URGING THE Kukis and Meiteis to “come to the talks table”, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday appealed “with folded hands” for restoration of peace in Manipur, which has seen continuing violence for over three months now.
Shah was speaking during the debate on the no-confidence motion in Lok Sabha, which later adopted a resolution appealing for peace in the state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to reply in the House on Thursday.
While Shah blamed the Manipur High Court for “triggering the violence”, he ruled out a change of guard in the state, asserting that Chief Minister N Biren Singh was “cooperating” with the Centre.
In his over two-hour-long intervention, he traced the origin of the current cycle of ethnic violence to an influx of Kuki refugees from Myanmar following the regime change there in 2021. “A Kuki Democratic Front started a movement there, and the military rulers launched a crackdown on them. As there is no border fencing, a large number of Kuki brothers came to Manipur and Mizoram as refugees,” he said. As the Kuki refugees settled down in the forests of Manipur valley, there were fears of a demographic change, he said.
Shah said the HC then added “fuel to the fire”, referring to its March 27 order asking the state government to submit a recommendation to grant Scheduled Tribe status for the Meitei community. “It (HC) suddenly heard a petition that had been pending with it for years. And it did not take affidavits from the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, or the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, or the Manipur government… This caused a lot of unrest in the hills. The order was passed without any legal process,” he said.
Since violence erupted on May 3, 152 people were killed, 14,898 people arrested and 1,106 FIRs registered across the state, he said.
“I appeal to both communities in Manipur with folded hands to renounce violence. Please come to the talks table with the Government of India and let us find a way to restore Manipur to the path of progress and prosperity,” he said. “Only dialogue can lead to a solution… We do not wish to change the demography. I am talking to them personally,” Shah said.
With the Opposition questioning the government on why the CM had not been replaced, Shah said: “We changed the Chief Secretary and the DGP on May 4. The CM is replaced when he does not cooperate. He (Singh) is cooperating.”
“I agree with the Opposition that violence has had a free run there, and nobody can support this,” Shah said, adding, “but it is shameful to politicise this issue.”
Shah also questioned the timing of the “release” of the video clip of women being stripped and paraded in Manipur. “Someone brought it to my notice, why a May 4 video was released just a day before the start of the Parliament session? The Intelligence agencies did not have it, but why did you not share it with the police if you had it earlier,” he told the Opposition.
The Monsoon Session began on July 20.
“Whoever had the video, if they had given it to the DGP on May 4, the culprits would have been apprehended by May 5. Because the day the video clip was brought to light, we used face-detection technology and government database and apprehended the nine accused,” he said.
Defending his government after the attack by Opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi, Shah said: “During Congress rule, there were numerous incidents of violence in Manipur, yet no home minister went there. I stayed there for three days, and our MoS (Minister of State) Shri Nityanand Rai stayed there continuously for 23 days.”
“A misconception was spread across the country that this government is not ready to discuss Manipur. Even when there was no ruckus in the House, I had written a letter saying that we are ready to discuss Manipur. However, they didn’t want a discussion, they just wanted chaos,” he said.
He said that when Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister, 750 people were killed during a conflict between the Naga and Kuki communities. He said only a Minister of State was fielded to make a statement in the House. “Their Home Minister didn’t even speak… here, I am saying again and again that I will issue a statement,” he said.
“The violence happened on the third day. The Prime Minister called me at 4 am and 6 am for three days straight. He was very concerned. We conducted 16 video conferences, sent the security advisor, deployed 36,000 security personnel, changed the chief secretary and the DGP,” Shah said.
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He said Opposition leaders like Rahul were “adding fuel to the fire”. “Rahul Gandhi wanted to go to Churachandpur, we had made arrangements for him to go by helicopter. But he was adamant that he would go by road,” he said.
Shah said the six years of BJP rule in the state had almost brought militancy to an end. “There wasn’t a single day of curfew, no strike, no blockade, and militancy has more or less ended,” he said.
“The Opposition may have no confidence in the government, but the people of India have confidence in us,” he said.