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'The situation in Manipur is hopeless'

June 01, 2023 07:22 IST

'The central government forces are supporting one group and the state government forces are supporting another group and this is resulting in non-stop cross-firing, which has resulted in the killing of many innocent people.'

IMAGE: Union Home Minister Amit A Shah met with members of civil society organisations in Kangpokpi, Manipur, May 31, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

Union Home Minister Amit A Shah, who has been in Manipur since Monday, May 29, night to ratchet down the communal violence rocking the state since May 3, has appealed for peace in the north eastern state, but his words seems to have had little impact so far.

At last count there have been 80 deaths since violence erupted in the state almost a month ago.

Ethnic clashes broke out between the two dominant communities in the state, the Meiteis and Kukis, after the latter organised a tribal solidarity march in the hill districts of the state to protest against the possibility of granting of Scheduled Tribe status to the Meitei community.

A right which is available now to only the Kuki community, who live in the hills of Manipur while the majority Meitei community lives in the valley region of the state.

Keisham Meghachandra Singh, president, Manipur Congress Pradesh Committee was a member of the Congress delegation, led by party President Mallikarjun Kharge, which met President Droupadi Murmu on Tuesday to demand the setting up of an inquiry commission headed by a Supreme Court judge to probe the violence in the state.

"One must remember that violence on the ground can last a maximum for two or three days at best. If the central government and state government work together, in no way will the violence continue for such a long period," Keisham Singh tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ in an interview.


What is the ground situation in Manipur right now?

The situation continues to be worrisome as unrest still exists on the ground. There is cross-firing going on between the two communities and many civilian casualties have been reported. Now, the armed insurgents are targeting civilians too.

The situation is very tense even as Home Minister Amit Shah has visited the state. He is visiting the Moreh town on the Myanmar border and after that he is visiting Kangpokpi to assess the law-and-order situation.

The situation is hopeless because Amit Shah is visiting the state 26 days after the violence broke out.

Do you mean he was late in visiting the state?

The violence started on May 3, and he is visiting the state on May 29, which is very shocking for the people of Manipur.

There was a communal clash between two communities, and it should not have lasted more than two-three days.

Lots of houses were set on fire and innocent lives were lost.

Lakhs of people were displaced from their homes.

Chief Minister Biren Singh admitted in a press conference that it was the failure of the state government and intelligence department to predict and later contain the violence.

The situation is so bad today that we do not have adequate food and water for the common man. Internet is banned since May 4 and all activities have come to a halt.

Amit Shah said first let us stop the violence for 15 days and talk of peace, after which we will further discuss the issues.

This could have worked (immediately) when the violence started on May 3, but now 26 days have passed. He has just announced some compensation, restoration of peace and harmony.

The normal life of the people of Manipur has been destroyed.

The people of Manipur have lost confidence in the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party)-ruled central government as well as the state government.

But it was only last year that the people of Manipur voted for the BJP in the state for a double engine sarkar.

The election result was not the people's mandate. At that time the BJP gave huge amounts to militant groups and violated the Model Code of Conduct.

We complained about this to the Election Commission at that time. It was money power in the election that later turned to physical power which got the mandate of the people.

Did the high court ruling exploring the possibility of the Meiteis to be included in the Scheduled Tribe list, thus upsetting the Kukis, lead to the violence?

The incident that is happening now is due to the failure of the BJP government and they too admitted it. The ongoing violence is not a result of the high court judgment.

What is the Congress doing to stop the violence?

We have told Chief Minister Biren Singh to call an all-party meeting to find a peaceful solution.

The BJP is ruling the state and surprisingly, this initiative should have come from them, but they did not do it, so we had to do it.

Fortunately, they have accepted our proposal and we will soon have an all-party meeting to ensure that violence stops in Manipur.

There are allegations that Chief Minister Biren Singh has backed radical Meitei groups. How far is it true?

Central paramilitary forces are supporting one group and the state forces of Manipur are supporting another group. Everything has become a drama now as both communities have become very powerful.

Are you implying that central paramilitary forces are supporting the Kukis and the Manipur police is supporting the Meiteis and therefore the violence doesn't seem to end?

I will not name any community, but the central government forces are supporting one group and the state government forces are supporting another group and this is the clear picture to be seen on the ground.

This is resulting in non-stop cross-firing with sophisticated arms, which has resulted in the killing of many innocent people.

Article 355 was to be implemented in Manipur. Why wasn't it?

It was a lie. All the national newspapers wrote about it stating Article 355 will be implemented in Manipur so that central forces will take security into their own hands. But there was no such order from the ministry of home affairs.

Is the influx of Kuki refugees creating problems?

It is creating problems in Mizoram too. One must remember that violence on the ground can last a maximum for two or three days at best. If the central government and state government work together, in no way will the violence continue for such a long period.

They are talking of a double engine sarkar, but in Manipur the BJP's engine has separated from the sarkar.

Manipur is a small state, and its population is 30 lakh (3 million)-plus. It is less than the population of one district of Maharashtra. It has a 22,000-plus square kilometre area, which is very small. It has a 35,000 armed police force.

The central paramilitary forces are now in good numbers to control the violence. Therefore, the situation can be controlled in 2-3 days.

But when it is not being controlled, I say drama is going on as innocent people are being killed and lakhs of citizens are being displaced.

Right now, we have two national highways that connect us to mainland India, and this has been totally blocked from May 4 and the situation is still not changing on the ground.

Has the trust between the two communities broken badly?

Yes, it has broken badly, and it is up to the government to balance and build up the trust between the two communities.

They are not doing that and on the contrary, they are acting helpless.