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Manipur: After Convoy Stopped, Rahul Gandhi Reaches Churachandpur by Chopper

According to reports, the police stopped his convoy at Bishnupur fearing that it could be attacked.

New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi reached Churachandpur, one of the worst violence-affected districts in Manipur, via a helicopter on Thursday, June 29, after the police stopped his convoy fearing that it would be attacked.

Gandhi plans to visit relief camps and meet survivors over the course of two days.

In the evening, the Congress leader tweeted saying, “I came to listen to all my brothers and sisters of Manipur. People of all communities are being very welcoming and loving. It’s very unfortunate that the government is stopping me. Manipur needs healing. Peace has to be our only priority.”

Gandhi’s convoy was stopped at Bishnupur, around 20 km from Imphal. Congress leader K.C. Venugopal told the news agency ANI, “Rahul Gandhi’s convoy has been stopped by police near Bishnupur. Police say that they are not in a position to allow us. People are standing on both sides of the road to wave to Rahul Gandhi. We are not able to understand why have they stopped us…”

According to NDTV, the police said that Gandhi was stopped from travelling by road because there were women blocking the road. “We fear repetition of such events and hence as a precaution, requested the convoy to halt at Bishnupur,” a police officer said.

However, Congress sources told the channel that the women were “protesting against the cops for stopping Mr Gandhi and that they wanted him to visit Churachandpur as well as their village”.

“He visited Manipur to know what the people of the state are going through. He didn’t come here to do politics. Why are they blocking his road,” a woman said, according to NDTV.

Bharatiya Janata Party’s ‘IT cell’ head, Amit Malviya, has meanwhile questioned Gandhi as to why he did not visit the state “between 2015-17,” when a Congress government was in the state and had passed legislation which saw opposition.

Malviya called Gandhi, “just a political opportunist, who wants to keep the pot boiling.”

Meanwhile, opposition leaders, including those from the Congress like party president Mallikarjun Kharge and Jairam Ramesh, have criticised the move to block Gandhi’s journey when PM Modi has been silent on Manipur.

Earlier, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra had said while families were forced into neighbouring states, the PM is “busy hugging world leaders, flagging trains or in poll campaigns.”

Meanwhile, as Mizoram feels the strain of accommodating tens of thousands of violence-affected people fleeing Manipur, a sizeable chunk of cases filed in Manipur have had to be registered by police irrespective of jurisdiction largely because most complainants are still scared of travelling in the state, two separate reports on Indian Express and The Hindu point out.

Ethnic violence which started in early May in Manipur has continued to make its presence felt, paralysing life in the state in which almost 200 people have died and over 60,000, displaced.

Internet services remain suspended.

The Hindu has reported that almost a third of the 5,960 cases of arson and violence registered over the last 56 days were ‘zero FIRs’ filed by police irrespective of jurisdiction.

These were filed suo motu by police and invoke sections relevant to arson, violence, murder, looking of weapons and more.

“On average, more than 100 cases were filed every day,” the report said. As many as 2,226 FIRs were filed after Union home minister Amit Shah left the state on June 2. And 71 cases were filed after Shah chaired an all-party meeting in New Delhi on June 24.

The Wire has reported on disillusionment on the ground in Manipur, with representatives of both Kuki and Meitei sides saying that Shah’s promises to them have not been kept.

Muan Tombing, general secretary of the Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum (ITLF) told Hindu that since the members of the community cannot travel to the valley areas to file their cases, they have been pursuing zero FIRs in Delhi, Aizawl in Mizoram and Guwahati in Assam.

Meanwhile, with close to 12,000 people having fled Manipur and taken shelter in the neighbouring state, Mizoram Home Commissioner H. Lalengmawia told Indian Express that with no financial aid from the Union government, Mizoram administration has primarily had to depend on contributions from the church and voluntary organisations and private individuals.

“But unless the central government intervenes immediately, after maybe around two weeks, we will be running short of resources,” Lalengmawia said.

Assam and Nagaland have sheltered 3,000 people from Manipur, it has been reported.

Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga had earlier written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking at least Rs 10 crore in financial assistance and a team led by state cabinet minister Robert Royte had also visited Delhi to request funds.

This article, first published at 9:11 am on June 29, 2023, was republished at 5:03 pm on the same day with updates.