'Can they (the Union government) provide security to every tribal in the valley? This is impossible now.'
"We can't meet Amit Shah in Imphal because our lives are not safe there. They have attacked many MLAs and leaders representing the Kukis or the tribals from the hills," Letpao Haokip, the Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Manipur's Tengnoupal, tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com over the phone on May 26.
Haokip is one among seven BJP MLAs from Manipur's hill districts who had written to the Union home ministry seeking a separate administration for the hill districts in the state,
He reveals that all the seven BJP MLAs have made up their mind to resign and have spoken to BJP National Spokesperson Dr Sambit Patra about this.
"He (Dr Patra) told us that the central leadership is not ready to accept our resignations. He has requested us to keep our decision on hold for some time. He told us that our resignations will lead to more problems (in the state). He believes that people will charge us with division (of the hill districts from those in the valley) in Manipur."
How is the situation in Manipur now?
After a brief halt, violence has resumed. (Situation) bohot kharab hai; bohot kharab hai (The situation is extremely bad). There is not much violence in the hills, but it's extremely precarious in the valley.
Some radical groups are creating havoc in the valley. Meiteis are Hindus, but some in these radical groups follow the Sanamahi religion. They are burning Indian flags and putting up their own flags.
These groups roam around freely indulging in violence, arson, looting and raping and are actively supported by the police and state administration.
It's not a riot happening in the valley; it's one-sided.
They (the radical Meitei groups) are killing innocent women and children. They have attacked the leaders of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo groups. They even attack the hill areas to burn their houses.
So, there has been some retaliation (counter attacks by Chin-Mizo-Kuki groups). Some of them (Meiteis) got hurt in the hills and died.
Just because the people from the hills opposed the proposed inclusion of Meiteis in the Scheduled Tribe category, they (the Meiteis) started killing and maiming people (Kukis) in the valley.
What's the immediate reason for the violence to resume after it had stopped for a couple of days in between?
The violence (against the Kukis in the valley) never came to a complete halt.
The process of ethnic cleansing has been happening without any halt.
The armed radicals have been carrying out their acts of driving out the Kukis from their homes and villages in the valley. They are still continuing with their arson and looting.
The Union government has sent paramilitary forces and central forces to Manipur. Has that not helped?
The central forces and paramilitary forces can't act much without the permission of the local police, which is openly supporting the radical groups.
The Mizos and Kukis, though, feel safe only where paramilitary forces are on the ground, near their villages. But the police stay mute witnesses; they allow gangs to burn and loot houses.
Union Home Minister Amit A Shah will be in Manipur on a three-day tour beginning May 29. Will that help bring back confidence among the people in the valley and hills?
The news is coming to us only in trickles. There is complete blocking of (telecommunication) networks; Internet is blocked. We can make calls, but there is no outside news, no update on what's happening in the valley and hills.
Also, we are not invited (by the Union home ministry to meet him or give him our representation).
Even if we are invited (by the Union home minister/ministry) we won't be able to go down to Imphal and meet him.
The radical groups have brainwashed the people of the valley to hate the people from the hills and subject them to violence and arson. The hatred against the hill people, the tribals, is overwhelming among the people of the valley (the Meiteis).
We can't meet Amit Shah in Imphal because our lives are not safe there. They have attacked many MLAs and leaders representing the Kukis or the tribals from the hills.
The Union home minister has promised that there would be no injustice against any group or people. Does it give you some sense of hope that his visit could help build the bridges between the Meiteis and the people from the hills and bring back some normalcy in the valley?
No. It is rather funny; it's part of a story (narrative). Arre, woh kya karenge? Do din rahenge, teen din rahenge, phir woh Delhi nikal jayenge (How will Amit Shah's visit to Manipur help solve the problem? He will be here only for two-three days and then go back to Delhi).'
He is welcome in the valley, but no tribal people (MLAs representing the tribals and Kukis from the hills) will go down to meet him in Imphal.
You have seen your sons being killed in front of you. You have fled from the valley to the hills to protect your lives and do you really feel that under such horrific circumstances the MLAs from the hills will go down to meet him even if we are invited? We would only be insane to do so.
Even if we (the elected representatives of the tribals to meet and discuss issues with Amit Shah) were to go, do you really think our people who have witnessed murders and raping and burning of their homes with their own eyes will feel confident and secure to go back to the valley even if there were rock-solid assurances (from the home minister)?
The valley is completely dominated by the Meiteis; Kukis and other tribals groups can never feel safe and secure in the valley anymore.
There are around 15 lakh (1.5 million) Meiteis in the valley and around 4 to 5 lakh (400,000 to 500,000) tribals in the valley which makes the valley absolutely unsafe for our people to go back to the valley.
I don't think there is any solution to this problem, but giving separation administration to the hill people to run the administration in the hills.
Who will give security to (Kuki and tribal) children going to school (in the valley if we were to return to the valley)?
Who will give security to our people going to the offices (in the valley)?
Can they (the Union government) provide security to every tribal in the valley? This is impossible now.
I don't think Amit Shah's visit will have any impact on the situation in the valley.
Seven BJP MLAs from the hills and three MLAs who are your allies have written to the Union government asking for separate administration for the hill people. There has been no response yet from the Union government.
Do all the seven BJP MLAs and the three allies who have written this letter planning to resign?
We have already conveyed the decision to resign as BJP MLAs to party national spokesperson and north east in-charge Sambit Patra, but he told us that the central leadership is not ready to accept our resignations.
He has requested of us to keep our decision on hold for some time. He told us that our resignations will lead to more problems (in the state).
He believes that people will charge us with division (of hill districts from those in the valley) in Manipur.
Though I have not yet submitted my resignation I have spoken to Sambit Patra once in Delhi. He said some sections will blame us for dividing Manipur into pieces. But it is (our stand) as good as resigning (as BJP MLAs).
We all are ready to resign as BJP MLAs, but Amit Shahji is still opposed to this (the idea of us resigning).
Have you also spoken to the home minister about your decisions to resign as BJP MLAs?
Yes. We have already spoken to him six days ago when we met him in North Block.