ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

How Trucks Might Restore Peace in Manipur: Relief in the Shadow of Insecurity

In many instances, relief logistics are the lifeline of any major humanitarian operation.

Published
Opinion
6 min read
story-hero-img
i
Aa
Aa
Small
Aa
Medium
Aa
Large
Hindi Female

(Note: This is part of a series of field-based reports spotlighting lesser-known cross-cutting humanitarian issues that are emanating from the ongoing conflict in Manipur. In addition to understanding the socio-economic impact of the conflict, the series also seeks to map out instances of resilience, local innovations in humanitarian action, and examples of community peacebuilding in the context. The Mapping Humanitarianism Initiative (MHI) is being undertaken by the Centre for New Economics Studies (CNES) in close collaboration with Peace Centre Nagaland (PCN) located in Chümoukedima)

For those familiar with the intricacies of the provision of disaster or humanitarian relief, the need to ensure that the displaced population, living especially in relief camps, are provided an unbroken supply of both food and non-food items.

In many instances, relief logistics are the lifeline of any major humanitarian operation, regardless of the scale of the effort. In the Indian context, especially in past disasters and conflicts, logisticians, as well as their network of vendors, vehicles, drivers, assistants as well as repairmen, were the fundamental building blocks for any relief work done by both government and civil society actors.

Due credit must be given to the overall ecosystem of humanitarian logistics in the country which is now able to bring together and integrate various types of cargo and modes of transport, to ensure that the neediest, staying the remotest of relief camps are provided basic sustenance.
ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

It is the symbolism underlying relief that gets missed in such situations. It is the recognition that however far away, human suffering must be mitigated. Relief convoys are nothing but a delicate thread that connects those who have fled their homes and are in camps, to those who believe that their contribution, however small, will alleviate their situation in even a minuscule way.

In many instances, relief logistics are the lifeline of any major humanitarian operation.

Photo: Relief Vehicles of Peace Channel Nagaland Relief Service to Manipur

Source: Peace Channel Nagaland

In many instances, relief logistics are the lifeline of any major humanitarian operation.

Photo: Relief Vehicles of Peace Channel Nagaland Relief Service to Manipur

Source: Peace Channel Nagaland

Statistics from the conflict-affected areas in Manipur are indicative of the imperative for ensuring a well-functioning supply chain. Based on figures provided in June, within Manipur itself, there were an upward of 50,000 people spread across 349 camps. The state of Mizoram is currently hosting upward of 12,000 people, while in Assam and Nagaland, cumulatively 3000 people are taking refuge. The overall relief aid system in Manipur is a complex mix of external and locally based community-led assistance.

In many instances, relief logistics are the lifeline of any major humanitarian operation.

Photo: Relief Camp in Manipur

Source: Peace Channel Nagaland Relief Service to Manipur

0

What is making the intensity of the crisis most problematic is the severe strain created by blockades and direct attacks on vehicles transporting essential items. While the closure of arterial highways has occurred in the past, the blocking of relief material is occurring at a scale that has not been witnessed in past conflicts in the region. There have been instances of seizure of relief supplies and this is one of the most serious indicators of the situation. Further, the blockades and insecurity have reportedly led to two border districts (ie, Tengnoupal and Chandel) being dependent on Myanmar for their sustenance.

In many instances, relief logistics are the lifeline of any major humanitarian operation.

Photo: Relief Supplies

Source: Peace Channel Nagaland Relief Service to Manipur

Any attack on a truck carrying supplies for instance creates a cascading series of invisible impacts right down to the intended beneficiary. It consequently means a worsening of the situation for people living in the affected areas.

It must be remembered that those driving the trucks are themselves economically vulnerable. They are taking huge risks by driving in a conflict zone without adequate means of social and financial support. Abduction, injury, or death in the line of duty is therefore catastrophic for the drivers, their assistants, and their families.

The psychological damage inflicted on the communities by cutting aid should not be underestimated. Not all violent actors obstruct the transportation of supplies. There is always room for some preservation of humanitarian norms, which has existed in the past.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Knowing the Past Matters in Providing Ground Relief

It is interesting to note that at the time of insurgency in Manipur in the early 1990s there was an instance where a major underground group operating in Chandel, refrained from attacking a monthly supply convoy that carried letters for troops and food supplies to an isolated border outpost on the Indo-Myanmar frontier (recollections of a military veteran: unnamed).

Not that this stopped the group from planning ambushes on the troops/vehicles of the unit at other times. Nonetheless, they were fully aware that the convoy would run on a particular day in the month. However, it was only for that one day that they ceased attacks, especially as they knew letters were the only source of communication for the soldiers and their loved ones.

These local-level arrangements tend to get overlooked due to the overarching pervasiveness of violence. Endogenously driven efforts at conflict resolution that were made to alleviate the blockade in the current crisis, unfortunately collapsed in the face of attacks by armed actors. Thus on 5 June the Committee On Tribal Unity (COTU) Kangkpoki announced the relaxation of the blockade on National Highway-2 into Imphal for seven days.

However, by 9 June, COTU reimposed the blockade in the aftermath of the Khoken killings. In the incident, unknown gunmen in military gear and travelling in a convoy of unmarked vehicles, arrived at Khoken village in Kangkpoki at around 4:00 AM and killed three people, aged 70, 50, and 40, while injuring another two individuals aged 45 and 20. In what can only be seen as a provocation and false-flag attack a possible channel of peace was closed.

The cumulative consequences of these developments are extremely serious. They tend to get ignored in the broader discussions on the conflict in the media. In an information-rich and evidence-poor environment, empirical micro-level solutions barely get any attention.

Thus, increasing food prices and rising costs of essential commodities are measurable sources of grievance which are acutely felt. These burdens are especially conducive for setting the preconditions for further mobilisation and participation in violent acts over the medium and long term.

It is extremely difficult to build data on the exact conditions and indicators within camps, but there is some amount of impact given the artificial barriers placed by the conflict on aid distribution channels.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

A person who experienced these challenges first hand described it succinctly: “…….the present situation is pathetic. Sufficient aid and relief materials are coming in but the victims can’t access them because vehicles can’t reach to the camps due to many other factors. The relief  camps we visited need urgent attention with medical help for children and women, food materials, government support  system, trauma healing, and counselling.”

For those involved as stakeholders in the conflict, it is important to recognise the need for dialogue, starting first with issues that are measurable. The collective misery felt by all requires working solutions. With the evidence pointing to a major gridlock in the overall distribution system, dialogue and advocacy for opening the arterial highways should be a first start.

Moreover, the solutions need not come from outside. Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram, and Assam are impacted directly or indirectly by the crisis. They have a rich tradition of reconciliation through customary practices. There is sufficient expertise within the region to be able to overcome the problem identified in this article.

ADVERTISEMENTREMOVE AD

Humanitarian actors from outside of Manipur also have to do more to further decentralise and network their logistics with local Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) involved in relief. These CBOs have far outpaced the level of aid coming in from outside (both in terms of quantity and terms of distribution chains). Time has not yet run out to alleviate the collective human misery that the conflict is imposing on all communities and initial small steps are needed.

Peace will, therefore, first travel through the movement of trucks in Manipur.

(Dr. Samrat Sinha is Professor, at Jindal Global Law School (JGLS), O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU)-Sonipat and Visiting Researcher at the Peace Centre (Chümoukedima-Nagaland). Professor Deepanshu Mohan, is Professor of Practice, and Director, Centre for New Economic Studies (CNES), O.P. Jindal Global University (JG). The authors thank Fr. Dr. C.P. Anto and Peace Channel-Nagaland and the Peace Centre (Chümoukedima-Nagaland).

All photographs are sourced from the field team of Peace Channel Nagaland providing relief to those affected by the conflict in Manipur.

(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from opinion

Topics:  manipur   Northeast   Humanitarian crisis 

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More
×
×