New Delhi: On the second day of their Manipur visit, opposition leaders wrote a letter to the state’s governor, Anusuiya Uikey, requesting her to take effective measures to restore peace and harmony in the state.
The delegation comprising 21 parties from the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) are on a two-day visit to assess the ground situation in violence-hit Manipur. They told the governor that the delegation visited relief camps in Churachandpur, Moirang and Imphal, and “were very shocked and sad to hear the stories of anxieties, uncertainties, and pains and sorrows of individuals affected by the unprecedented violence unleashed by both sides (Meitis and Kuki-Zomi communities) since the beginning of the clashes”.
The delegation accused the BJP-led Union and state governments of failing to protect the lives of people and properties in Manipur, and claimed that over the last three months, more than 140 people were killed and 500 were injured, while around 5,000 houses have been burnt down and more than 60,000 people have been displaced.
“The condition in the relief camps is pathetic to say the least. Special care needs to be taken for the kids on a priority basis…The continued internet ban for the last three months is aiding the unsubstantiated rumours, which is aiding to the existing mistrust (between the communities),” the delegation said in the letter. The opposition leaders also said “justice should be the cornerstone” in taking effective measures , and that rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced people should be a priority to restore peace and harmony. “You are requested to apprise the union government of the complete breakdown of law and order in Manipur for the last 89 days so as to enable them to intervene in the precarious situation in Manipur to restore peace and normalcy,” the letter said.
The anger, anxiety, anguish, pain and sorrow of the people of Manipur seem to make absolutely no difference to the Prime Minister. While he is busy listening to his own voice and forcing down his ‘Mann ki Baat’ on crores of Indians, the 21 MP delegation of Team INDIA is talking… pic.twitter.com/vE0WkheCet
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) July 30, 2023
The two-day visit of the INDIA parties has garnered much attention amidst a logjam over the Manipur violence in the ongoing monsoon session of parliament. The opposition parties have urged the prime minister to give a statement and the government to discuss the matter by suspending the “business as usual” approach in the Houses. With no response from Narendra Modi, the INDIA parties have also moved a no-confidence motion that will force the prime minister to speak in parliament. However, even as the no-trust motion has been admitted, the Union government has continued to pass bills on important matters that require a detailed discussion.
The developments in parliament and sustained demand by the opposition parties asking Modi to respond over the last three months set the stage for INDIA parties’ visit to Manipur. Even in the letter to the governor, the delegation said that Modi’s silence shows his “brazen indifference to the violence in Manipur”.
The INDIA delegation includes Congress leaders Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury Gaurav Gogoi, Kodikunnil Suresh and Phulo Devi Netam, Trinamool Congress’s Sushmita Dev, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s Mahua Maji, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s Kanimozhi and D. Ravikumar, Nationalist Congress Party’s Mohammad Faizal, Jayant Chaudhary of Rashtiya Lok Dal, Manoj Kumar Jha of Rashtriya Janata Dal, N.K. Premachandran of Revolutionary Socialist Party, T. Thirumavalavan of the Tamil Nadu’s Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, Janata Dal (United) chief Rajiv Ranjan (Lalan) Singh and his party leader Aneel Prasad Hegde, Communist Party of India’s P. Santhosh Kumar, Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s A.A. Rahim, Samajwadi Party’s Javed Ali Khan, India Union Muslim League’s E.T. Mohammed Basheer, Aam Aadmi Party’s Sushil Gupta and Arvind Sawant from Shiv Sena-Uddhav Thackeray.
The Manipur visit also marks the first joint political outreach from INDIA. All the 21 members of the delegation targeted the prime minister and the Union government for allegedly letting the situation in Manipur remain tense.
Speaking with The Wire, Gaurav Gogoi of the Congress said, “It was a painful two days listening to the stories of how women were assaulted and villages were burnt. There is real anger against the central and state government for not protecting the people when there were enough warning signs in the beginning.”
Rajya Sabha MP Sushmita Dev of the TMC addressed a press briefing to say that INDIA “stands together with the suffering people of Manipur” and “will fight till the last day of the monsoon session to make the prime minister accountable”. Dev had earlier said that the delegation met the one of the two women who were sexually assaulted and paraded naked among many others who went through trauma over the last three months. She said the survivor had only one request and that was to help her see the bodies of her son and husband who were killed during the incident.
Chowdhury lashed out at the Union government after visiting a relief camp. “They are talking of investigation by CBI (into the crimes committed)… I would like to ask were they (the Union government) sleeping till now?” The opposition leaders said that they will be hearing the demands of both the Meiteis and Kukis, and explore the possibilities of an amicable resolution to the problems between the two communities.
Congress leader Phulodevi Netam described the situation in Manipur as “heart-rending”.
“…400-500 people are staying in one hall. The state government is providing them only daal-chawal, children are not getting anything else to eat the entire day. There is no toilet or bathroom facility. The manner in which people are living in camps is very heart-rending…,” ANI quoted her as saying.
The poor condition of relief camps was also highlighted by other members of the delegation. CPI(M) MP A.A. Rahim said, “All the systems are paralysed there. The double engine [referring to BJP governments at the Centre and the state] has completely paralysed and failed there. There is no relief in relief camps…I would like to ask both Union government and state government to restore peace…PM can’t visit there because of hatred politics…This is the aftermath of political polarisation led by BJP and RSS in Manipur…”
JMM MP Mahua Maji told ANI, “Members of both the communities are worried there. Violence is still ongoing…Governor told us to take the initiative and find out a solution. She herself is feeling helpless…We will have a meeting at the Parliament tomorrow after which we will decide the next course of action…”
Meanwhile, BJP leader and Union minister Anurag Thakur attacked the delegation and pointed to crimes against women in Congress-ruled Rajasthan and TMC-ruled West Bengal. Earlier, while giving a brief statement, even Modi had made an equivalence between cases of sexual assault in Manipur with those in Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. The prime minister’s statement was seen as political play, as he glaringly left out BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh that has topped the charts consistently in cases of crimes against women.
Following suit, even Thakur commented similarly on the opposition delegation, “This is just optics. When this INDIA returns from Manipur, I want to ask Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury if he supports the crimes against women in his state, West Bengal. Will these 20 MPs of INDIA give reports on Rajasthan and West Bengal as well?” Chief minister of Manipur N. Biren Singh, who is battling huge criticism and demands for his resignation, has decided to convene an assembly session at the end of this month or early August. The session is likely to trigger a battle between the BJP and the opposition ranks again.