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'I Told Amit Shah Manipur Must Have President's Rule'

June 15, 2023 10:39 IST
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'Till the time the chief minister continues to have command over the state forces, we don't think that gives any hope of peace coming back to Manipur.'


Amid reports that a delegation of several Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs in Manipur along with representatives from civil society organisations have sought an audience with Prime Minister Narendra D Modi comes the disturbing news on Wednesday, June 14, 2023, of a militant attack in Khamenlok village -- bordering the Meitei-dominated Imphal East district and the tribal majority Kangpokpi district -- that has reportedly led to nine deaths.

Amid the turmoil in the north east state, riven by violence since May 3, a BJP MLA from the hills, who is also a minister in the N Biren Singh government, tells Prasanna D Zore/ that the situation in Manipur is very delicate and could explode anytime.

The minister spoke on condition that he would not be identified in this interview.

About the meeting with the prime minister, he says, "While efforts are being made to meet the prime minister, we haven't got any appointment yet. I alone don't take any decision. I am yet to discuss this with other MLAs (from the Manipur hills) and other stakeholders. It will be our collective decision."

Why is Manipur continuing to see more violence?

The violence has been continuing since May 3. According to my information, Arambai Tengol radicals attacked Khamenlok village and fired indiscriminately. Reports of fierce fighting are coming to us from our local people (this is contrary to media reports which state that Kuki militants were involved in the attack on a village in Khamenlok).

The situation is very serious, very delicate. It can burst out anytime.

There are reports of Kuki militants preparing to attack villages dominated by the Meiteis. What do you have to say about such reports?

I'm staying out from there (Manipur). It (reports of Kuki militants preparing to attack Meiteis) is twisted news.

The Arambai Tengol radicals have been attacking our villages and churches. There are also reports of some groups of Kuki youth defending themselves with arms while defending their houses and families and children.

There is a huge presence of Central Armed Police Forces as well as state police. Why are these forces unable to maintain law and order in Manipur?

You should ask these questions to the state's chief minister (N Biren Singh). Why are you asking me?

Union Home Minister Amit A Shah was in Manipur in the last week of May and early June; he appealed for peace, met representatives of both sides, yet peace is not holding in the state. Why?

I gave my advice (to Amit Shah); I told him for peace to prevail, Manipur must go under President's rule or there should be a suspension of the state assembly. Instead, he announced a peace committee.

What's wrong with the formation of a peace committee to bring back normalcy in Manipur?

How can this peace committee stem violence when it is dominated only by one side (the Meiteis) and has the chief minister as one of its members? There has to be a powerful third party (in this peace committee) which can hold sway over both sides.

None of the cabinet ministers or the chief minister should be a part of such a peace committee.

IMAGE: Army and Assam Rifles personnel stand guard in the Torbung area of Churachandpur, May 6, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

Do the hill people believe that a peace committee in Manipur that has the chief minister as one of its members will not provide any solution?

We need more of civil society organisations which will have some influence over both the sides (the Kukis and the Meiteis).

Till the time the chief minister continues to have command over the state forces, we don't think that gives any hope of peace coming back to Manipur.

Till the time he has control over the unified command (of the state police and CAPF) one cannot sincerely expect peace to prevail in Manipur.

Only if he (Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh) were to cease control over the unified command, the paramilitary forces will be able to contain violence in the state.

There have even been reports of confrontations between the paramilitary forces and the state police.

Are you saying that N Biren Singh is not allowing the CAPF to control the situation?

His presence will always act as an obstacle for the central forces to work independently or take necessary measures to contain the violence.

While the state police is openly supporting Arambai Tengol (a radical Meitei group), 80 per cent of Meiteis doesn't want war.

All the educated and well-settled Meiteis are good people.

It is radical groups like Meitei Leepun and Arambai Tengol, which are responsible for the mayhem in the state.

Till the time these people are dealt with an iron hand, there is no chance of peace in Manipur.

Though I am from the hills, I am not saying that I support the hill people, I am a minister, but the fact remains that tribals don't descend down the valley to attack the Meiteis; it is the radicals who attack Kuki villages in the border areas adjoining the valley and hills.

When the radicals attack the hill people, the hill people (the Kukis) have to do whatever they have to do to defend them. But they spread lies in the media that Kuki militants are attacking the Meiteis.

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