Friday, May 31, 2024
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Is Central leadership part of the Manipur crisis?

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By Haoginlen Chongloi

I begin this article by stating that the Centre must act harshly against the state authority and come up with a definite plan before the entire nation is convinced into believing that it is a state-sponsored terror against Kukis.
In the recently concluded Lok Sabha session, Union Home Minister Amit Shah told the House that his government is working closely with the Chief Minister of Manipur and that there is no intention of replacing the chief minister of the conflict-ridden state. Shah’s statement indicates the level of trust and confidence the Centre has over N Biren Singh who presided over three months of ethnic violence between two communities, the Meiteis and the Kukis.
The statement came after the opposition parties attacked the Centre over its failure to control the situation in the state. However, Shah pointed fingers at the Opposition parties for politicizing the conflict for selfish gains. Nevertheless, the remarks made by the Union Home Minister, Amit Shah in accusing the opposition parties of instigating the violence, and his defence of N Biren Singh suggests that violence in Manipur may continue for some more time, with Singh leading the state forces, ready to seize any opportunity to create mayhem in the pretext of flushing militancy in Kuki areas.
Meiteis who constitute the majority population view N Biren Singh as the only capable leader who can save the Meiteis, and therefore Shah’s statement gave a new motivation to continue what it had just began three months ago. On the other hand, the Kukis are shocked that the Union Home Minister rose to the defence of N Biren Singh. For them, the continuation of Biren Singh suggests that the central leadership is not interested in solving the conflict and it indicates the free-hand being given to him to carry out attacks in the name of narco-terrorism and militancy.
The Kukis, a Zo ethnic group, have accused the State Chief Minister of instigating and leading the violence from all fronts. They accuse the State Police of colluding with banned militant organizations in unleashing terror against them. For all these, the Kukis have opposed to be a part of the peace initiative, protesting the inclusion of N Biren Singh as a member of the peace committee. Now, when the Centre is adamant in not removing Biren Singh as chief minister, the Kuki-Zo groups perceive something sinister in the Centre-State relationship.
Mistrusts over Singh’s government are not unfounded. Numerous evidences and accounts have surfaced as to how the state forces colluded with the Meitei extremists and mobs in burning down villages and killing of innocent Kukis. There are multiple instances of an all-out war being declared on Kukis by individuals and groups which should attract suo moto cognizance accordingly. But this would not happen as long as it is against the Kukis. Over 4000 arms with lakhs of ammunition were looted from police stations across the capital with the looters facing least resistance in the process. However, the state chief minister’s attention remains the same every time he makes his next move, it is to flush away Kuki militants.
Since the violence began, over a hundred have died with thousands displaced from their homes both in the hills and the valley. However, there has never been any tangible initiative in words or in deeds coming from the Chief Minister. It clearly appears that he represents Meiteis and their interests alone, not the collective leadership as a State Chief Minister should. In fact, he has been in the forefront of all hate campaigns against the Kukis since the past many years. He is in the habit of labeling Kukis as foreigners, immigrants and terrorists.
After understanding the entire ordeal and witnessing the total failure of the state machinery, the Centre is still reluctant to replace Singh who has been accused of being biased and involved in wrongdoings for the last three months. In a statement, the Union Home Minister does not simply rule out a change of guard but insists that Singh is ‘cooperating’ with them all this time. With this, there are questions as to what relationship does the Union Government share with the N Biren Singh government in Manipur for the last three months.
The Kuki-Zo community has no doubt over the central leadership. They had believed the complex situation to be the sole reason behind why the central leadership does not take urgent political stances. However, with the Union Home Minister’s statement, the Kukis are deeply shaken. The Manipur Tribals Forum Delhi (MTFD), Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) and its ten Kuki legislators have expressed their disappointment over the Union Home Minister’s remarks. On the origin of conflict, deaths and destruction, the Home Minister shares a similar tone with the State Chief Minister. Hence we wonder if the Union Government is part of the state-sponsored terror against tribal Kukis.
In the meantime, there are reports by The Indian Express that Manipur violence is a result of centre’s policy to allot mining rights to Prime Minister’s close friend Adani. Prakash Ambedkar, President of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) made this bold claim that it was the Centre which raked up the reservation issue for the Meiteis so that the Kuki areas rich in mineral deposits can be easily be passed on to Adani once they are in the hands of the Meiteis. Taking into consideration the Chanakya principle of achieving objectives at any cost employed by Shah at several instances, the bold claims by Prakash Ambedkar cannot be denied altogether. If proven true, the violence can be something more than an ethnic conflict, where the aggressors are uninformed that they fight for a multi-million dollar corporation.
While it is presumptuous to implicate the central leadership of having paved the way for Adani and its corporations without any solid evidence, the statement of the Union Home Minister and the Centre’s reluctance to remove N Biren Singh, its hesitancy to impose President Rule, its adamance to act harshly against the culprits behind the crisis; its shared narratives with the Meiteis, and more importantly, his comment against the Kukis as instigators of the crisis has engaged every critical mind to analyse the crisis more holistically. The statement suggests and establishes to a certain degree that it condones what the Biren Singh government with all its state apparatus has unleashed against the Kuki people for the last 100 days. It’s time to question up to what degree the central leadership is involved in the Manipur violence and with what motives has the Centre allowed Biren Singh to continue to preside over the state-sponsored attacks against minority Kukis.
(The writer teaches Journalism at Royal Global University, Guwahati. He can be reached at: [email protected])

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