'Why is a powerful person called Amit Shah who camped in Manipur for three days not able to maintain law and order in the state?'
On Monday, July 3, it will be two months since the continuing cycle of violence in Manipur began.
Hibi Eden, who represents Ernakulam in the Lok Sabha, recently visited relief camps in Manipur and also churches that were destroyed in the violence.
"It has been almost two months. If the chief minister is not able to maintain law and order in the state, he should resign," the Congress MP from Kerala, tells Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier.
The first of a two-part interview:
Why did you decide to visit Manipur?
As a responsible Member of Parliament from Kerala, I received many queries from the nuns and priests who work in Manipur and are from my constituency or Kerala.
K C Venugopal, the Congress general secretary, also instructed us to visit Manipur.
The party secretary in charge of Manipur also wanted to visit, but they were denied permission to move about in the state.
So, my colleague from Idukki, Daniel Kuriakose, and I decided that we would not reveal our identity during our visit.
You mean you did not let anyone know that you were MPs from Kerala?
Usually we inform the protocol officers, the security at the airport and our state units of our visit.
Yes, we informed our organisational general secretary in the state.
But we didn't reveal our identity as MPs throughout our journey.
So, when the paramilitary forces or the police or the Kukis or the Meiteis wanted to see our identity, we just showed our Aadhar cards.
Did anyone question you why you were travelling in the violence-hit areas?
We travelled from Imphal to Kangpokpi and visited the relief camps, and the institutions that were destroyed.
On the way, our vehicles were stopped and searched, our bags were searched, and we were asked questions by both Kuki and Meitei women, by the state police and also by the paramilitary forces.
Did you have conversations with the people who were displaced and in the relief camps?
From the information, pictures and presentations we got from some of our people who worked in Manipur, we understood that the law and order situation was not in place, and there were many attacks against minorities, and that many minority institutions were brutally attacked.
We decided to go there to see the situation personally and understand the facts.
We had a few Manipuri friends who assisted us throughout the journey.
We had a person with us who spoke the local language.
We made sure that we had a Naga driver as we were told that if we had a Kuki or a Meitei driver, we wouldn't be able to travel freely.
From Imphal, we went to Kangpokpi and visited an independent MLA who supported the BJP and is a Kuki.
We met his family members as he was away in Delhi to meet the prime minister to brief the situation.
When we spoke to him over the phone, he told us that he was unhappy that these attacks were still going on. He also believed that it was an attack on minorities.
After that, we visited a few villages, and the relief camps there.
All of them were worried how they would survive in the coming days as even food materials were not coming.
People were suffering from ailments, but they didn't have proper medication. There was no doctor to attend to them.
It was just impossible for the NGOs and the others to travel by road.
Many of the NGOs who work there use the Mizoram-Aizawl route to reach the border.
Throughout the journey, we could see graffiti written all over -- SOS- Separation Only Solution -- and the demand for Greater Mizoram and Greater Nagaland.
We met Malayali nuns and priests, and also many local people to try to grasp the gravity of the situation, and came to know that it was pathetic.
Did you get the feeling that it was an attack on the minorities?
When I spoke to some experts, they were of the opinion that we should not give religious colour to the violence, and that it was a conflict between the Kukis who live in the hills and the Meiteis who live in the valley.
Are they still in Manipur?
Yes, they still live in Manipur.
Ok. Then, perhaps they might be supporting some political organisations.
That was not my understanding as a third person who went there.
We were fortunate to meet some BJP MLAs on the same flight. They had travelled to Delhi to meet the prime minister.
In one voice, all of them said that though there had been conflict between the two communities for decades, this time, it was not a Meitei-Kuki conflict.
But the government is portraying it in such a way that the entire world saw it as a Meitei-Kuki conflict.
BJP MLAs told us the chief minister is supporting a particular group.
The MLAs belonged to both the Meitei and Kuki Christian communities. Remember, the Meitei and Kuki Christian MLAs shared this concern.
There has been no Internet in the state for the last 54 days. Why? The world doesn't know what's happening in Manipur for the last 54 days.
Why have the state and central forces failed to maintain law an order in a state for close to two months?
Okay, let's not involve politics and religion into this, and say that it was just a Kuki-Meitei conflict.
As a citizen of this country, let me ask. Why has the state government not able to maintain law and order?
Why is a powerful person called Amit Shah who camped in the state for three days, not able to maintain law and order in the state?
It has been almost two months. If the chief minister is not able to maintain law and order in the state, he should resign.
If the central government is not able to bring in peace, let them bring in Presidential Rule.
According to the BJP, this is a simple conflict between the Kukis and the Meiteis that has been happening for centuries. Okay, then let them try to maintain peace and order in the state.
As a journalist, do you know how many people died there?
As a Member of Parliament, I don't know.
As a Member of Parliament, I don't know what's happening there, I don't know how many houses are burnt, I don't know how many people are displaced.
Why is it that the state government is not able to provide food and medicine to the people who are in the camps?
Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com