Bishops visit Manipur, appeal for peace & reinforcement of constitutional values

The four-member Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) team visited Kakching, Sugnu area, Pukhao, Canchipur and Sangaiprou

NEW DELHI, INDIA  JULY 23: Women gathered for prayer for the women of Manipur at Sacred Heart Cathedral Church, on July 22, 2023 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Salman Ali/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA JULY 23: Women gathered for prayer for the women of Manipur at Sacred Heart Cathedral Church, on July 22, 2023 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Salman Ali/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Ashlin Mathew

Members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, who were on a two-day visit to strife-torn Manipur, appealed that the governance system should uphold the secular fabric of our country, reinforce constitutional values and cultivate an environment of peaceful coexistence of the various communities.

The four-member team led by CBCI president and Archbishop Andrews Thazhath stated that they visited Kakching, Sugnu area, Pukhao, Canchipur and Sangaiprou, where they saw the large-scale destruction of homes, churches and other places of worship, schools and institutions in various places along the way.

The violence in Manipur has claimed at least 150 lives and displaced around 60,000 people since May 3.

Inter-community clashes began in Manipur on May 3, the day of a tribal solidarity march held to protest against the Manipur High Court order to the government to recommend the scheduled tribe (ST) categorisation for the majority Meitei population as well (the Meitei had earlier rejected the categorisation for themselves but had recently petitioned to be acknowledged as a Scheduled tribe).

“We are deeply saddened about the prolonged situation of violence in Manipur. We condemn all forms of violence, atrocities and attacks especially on our institutions, places of worship and vulnerable sections of the society like women and children. We are equally worried about the prolonged silence and apathy of the law enforcement agencies in containing the violence,” said a statement released by CBCI, the apex body of Catholics in the country.

“It was heart-wrenching to see that these places looked deserted and seemed like they will not be inhabited in the near future, given the mutual mistrust and fear that continues to prevail. We are equally worried as to what is the actual situation and the future of those who have fled from these places and the future of their children, in the midst of all these vulnerabilities,” the statement continued.

The CBCI called upon all concerned persons to enter into the process of dialogue and concentrate on the development of all sections of the people in order to bring about peace and harmony in India, and in particular in the state of Manipur.  

The statement said that in Sugnu, which used to be inhabited by over 1,000 families, all of the houses and properties have been totally destroyed and vandalised.

“We had the opportunity to visit some of the schools and hostels wherein we could see the anxieties and distress of the children clearly, leaving us with no answers at this point of time as to how we can build better the communities and the institutions,” read the statement.

Most relief camps in the state are run by social organisations rather than the state, and this has been corroborated by several fact-finding teams. Catholic relief agency Caritas India has so far provided aid worth Rs 3 crore.

Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his 78-day silence on Manipur after a video emerged of Kuki women being paraded naked and FIRs showing they were later assaulted. Modi condemned the sexual assault on women in Manipur as 'shameful' and promised 'tough action'.

The Supreme Court, taking note of the video, had stated that it was deeply disturbed by the visuals and asked the government what steps it had taken. “In a constitutional democracy, it is unacceptable,” said Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud.

The Opposition MPs have been submitting notices in both houses of Parliament to discuss the ongoing ethnic strife in Manipur. They have been demanding an unrestricted debate, allowing all parties to express their views without any time constraints. BJP leaders are pushing for a discussion on Manipur under Rule 176 instead of Rule 267 in the Rajya Sabha. Under Rule 267, unlike Rule 176, the discussion can continue beyond the scheduled time and also end with voting.

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Published: 25 Jul 2023, 12:33 PM