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'Don't Know What Will Happen In Manipur On April 19'

April 18, 2024 10:24 IST
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'I don't know whether on voting day there will be intimidation from some militant groups to vote for a particular person and then force them from voting for another in the stronghold of the candidate which does not favour them, or, force them not to come out for voting.'
'Anything is possible.'

Photograph: ANI Photo

Dr Lorho S Pfoze of the Naga People's Front is the sitting Lok Sabha MP from Outer Manipur (reserved for Scheduled Tribes).

The NPF has replaced Dr Pfoze by Kachui Timothy Zimik who will be engaged in a direct contest with Congress MLA Alfred K Arthur in Outer Manipur.

On April 13, after 40 days of calm, two Kuki-Zomi tribals belonging to the Kangpokpi district were killed. Gory videos of these killings have gone viral showing how the dead bodies were disfigured and dragged by the killers.

Dr Pfoze discusses his concerns and fears with Prasanna D Zore/ about the two-phase election in Manipur for two seats -- the other one is Inner Manipur -- amid the shadow of violence that has engulfed the valley since May 3, 2023.


What's the political situation in Manipur today as it heads for a Lok Sabha election?

It's a very peculiar situation in the sense that people are not as normal as they were during the 2019 Lok Sabha election. They always come out to vote for the ruling dispensation. This time I think they are not happy with whatever is going on.

There's lot of confusion. They really don't know who to vote for. They don't like to vote for the NPF (the Naga People's Front) because of our official alliance with the BJP. The BJP over the past few months -- almost a year now -- has caused a lot of displeasure among the public.

The Congress also had its own share of contributing to all this public ire over many, many years before, when they were also ruling. Now, when the election has come again they (Manipuris

That is what I have been told by innumerable Manipur people. So let us see. Voting day is not too far off.

IMAGE: Voters queue in Senapati, March 5, 2022, during the second phase of the Manipur assembly elections. Photograph: ANI Photo

When is the voting day in Manipur for the Lok Sabha seats?

Today, the situation is so peculiar that in one parliamentary constituency -- Outer Manipur (dominated by the Kuki-Zo tribals; the Meitei dominated inner Manipur Lok Sabha seat votes on April 19) -- elections will be held in two phases: On April 19 and April 26.

I'm told by the commission (Election Commission of India) that this is the only constituency which is supposed to vote in two different phases. So that's very peculiar.

What does this tell you about the law and order situation in Manipur?

In the Kuki-dominated areas as well as in those areas which are dominated by many different tribes and ethnicities, there will be lot of tension on election day. I will not really know whether there will be violence on the day of election, but there will be a lot of confusion.

People may not turn out in good numbers just out of fear. Because of the law and order situation the Kukis have decided not to participate; the ITLF (the Indigenous Tribal Leaders' Forum) has already asked the Kukis to not contest the election.

Yet, they may participate in the voting. They are debating in their mind whether they should boycott this one (Lok Sabha election). Whether they will vote or boycott it is for all of us to see.

The third option the people here are mulling is to vote for NOTA (none of the above, option available on EVMs) in huge numbers.

They may vote, but who they vote for is something that we need to see

Given this situation -- and you must be seeing it first hand on the ground -- how peaceful and fair will be the elections to the two Lok Sabha seats in Manipur?

I don't know whether on voting day there will be intimidation from some militant groups to vote for a particular person and then force them from voting for another in the stronghold of the candidate which does not favour them, or, force them not to come out for voting. Anything is possible.

We really don't know what will happen on April 19. We only have to wait and see.

IMAGE: Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh inspects the situation in the hills adjoining Bishnupur-Churachandpur, July 2, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

What kind of security arrangements are in place on the ground to handle such situations?

I'm not really particularly sure about the number of paramilitary forces that are deployed here, but if you were here you would know that there is huge deployment. But how effective these paramilitary forces will prove in containing violence or intimidation will depend on who leads them (from the state administration).

These people (the paramilitary forces) are not local people; whether they'll be absolutely aware of what is happening in and outside the polling areas, it's something that we need to observe.

It is not going to be very easy for paramilitary forces to handle the situation on the ground.

For this the observers -- and I don't know how many such observers will be here -- may not be sufficient. But election observers (from the ECI) need to be doing justice. If they observe things which are not correct, then they must take actions accordingly.

Otherwise they just allow things to happen on the ground and that will definitely lead to wrong results being projected.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently claimed that it was his intervention that helped resolved the Manipur situation. Do you agree?

As far as the people of Manipur know, during the days when violence was at its peak in the valley (the valley has been engulfed in bouts of ethnic violence between the majority Meiteis and Kuki-Zo tribals since May 2023), they have not seen the prime minister being involved.

Maybe he might have been taking stock of the situation through agencies. I have no idea.

But the prime minister hasn't made a single statement about what is happening in Manipur yet. Do the people of Manipur feel let down?

I think the voters will tell.

We are told that in the days ahead Amit Shah may visit us again. Let us see the outcome.

Why aren't you contesting the elections?

This time the party preferred to give the ticket to somebody else.

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India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024