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'They will kill us, lynch us'

August 08, 2023 10:10 IST
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'Radical Meitei organisations are checking the identities of soldiers from army battalions.'

IMAGE: Security personnel fire tear gas shells to disperse a crowd in Imphal, June 29, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

W L Hangshing is the general secretary of the Kuki People's Alliance, which withdrew support to the N Biren Singh government in Manipur on August 6.

Hangshing, who retired as the chief commissioner, north east region (GST and Customs) tells Prasanna D Zore/ how dangerous the situation in Manipur is for Kuki MLAs to attend the state assembly session which begins on August 21 and what could be the way forward in Manipur, which has seen four months of violence.

Why did the Kuki People's Alliance withdraw support to the N Biren Singh government in Manipur? Do you think it should have been done soon after the violence against Kukis began in Manipur?

The day violence and riots began in Manipur after May 3, we were actually technically, informally already out of the government.

No sooner did the violence begin we were all so scattered that we could not formally put it (the withdrawal of support) together. Then we started working on it last week.

We were trying to contact our office bearers and managed to string it (the withdrawal) together on Friday (Augist 4). Then there was no network (after the restart of violence in some parts of Manipur after Augist 4).

All our office bearers were living in either Churachandpur or in Imphal (the capital of Manipur dominated by the majority Meitei community) when the riots took place. We were all scattered, even myself.

I was in hiding somewhere. Then I was in the Army Relief Centre for about a week. Then I took a military convoy to escape the (Imphal) valley. So everybody was facing these problems. It (the withdrawal of support) was hardly of any urgency at that time to take a formal decision.

The delay (in withdrawing support) was just because of technical reasons.

Now that things have more or less crystallised, the picture has become clear and we thought we should formalise it (the withdrawal).

Our withdrawal of support has taken time, but it is a natural process.

How will the withdrawal affect the N Biren Singh government because it has the numbers?

Actually it doesn't affect (the stability of the government) whether we (support them or not) that's why from the beginning we didn't join the government. We supported it from the outside based on issues which they (the N Biren Singh government) never acknowledged. But in the (Manipur) assembly we were sitting with the Treasury (the government).

(For all this while) we were hoping some sense will prevail, some kind of reconciliation will come because this (violence against the Kukis) is not something that started happening from May 3. It has been happening since the last four or five years, which is one of the reasons why our party (the Kuki People's Alliance) was formed.

Today, it is proven that it was a false hope that we had. As evident from (what has been happening in Manipur since) May 3, the government has turned rogue. It is a rogue government now.

In fact, the latest scenario is that the (Manipur) assembly has been summoned at the instigation of COCOMI (Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity which had called for convening of the session before August 5; the session is scheduled to begin August 21) and the Meira Paibis (a group of Meitei women activists).

Who are these mobs to call an assembly (session)?

These organisations looking after the interests of Meiteis are the very groups who have declared war on the Kukis; if they are allowed to call assembly sessions, then this government is a total failure. It has lost its legitimacy.

The Manipur government is a government now ruled by the mob.

What message will your withdrawal send to your people as well as to the people of Manipur?

Message was already sent the day we announced we want separate administration; the message has already gone and this (withdrawal) will just be another formal reaffirmation of that reality. It really doesn't have any effect on the political ground situation.

There are as many as eight MLAs from the hills belonging to the BJP. Do you think they should also resign as BJP MLAs like the KPA MLAs did? Are you in talks with them to convince them to resign?

Out of the ten Kuki MLAs (from the hills), two of them are our party MLAs (Chinlungthang from Singhat (ST) constituency in Churachandpur and Kimneo Haokip Hangshing from Saikul) and our decision (to withdraw) is for our party only.

They (the Kuki MLAs from BJP) actually also are on the same ground; they have left Manipur now, whether they will formally leave the BJP or they will also withdraw support from the N Biren Singh government they will have to decide for themselves. As a KPA official, I cannot comment on that matter.

Are you in talks with them to convince them to withdraw or to resign?

I don't have to convince them; we don't even have to talk; we know each other and we are sitting together almost every week and we know our sentiments together; we are on the same page.

We always sort out our issues together and for them also to support the N Biren Singh government or not are only a technicality.

In fact, they are out of it the day they announced that they want a separate administration or a separate Union Territory or whatever it is, they are already out of the N Biren Singh government.

A group of people from the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum met Union Home Minister Amit A Shah today (August 7). Could tell us what this meeting was about? Who are these tribal leaders and what are they trying to achieve through this meeting?

The ITLF was formed in the last one-and-a-half or two months after the riots took place. It's an umbrella civil organisation of all the Kuki groups. They would be having the mandate of the Kuki people and I'm sure they would be in touch with the (Kuki BJP) MLAs also on what line to take, what line of argument to take. We are all together in this. We know each other.

IMAGE: Ethnic violence broke out on May 3 in Manipur. Photograph: ANI

How safe do the elected representatives from the hills feel in Manipur today?

We cannot go there (in the Imphal valley). We (none of the Kuki MLAs) cannot enter the valley right now. They will lynch us. They will kill us.

One (Vungzagin Valte, the BJP Kuki MLA from the Thanlon (ST) constituency in Churachandpur) was already lynched there. After a three-month battle he is recovering (Valte had suffered a serious skull injury in early May when violence gripped the north eastern state and is now recuperating in a hospital in Delhi).

The radical Meitei organisations are even checking the identities of soldiers from army battalions; they are checking the identity of the soldiers.

There's no governance anymore. The rulers should hang their heads in shame. There's no governance anymore. It is ruled by the mob.

Even the assembly (session) has been called by the mob, not by the chief minister of the speaker (of the Manipur assembly). Is this democracy?

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