Defending Barbarism

After 84 days Prime Minister Narendra Modi had some time to comment on the on-going ethnic clashes in Manipur and expressed his deep anguish over a viral video of two women being paraded naked by a mob. Perhaps he reacted after the apex court took suo moto cognisance of the matter threatening to intervene in case the government fails to act. Expressing his shock Chief Justice D Y Chandrachurd, heading a bench also comprising Justices Pamidighantam Asti Narasimha and Manoj Misra said that using women as an instrument in area of communal strife to inflict gender violence was simply unacceptable. In his view this was the grossest of constitutional abuse and human rights violation. In a bid to shield his party’s government in Manipur Prime Minister tried to focus on atrocities on women in the Congress -ruled states of Rajasthan and Chattisgarh. He was actually trying to defend the indefensible.

National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Rekha Sharma said she had reached out thrice in last three months to authorities of Manipur over the incidents of violence against women but no response was received from them. This is the ground reality of the much touted double engine government of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In a similar situation in any opposition-ruled state they would cry themselves hoarse demanding immediate imposition of president’s rule. They lost no time to send a fact-finding team to investigate rural poll-related violence in Bengal. But no fact-finding team for Manipur because it is BJP ruled. Even NCW was not allowed to visit Manipur.

What started as popular resistance to the controversial High Court verdict to include non-STs (Meitis) in the Scheduled Tribes list, soon snowballed into a state-wide ethnic riot of unimaginable proportions, with the Meiti and Kuki communities at the centre of the conflict. The violence has so far left at least 150 people dead, entire villages razed down, churches burnt and tens of thousands of people displaced amidst untold suffering for both the communities. What seems to have finally ‘shaken the nation’ is the recent viral video.

While an FIR was filed 2 months back after national and international outcry despite the fact that a large mob of identifiable men can be seen in the video. Surprisingly, Chief minister Mr Biren Singh had no regret as he would assert at the press meet that the much publicised video episode was just one instance which came to light. From Singh’s own admission it was just the ‘tip of the scary iceberg’. What is needed is a comprehensive inquiry by the retired judges to ensure due legal process and accountability of violators and authorities in all such cases. Instead of clamping down on the perpetrators of crimes the BJP government has stopped internet services not allowing law-abiding citizens to have access to actual happenings.

The court order that triggered violence was essentially a land question. If the Meitis get the ST status they will be able to purchase land in the hills otherwise reserved for the Kukis. It will also allow the corporates to exploit natural resources of the area affecting the economy severely. So for the Kukis it is a life and death question.

That this continuing collision has a communal overtone that suits BJP agenda has been completely overlooked. Nobody talked about why only churches were destroyed. For one thing 246 churches were burnt down.

Some organisations and activists associated with National Alliance of People’s Movements in their appeal have sought President Draupadi Murmu’s urgent intervention and visit for restoration of peace and justice in burning Manipur and support to violated Kuki -Zo women.

Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister and BJP leader Hemant Biswa Sarma came forward in defence of his Manipur counterpart Biren Singh by espousing a conspiracy theory hatched by the opposition to discredit the BJP dispensation before the beginning of the monsoon session of parliament. What is more he cited comparative rape incidents in opposition ruled states of West Bengal, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh to justify his friend Biren Singh’s inability to stop heinous crimes against women. Biren Singh is the 12th chief minister of Manipur representing Heingang constituency in the Manipur Legislative Assembly since 2002 as a member of BJP. He was given the champion of change award in 2018 for his ‘exceptional service’ to the nation. So it is unlikely for the BJP central leadership to take any action, minor or major, against their commander-in chief in the North East which has been an ethnic cauldron for decades.

Prime Minister Modi exemplifies democracy abroad while dismantling democracy at home. But his global image that has been assiduously cultivated by the pliant media, of late, has been tarnished, nationally and globally, for what is happening across the country.


Back to Home Page

Vol 56, No. 6, Aug 6 - 12, 2023