Playing with Fire

People of Manipur want peace. No, peace remains elusive, albeit rioting, burning and looting continue, notwithstanding deployment of security forces. Unlike the first Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee 22 years ago Prime Minister Narendra Modi had no time to issue an appeal to the people of Manipur to maintain peace and calm. He was busy to exhibit his Yoga skill before an international audience. The major attraction of the much publicised 9th edition of International Day of Yoga was that Prime Minister Narendra Modi led a mass Yoga demonstration at UN Headquarters, New York for the first time. The Hindutva brigade in America was enjoying the moment. Nine years ago he proposed the observance of International Day of Yoga in 2014. Meanwhile, his leiutenant Amit Shah failed to pacify the aggrieved and restore normalcy in the Manipur valley of death.

Since the ethnic violence broke out in Manipur on May3, “over 115 dead, over 50,000 displaced, over 121 churches of 15 denominations burnt down, house of even MOS for External Affairs has been torched besides destroying large number of government buildings”. The BJP chief minister of Manipur downplayed it as an act of terrorists. But the army general Anil Chauhan said it had nothing to do with counter-insurgency and was primarily a clash between two ethnicities.

Home Minister Amit Shah found time to visit the strife-torn state only after 27 days after the massive death and destruction. Surprisingly, BJP national president J P Nadda maintained a stony silence as if nothing was happening. ‘The best way to solve a critical problem is not to solve it’. Perhaps that is the philosophy of BJP.

Meanwhile, six student organisations from Manipur asked the central leadership of BJP to clarify its stand on the charge by a Kuki militant outfit that it helped the party in the 2017 Assembly Elections. Pitting one terrorist group against another is an old practice of the administration. The British did it and their brown successors follow the legacy because it serves their narrow political interests. People have forgotten the Khalistani syndrome and its background during the Indira Gandhi regime. The security agencies have been doing this dirty game in Kashmir for long. Intelligence departments, particularly RAW [Research and Analytical Wing] reportedly during the Naxalite upsurge in the late sixties and seventies penetrated the movement and created their own ‘counter-revolutionary’ cells to counter revolutionary groups, politically and militarily. How some naxalites killed their fellow naxalites by dubbing them ‘class enemies’ is a black chapter in the glorious history of the India-shaking Rebellion. So it is not surprising that the ruling BJP will be using terrorist organisations. As per media report the chairman of United Kuki Liberation Front [UKLF] in a two-page representation to the union home minister Amit Shah on June 7, 2019, made the claim about helping the BJP in the 2015 district council polls, 2017 assembly polls and 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The UKLF and the union government entered into a suspension of operations [SoO] agreement in 2008. So it is difficult to dismiss the UKLF statement as baseless. After all the Centre didn’t contradict the UKLF stance. A total of 24 Kuki rebel outfits were part of the SoO pact.

The clandestine arrangement reportedly involved Assam Chief Minister Hemant Biswa Sarma- convener of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) formed by the BJP and Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS) national executive member Ram Madhab.

The BJP bribed some militants to gain foothold in north east to show the world that it is truly pan-Indian while the grand old party Congress is steadily losing its national status. The Kukis want a separate state incorporating all hill areas. The dubious game played by the BJP to buy peace and vote seems to be not working. The Congress party sought a National Investigating Agency (NIA) probe into the alleged deal while demanding repeatedly an all-party delegation to be sent to Manipur. But NIA is under home ministry and it is unlikely that they will go against their boss. Then an all-party delegation may gain some kind of political legitimacy through the exercise but the situation will remain supercharged unless they address the problem at its roots.

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Vol 56, No. 1, Jul 2 - 8, 2023