Many Loose Ends

On July 31 the Supreme Court came down heavily on the Centre and the state government of Manipur for their failure to contain ‘communal’ and sectarian violence going on for the last three months and underlined the need to restore faith in the Constitution. Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, Justice J B Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra asked why the May 4 incident in which two women were gang-raped and paraded naked in the streets of Manipur was registered on May 18–after 14 days and a month more to record the statement of victims. The union government was literally on the back-foot and the Attorney General and the Solicitor General looked defensive as they were actually defending the indefensible–the Modi government’s calculated silence and strategy of inaction. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was downplaying the Manipur mayhem while launching a massive anti- Bengal campaign, rather anti-Trinamul government campaign because of poll-related violence which was no doubt bone-chilling. In essence the court sent the message that ‘Bengal cannot be compared with Manipur’. In other words what is happening in some parts of the country–Rajasthan, Chattisgarh or Bengal–cannot be an excuse to avoid the responsibility to stop continuing ethnic conflict in Manipur. After the top court’s observation the ruling Trinamul Congress of Bengal may heave a sigh of relief. But criminalisation of politics has gripped all parties, ruling and opposition as well. Opposition parties are demanding a statement from Prime Minister in parliament but the BJP is refusing to oblige them for reasons best known to them. The BJP dismissed the visit of members of opposition bloc ‘INDIA’ to Manipur as a show-off. But they said nothing about the high-powered BJP fact-finding team that visited Bengal to assess how panchayat poll became bloody in some areas. The rapes, slaughter and destruction in that little state have appalled the world. What is even worse is the complete paralysis of the government, both local and central. Economic activities have come to a halt, with children unable to attend school, farmers ceasing their farming and people grappling with both financial losses and psychological hardships. Prime Minister is evasive and silent. Many think this is silence of complicity. There has been little or no attempt by the government to bring about healing and reconciliation. Nothing in recent years has matched the horrible and brutal violence.

For one thing Meiteis and Kukis have lived together for generations in spite of occasional tensions. This implacable hostility at the moment that has created a civil war like situation has surprised all. It is hard not to see the evil design of the ruling party–BJP–here with its policy of ‘divide and rule’.

The whole country has reacted in anger and shame. But it is not enough to force the persons in authority to accept their guilt and step down.

The role of media barons in reporting Manipur is anything but dubious. That the Modi regime enjoys blessings of big media houses is a fact of life. TV channels are in a rat race to appease Modi.

The Modi government is side-tracking the Manipur crisis in every possible way. Now a Chinese angle has been added to the Manipur imbroglio. Only the other day the former army chief M M Naravane accused China of fuelling ethnic insurgency in India’s northeast for decades. The ex-army chief’s narrative at this stage when Modi’s party is harried at home and abroad may help them to refurbish their tarnished image.

Meanwhile, echo of separate administration in the hills of Manipur gained currency. A few days after riot broke out on May 3, 10 Kuki legislators had demanded a separate administration for their community. The very idea of division of Manipur forced thousands of Meiteis to react and organised protest rallies across the state opposing the demand of separate administration. If the majority community continues to stick to its hidden agenda of ethnic cleansing the logical culmination will be more violence and separation in the end. Unless all stakeholders are given equal importance and respect no negotiated settlement will emerge anytime soon. The majority Meitei and minority Kuki are in reality battling over land and influence.

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Vol 56, No. 7, Aug 13 - 19, 2023