Nothing unofficial about it
Sir — Why the “Unofficial tag on Priya road show” (Oct 29)' There is anyway nothing official about the district administration being run by the henchmen of political parties, predominantly red, in rural Bengal. In fact, not only the administrative services but local bodies like the panchayat and the zilla parishad are also in the full control of the ruling party. It is public knowledge how local development funds available to panchayats have been used as party funds; how public utilities have been advertised as the achievement of political parties — including roads. If the district administration of Raiganj thought the laying of a road could not be usurped by any political party for its selfish interests, it should not have invited a prominent politician of the constituency to inaugurate the construction. That it did shows how intrinsically administrative duties have become associated with politics. If this association is suddenly being questioned it is because the left realizes that it no longer monopolizes the game.
J. Sharma, Calcutta
Cracking the code
Sir — Every organization in Manipur has its own set of rules by which it tends to monitor the so-called traditional and ethnic identity of a people who have remained so long mute to such diktats (“Manipuri girls bow to rebel dress code”, Oct 15). Be it a ban on the screening of Hindi films in the state or a fresh set of instructions for women, each such organization clamours for a way to gain public attention. This is particularly true in the case of the political doublespeak wherein the Centre is accused of everything that goes wrong with Manipur, although the groups follow the same oppressive policy towards its own people.
Let the militants remember that the Manipuris are capable of safeguarding their cultural and ethnic identity and that they look on such diktats as a ploy to gain control over the population. A more painful development has been the no-show by women’s groups in the state. By remaining silent over this issue they seem to have been overpowered by might if not by right.
N. Tomchou, Imphal
Sir — Khelen Thokchom’s “Manipuri girls bow to rebel dress code” makes poignant observations. It has been noticed that dress codes are always imposed on the women of a particular religious or linguistic group. Does this mean that the responsibility of preserving the ethnic or religious identity of a community rests only with the women' Trousers and shirts, worn by men, including the Manipuris, are not Indian, and certainly not of Manipuris. Instead of making an issue of such trivial matters, Manipuris should channel their energies to strive towards development.
D.K. Bhattacharjee, Guwahati
Sir — The blockade of the Imphal-Kohima highway has caused an artificial scarcity of essential commodities in Manipur. The blockade has been continuing since early September. Vehicular traffic has come to a complete standstill, barring some trucks and goods carriers which ply clandestinely through the night.
The highway was shut down following an incident in which two Manipuri-Tangkhul girl were allegedly raped by Naga militants on September 5. Routine press-handouts by militants insist that they are not using the incident to deepen the wedge between the communities and that the protest is for the improvement of NH 39 so that it can serve as an alternative route connecting Imphal to the rest of the country. The Manipur chief minister, Okram Ibobi Singh, understands this need. But what is being ignored is that precious resources are meanwhile running out of stock. Prices have also gone up. No steps are being taken by the government to solve the scarcity. If the blockade continues for much longer, public anger will vent itself onto the streets. There is also the risk of deteriorating relations between Nagaland and Manipur.
Momo Sanasa, Imphal
Sir — The editorial, “Bad neighbours” (Sept 11), contained some misleading statements. There is no tension between Nagaland and Manipur. As a Meitei, I know for certain that my community does not “hold it against Nagas in general” for the recent armed robbery and alleged rape of two women on Manipur-bound vehicles inside Nagaland. In fact, the Nagaland police did a commendable job by apprehending some of the suspects promptly. The misunderstanding is bound to the cleared up and the relations between the two states will not worsen.
However, the Meiteis are understandably agitated because extortion, robbing of passengers, detention and assault on drivers did take place inside Nagaland in the recent past. I take these buses when I go to Imphal with my wife and daughters, and have narrowly escaped an armed robbery once. Now that possible rape has been added to the list, no woman travelling on this highway will ever feel safe again. I do not think a blockade of highways by any organization will solve anything. But the present blockade is meant to be a protest against the two state governments for failing to provide security to passengers and goods trucks. Why should anyone read “communal” meanings into this blockade' For that matter, even Naga student organizations had often blocked NH 39 whenever they felt the need to protest against the Manipur government or Meitei organizations.
I wonder if a section of the media itself is not responsible for stoking ethnic tension. Take the “ceasefire” episode in Imphal, for instance. The Meiteis, as some people had made it out to be, are not against the “ceasefire” or the “peace process” in Nagaland. They only expressed their anger against their own politicians, who, they felt, had sold them out. That is why only Meitei politicians were targeted and not a single Naga was harmed during the “ceasefire” protests in June 2001. I also fail to understand how Tripura will be affected by a blockade of the highway.
Robin S. Ngangom, Shillong
Sir — With reference to Brinda Karat’s “Delivering anything but justice” (Oct 17), we would like to point out some important facts about the incident that took place at village Savrikala, district Balaghat, on July 30. It is not true that the panchayat meeting convened by the sarpanch of the village of Savrikala sentenced the local teacher, Bhuvaneswari Devi, to gang rape.
The lady herself did not mention the alleged panchayat order for gang rape either in her first information report to the Lanji police station on July 30 or in an affidavit submitted to the district collector on July 31, or in the statements given to the chief executive officer of Janpad panchayat, Lanji, on August 3. Further investigation conducted by the subdivisional officer (police), Lanji, has not substantiated the allegation of the panchayat order for gang rape. A lady constable and a homeguard have been posted for the safety of Bhuvaneswari Devi since September 27.
The villagers stopped sending their children to the three schools in Savrikala after a decision taken by them at a meeting held on July 30. The schools could only be reopened on August 13, after an assurance was given to the villagers that the teachers allegedly involved would be transferred. Bhuvaneswari Devi has not been transferred by way of punishment, but rather to maintain law and order in the village. She has been posed in a school of the village of her residence, Chikliamali.
Cases have been registered against the sarpanch, the panchayat secretary, BDCs under section 504, 509 and 500/34 of the Indian Penal Code. Under Madhya Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act, 1993, proceedings have been initiated for the removal of the sarpanch, BDC member and the panchayat secretary on the grounds of misconduct. It is quite clear that the district administration and the police have taken action against persons who are responsible for public rebuke of a lady. At present, the matter is pending before the high court, Madhya Pradesh, Jabalpur branch under writ petition no 4903/2002.
Ajita Bajpai Pande, directorate of public relations, government of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal