Manipur: Even government divided down the middle
Even as Union home minister Amit Shah chairs an all-party meeting in Imphal today, an ethnic divide is apparent within government and security forces in the state
Newspaper reports today, 30 May, quoted 'security sources' saying that not only were weapons looted from armouries and police stations during the past few days, but some were also actually handed over to the two warring groups by sympathetic security personnel.
Meitei personnel handed them over to Meitei militants and civilians, and Kuki personnel to the Kukis, it is rumoured.
Even more disturbingly, the claimants admit that for the first time, the government itself is split down the middle. Government employees' divided loyalty, they say, is evident in the way that Meitei officials in the hills have moved back to the Imphal valley, while Kuki employees in Imphal have moved back to the hills or migrated to Mizoram, Assam or Delhi for safety.
With official estimates putting the casualty at 80 deaths, 1,700 houses burnt down, 35,000 people displaced (with 7,000 refugees in Mizoram alone), questions are being raised over the conduct of the state government and, more particularly, chief minister N. Biren Singh.
Surprisingly, although violence has been raging since 3 May, no peace committee appears to have been formed by the government. No attempt appears to have been made by the state government to bring the two communities together.
Also Read: Why Manipur is Burning
The Kukis have been accusing the chief minister of being biased and encouraging Meitei militant groups Arambai and Meitei Leepun. The inaction of the chief minister, the delay in deploying the army and the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force), the failure to protect people in the capital city of Imphal and the burning down of 250 churches, the Kukis claim, would not have been possible without the complicity of the government.
They have been demanding the dismissal of the government and imposition of the President’s Rule as a precondition for dialogue. Kuki legislators had earlier stated that while they would meet the Union home minister, they had serious reservations about meeting the chief minister. No dialogue, they felt, was possible with a partisan leader chairing it.
The Union government too has moved slowly. It took its time before appointing a security advisor to the CM. The army chief and the home minister of the state took over three weeks after the violence started to reach Manipur at all!
The Centre is also, unsurprisingly, opposed to the dismissal of the BJP government in favour of President's Rule.
The Union home minister has also assured Meitei delegations that the territorial integrity of Manipur would be maintained. In other words, the Centre is not favourably disposed towards demands for a separate state, union territory or an autonomous council for the Kukis.
The presence of BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra yesterday at a security review chaired by Amit Shah has also raised eyebrows. While it is no secret that the present government looks at every crisis through the prism of politics, Patra’s presence at a crucial security briefing has removed the fig leaf of impartial administration.
The chief minister has not uttered a word against the Meitei militants, and his failure to control them in the Imphal valley has not gone unnoticed.
Despite the internet ban, a large number of disturbing audio and video clips are circulating (some less factually sound than others), confirming the ethnic divide, underlining the resultant bitterness and resentment that both groups now harbour.
All eyes are on the all-party meeting at Imphal today to see if it achieves any breakthrough beyond a routine 'call for peace'.