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'Biren Singh is part of Manipur's problem'

October 12, 2023 11:01 IST
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'Replacement of the CM with a more acceptable face may be a good start towards resolving Manipur's problem.'

IMAGE: Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh, right, meets with Lieutenant General Harjeet Singh Sahi, GOC 3 Corps, second from left, and Major General Rajan Sharawat, Inspector General, Assam Rifles (South), left, in his office in Manipur, October 6, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

"The lack of political will to either impose President's rule or replace the chief minister is largely seen to perpetuate violence," Professor Kham Khan Suan Hausing, former head, department of political science, University of Hyderabad, and senior fellow, Centre for Multilevel Federalism, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, told Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ in the first of a two-part interview.

"Civil societies in Manipur are deeply communalised even as they embark on their exclusive agenda. Given the deep level of distrust, the space for dialogue has broken down," says Professor Hausing, making it clear that the views expressed by him in the interview are personal.


Is it true that in today's Manipur not a single Meitei can live in Kuki majority areas and not a single Kuki can live in Meitei majority areas?
What has happened to the civil society of Manipur?

After the eruption of violence in Manipur since May 3, 2023, certain pockets in Moreh and Imphal areas continued to have adjacent settlements of Meitei and Kuki-Zomi either because of the existence of mutual agreement between the two communities to maintain peace (in the case of Moreh areas) or because of strategic compulsion (Old Lambulane in Imphal, for example, because of the admixture of houses/settlements).

This has since been breached in early September, which means that it is unimaginable to think today that a single Kuki can live in a Meitei majority areas or vice versa.

Civil societies in Manipur are deeply communalised even as they embark on their exclusive agenda. Given the deep level of distrust, the space for dialogue has broken down.

The pillarisation of societies in Manipur could not have been starker.

Can you tell us what is the day to day life of the ordinary people of Manipur like since May? Do people go to offices? Do children go to playgrounds? Do shops open routinely?

The life of ordinary people in Manipur has been largely disturbed and disrupted. In the hills, large segments of the youth and elderly are involved in either attending to the needs of relief centres or in makeshift 'hall of remembrance' to mourn over the deaths.

The persistence of security dilemma also means that a large segment of the youth is recruited as village defence volunteers to defend the frontline in the 'buffer zones'.

Schools, colleges, markets, and offices were completely closed in the initial months of the outbreak of violence; they were gradually opened in selected pockets but with a limited time frame.

Normal routine life is disturbed and disrupted which severely affected daily wage earners and the poor particularly.

200 companies of various paramilitary forces are patrolling the state along with the Indian Army and local police, yet they are unable to stop the violence.

In this condition one wonders, what do the people of Manipur want? And why these many armed forces are unable to stop the violence in the state?


Absent this, there is no formal control of law and order by the Centre's paramilitary forces as the law and order continues to be directly managed by the home department of the state under the CM's supervision.

Apparently, the creation of the post of a security advisor to coordinate security matters complicates the division of labour between the CM and Kuldeep Singh, the security advisor.

Seen against this context, massive deployment of paramilitary forces without giving them direct control over law and order is particularly unhelpful in stopping violence.

Allowing vigilante groups like the Meira Paibis, torch-bearing women, to dictate the terms of maintaining law and order is particularly not amenable to stopping violence.

The activation of hitherto dormant armed militant groups -- six of which are proscribed under The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act -- and their reported role in this violence has raised serious national security concerns.

Although the Meira Paibis and other frontal Meitei civil society organisations continue to cast the blame on Kuki-Zomi SoO (Suspension of Operation) militants as the major source of violence, a critical perusal of the patterns of violence suggest otherwise.

The large-scale involvement of Meitei armed militants in this violence even as the state police/commandos remained either as bystanders or participants in perpetuating violence in the foothills are well documented.

IMAGE: Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh Manipur attends groundbreaking functions for development projects at Lamphelpat, in Imphal West, October 6, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

Will removing N Biren Singh as chief minister solve Manipur's problem?

There is a wide consensus that the chief minister has played a partisan role in this violence. He is largely seen as a part of the problem.

Replacement of the CM with a more acceptable face may be a good start towards resolving Manipur's problem.

Is there a lasting solution to this problem, in your opinion?

Certainly, there is a lasting solution to Manipur's violence.

Given the complete demographic and geographical separation that obtains after this violence, any lasting solution must go beyond the quintessential law-and-order policy prescription. Accommodating political aspirations across the divide should be the necessary first step.

A shifting of Constitutional gear is imperative.

Can Prime Minister Narendra D Modi's visit to Manipur solve the crisis?

PM Modi's visit to Manipur came too late in the date. Yet, a belated visit will certainly help and send out a clear political signal and sincerity of the Centre to resolve this impasse.

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be forthcoming.

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