Modi mocked as questions on Manipur keep mounting

One of the 10 Dussehra resolutions the PM prescribed came in for scathing comment. The Opposition asked again why he hasn't managed to visit Manipur in 176 days

Criticism grows as prime minister Narendra Modi (pictured) remains absent from Manipur throughout the 176-day crisis (photo: @narendramodi/Twitter)
Criticism grows as prime minister Narendra Modi (pictured) remains absent from Manipur throughout the 176-day crisis (photo: @narendramodi/Twitter)

A.J. Prabal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat have come in for some scathing criticism, the former for not visiting Manipur even once since May this year. Bhagwat also appeared to have touched some raw nerves for blaming the foreign hand while giving a clean chit to the government for the ethnic divide and violence in the state.

The prime minister on Dussehra, 24 October, urged Indians to adopt 10 resolutions, one of which prescribed that they should travel within India first before travelling abroad.

The advice reflected his disconnect with reality, as only a microscopic minority of Indians actually travel abroad. What is more, as Rajya Sabha MP Saket Gokhale of the All-India Trinamool Congress quipped, the prime minister himself has not yet found the time to visit Manipur — 179 days after it was plunged into a violent crisis.

Even Congress general secretary and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh took to X, and shot off five questions to the prime minister:

1. Why has the prime minister not even met with the chief minister of Manipur and the elected MLAs of the state, a large majority of whom belong to his own party or are his party's allies?

2. Why has the union minister of state of external affairs who represents Manipur (inner) in the Lok Sabha, not been able to meet the prime minister?

3. Why has the prime minister, who pontificates on all subjects, not seen it fit to speak on Manipur publicly for more than 4–5 minutes at most, that too in a routine manner and after immense pressure from the Opposition?

4. Why has the prime minister, who loves to travel at the drop of a hat, not seen it fit to spend even a few hours in Manipur to show his concern?

5. Why is the chief minister of Manipur, who is so thoroughly discredited across sections of Manipuri society, still being allowed to continue?

Ramesh posted a video clip on Tuesday, 24 October, saying:

The people of Manipur and the entire North-East are closely watching how the prime minister has abandoned the state of Manipur at a time when his intervention and outreach was needed the most. He cannot escape accountability and responsibility by completely ignoring the crisis.
Jairam Ramesh, general secretary, Indian National Congress

But it must indeed be question hour on Manipur, with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat also raising some queries of his own on the continuing violence and ethnic divide in the state.

In his annual Dussehra address delivered at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, Bhagwat pointedly asked what the union government, the prime minister and the union home minister haven’t so far:

Manipuri Meiteis and Manipuri Kukis have been living together for many years. How did this sudden discord take place?
It (Manipur) is a border state. Who benefits from such internal discord and secessionism in that region? Were people from outside involved in what happened there (Manipur)?
Whenever restoration of the peace is in sight, some incident occurs and once again widens the gap between the communities. Who is instigating the violence? Which foreign powers may be interested in taking advantage of unrest and instability in Manipur? Does the geopolitics of South-east Asia also have a role in these events?
Mohan Bhagwat, chief, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)

Bhagwat gave a clean chit to the union and state governments and claimed that RSS had been working for restoring peace in the state.

The Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), an umbrella organisation of Kuki-Zo tribes in Manipur, responded by asking Bhagwat some questions in turn.

The ITLF handle on X (formerly Twitter) has been inaccessible because of a ’legal demand’ by the government. But the questions posed by the ITLF were reported by The Telegraph on Wednesday, 25 October:

  • Why were there no clashes between the majority Meiteis and the Kuki-Zo tribals in all the years before the BJP and chief minister N. Biren Singh came to power in the state?

  • Why has Meitei 'belligerence' become pronounced and intensified during Biren Singh’s tenure? The BJP has been heading a coalition government in the state since 2017 under Singh, who is serving his second term.

  • Why has the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) been withdrawn from only Meitei-dominated districts and not from tribal areas, tying the hands of security forces in the Imphal Valley where Meiteis live and which has seen far more violence than the hill districts?

  • How did “gun-toting and hate-spewing (Meitei) radical groups” like Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun gain 'prominence' in the past couple of years?

  • Why was the government notification of 1966 regarding reserved and protected forests under the Indian Forest Act, 1927, implemented suddenly in 2023, without “following procedures laid down”, which includes consulting all stakeholders?

  • Why was there a “sudden revival” of the Meitei demand for Scheduled Tribe status, alongside a “branding” of Kuki-Zo tribes as “illegal immigrants” and a blaming of the Kuki alone for the state’s drug menace?

Manipur, of course, remains on the boil.

On 20 October, a Pangal (Meitei Muslim) driver, named S. Sahir, died of injuries inflicted by a mob in the state capital of Imphal while transporting cows, prompting a joint action committee of Pangals to demand the arrest of those involved within 48 hours (from 23 October, when the demand was placed).

While Manipur police claim to have apprehended three infiltrators from Moreh in Myanmar, who came in with drugs and arms, some Kuki groups contest the claim and maintain that this is a charade — that the apprehended 'infiltrators' were actually being used by the police themselves to smuggle drugs.

The distrust and the ethnic divide continue to run deep, clearly.

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