European Parliament adopts resolution on Manipur violence, denounces BJP's 'nationalistic rhetoric'

Ahead of PM Modi's Paris visit on July 13, the European Parliament in Strasbourg discussed the deaths, violence and displacement in Manipur for over 70 days

European Parliament Plenary Session on Manipur, India at Strasbourg, France on Thursday, July 13. (photo courtesy: @chikimteawgin19)
European Parliament Plenary Session on Manipur, India at Strasbourg, France on Thursday, July 13. (photo courtesy: @chikimteawgin19)

Amarabati Bhattacharyya

Ahead of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s arrival in Paris, France for an official two-day visit on Thursday, July 13, the European Parliament in Strasbourg held a Plenary Session on the Manipur violence — adopting a resolution that condemned the acts of violence, loss of life and destruction of property in Manipur. The 7-point resolution also denounced the nationalistic rhetoric deployed by leading members of the BJP party.

The resolution  called on India and local authorities “to allow unhindered humanitarian aid to those affected, and for independent monitors to carry out investigations’, for political leaders to cease inflammatory statements in order to re-establish trust and play an impartial role to mediate the tensions and the initiation of mediation efforts by both the Centre as well as the state government.”

It further resolved that the government withdraw the much-contested Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the state as well as the restoration of internet services. It proposed that the European Union and India collectively establish dialogue and strategy  “to address human rights issues, particularly those concerning ethnic and religious minorities and freedom of religion and belief .”

The European Parliament's Session on the Manipur violence came on the back of ethnic clashes between the Hindu Meitei community, who form a bare majority in the state, and the mostly Christian Naga and Kuki tribal community in Manipur over the past three months.

These clashes have led to over 120 deaths, 50,000 displacements, 250 churches, schools, hospitals burnt and large-scale destruction. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has largely remained silent over the civil-war-like situation in the North Eastern state, while prime minister Modi has not yet uttered a single word on Manipur, nor visited the violence-struck state.

The five parliamentary factions that drafted the resolution were the left Greens-European Free Alliance, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the centre-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the liberal Renew group and the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group. They account for around 80 per cent of the lawmakers in the 705-member parliament.

“The situation in the state of Manipur in the North East of India is serious…violence is ongoing without the perpetrators being prevented. We call on the Indian government to do everything to restore order, bring the perpetrators to justice, and stop the excessive violence. With this resolution of the European Parliament, we call on the most populous democracy in the world to do what it is duty-bound to do as per its Constitution — to maintain religious freedom for the Christians in Manipur,” said parliament speaker Sven Simon, representing the EPP. 

“In Manipur, over 120 people have been killed…not just one or two but 250 churches have been burnt. This is a dramatic situation and we have to do everything in our power to bring an end to this. Without ironclad guarantees in this area, we cannot talk about a new trade agreement with India,” said parliament speaker Bert-Jan Ruissen, representing the ECR.

Condemning Modi’s silence and inaction over Manipur and the precarious state of all minorities in India at large, parliament speaker  Pierre Larroutouroun of S&D group said that “since he [Modi] came to power in 2014, he has been implementing radical nationalist Hindu policy which has had terrible consequences for journalists, religious minorities, civil society, and human rights fighters. Women in particular face severe challenges and violations of their rights often related to tribal and religious backgrounds, including sexual violence and harassment”.

“The resolution has to be clear in denouncing this Hindu nationalistic rhetoric of Modi,” said a speaker, remarking that while the prime minister is often compares himself to Mahatma Gandhi, emphasises the importance of meditation, and has been championing International Yoga Day across the world, millions of Muslims an Christians suffer because the BJP-run government violates their fundamental rights — has been rampantly criminalising anyone who criticises the government, violating freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and democratic functioning itself. “India is trying to suffocate democracy by suffocating criticism,”  Larroutouroun added.

Meanwhile, reacting to the European Parliament’s resolution, India said that “this [Manipur violence] is a matter absolutely internal to the country” — opposing their decision to move forward with the Plenary Session on Manipur. Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said EU parliamentarians concerned are being reached out and it has been made clear to them that it is a matter "absolutely" internal to India.

On the other hand, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh tweeted ahead of the session and said: "The European Parliament is scheduled to discuss Manipur today. Our Foreign Secretary has told the Europeans that this is an internal matter of India. It certainly is an internal matter, on which the PM is silent and no All-Party delegation has gone to Manipur, 'blessed by the PM'.  There is also no guarantee that he will actually participate and speak in a debate on Manipur if allowed in our own Parliament.”

Modi's arrival in France could not have been more marked with embarrassment as the hero's welcome gets thwarted by his indifference towards Manipur. Although the Centre has insisted upon the matter being internal, it is almost an agreed fact that no country can effectively 'hide' statewide violence that has been happening for over 70 days.

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Published: 13 Jul 2023, 6:39 PM