’ situation makes peaceful civil life difficult. Entrepreneurs refuse to invest. Quality institutions even of health and education do not come up. Job-opportunities do not expand. The result is that the younger generation moves out of the state in pursuit of education or in search of opportunities.
“Imphal can grow into an economic hub, now that Myanamar is opening out to the neighbours”, said Dr. Leban Serto of the Martin Luther University of Shillong, who was one of the animators. “However, no one will dare to invest in the ImphalValley unless an atmosphere of peace is created”. Bombs and kidnappings are not good invitation. In fact Manipuris themselves are investing outside the state. They are buying property, building house, and launching business in Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai. In the recent exodus from Bangalore it became evident how many enterprising young people from Manipur are working in India’s Silicon Valley.
Gopen Moses, a young entrepreneur in Imphal, spoke of immense economic possibilities in the ImphalValley itself. “Business skills have to be cultivated”, he said. “One must work hard. There is no easy way. Young people of the state must make up their mind their future lies in their own homeland”. A time may come when Imphal competes with Guwahati and Mandalay. Being on the Asian High Way, it may go ahead of many of India’s great cities. All one needs is imagination. The hills of Manipur are fertile and the valley offers indefinite possibilities for economic expansion.
The consultation was launched under the inspiration of Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, when a long-drawn out economic blockade of more than 110 days that sent the prices of essential goods soaring, was withdrawn on the request of the Joint Peace Mission Team. This peace team represents all the Churches of Northeast India and has intervened helpfully in many situations of conflict in the region. Currently it is also busy with a low-profile “conversation” with leaders in Kokrajhar.
Archbishop Thomas suggested that the communities of Manipur look beyond their immediate grievances and reflect for a while on the newly emerging possibilities in the new economic scenario. This suggestion was enthusiastically welcomed by all the Churches of Manipur. Archbishop Dominic Lumon encouraged the reflection. Fr. Kanmei Dominic, in charge of the social ministry of the Archdiocese, worked with the other Churche leaders to bring together the best expertise within the state and in the neighbourhood. The consultation has aroused consideration enthusiasm in the concerned communities. “This enthusiasm must be taken to the districts and villages”, said Rev. Khongar of the BaptistChurch. “The energy generated in this place, the Tribal Research Centre of Imphal, must not go waste”, he affirmed
“If Mary Kom from Manipur could do so well in the Olympics, other heroes and heroines from the state will do equally well in other fields of human activity”, said Allen Brooks, a member of the Minority Commission of Assam. All one has to do is to change grievances into determination.
While Rev. Vaiphei led the devotion, Fr. T.S.Dominic, the Vicar General the Archdiocese of Imphal, summed up the conclusions of the consultation. Among the desires expressed what emerged clear was an eagerness rather to deepen an understanding the possibilities that lie ahead for Manipur than to get lost in petty issues that divide communities. Gratitude was expressed to the members of Joint Peace Mission Team that came from Guwahati. Manipur looks ahead with hope.