In a scathing attack on Opposition parties for “politicising” the situation in violence-hit Manipur, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday dismissed talks of imposition of President’s rule and replacing Chief Minister N Biren Singh, saying that the state government is “cooperating” with the Centre to bring peace in the strike-torn northeastern state.
Speaking during the discussion on the no-confidence motion in Lok Sabha, Shah said he is ready for discussion on Manipur where 152 people were killed in the ethnic violence since May 3 but the Opposition is “not letting it happen”.
“Shameful incidents have taken place in Manipur. But it is more shameful that some people are politicising it. Before the session began, I wrote to letters that we are ready for a discussion and there should not be a time limit. From day one, I am ready for discussion but they don’t want it to happen and only want to protest. If they did not agree with my statement then they should have asked for the prime minister’s statement,” Shah said in his nearly two-hour-long intervention.
Shah highlighted that there was no bandh and curfew or blockade for any day during the last six years of the BJP government in Manipur.
He said whatever is happening in Manipur is ethnic violence triggered by circumstances and it should not be turned into a political issue.
Over 14K Arrested, 1,106 FIRs Registered: Shah
Shah said that 152 people were killed in the state and 14,898 people were arrested, and 1,106 FIRs were registered.
Recalling his talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Manipur crisis, Shah said that the PM had called him twice to discuss the situation after which the state DGP and Chief Secretary were changed.
After the violence began on May 3, Shah said 16 video conference calls were held between the Manipur administration and the Centre. He said that the central government changed the Chief Secretary, the DGP and the security advisor in Manipur.
“I was there for 3 days and 3 nights… Nityanand ji (MoS Home) was there for 23 days. A commission has been appointed to enquiry into this,” he said.
He said violent incidents have reduced since 36,000 paramilitary personnel are deployed there. The Home Minister pointed out that a unified command has been formed for coordination among Indian Army, BSF, CRPF, Assam Rifles and Manipur Police.
Shah said that the central government has also held talks with Myanmar. “We will stop infiltration. We have held talks with Myanmar. We are making every effort,” he said.
Blot on Society: Shah on Manipur Viral Video
Shah also questioned the intention of leaking the video of two women being paraded naked in Manipur just ahead of the Monsoon session of Parliament which began on July 20. The video of the incident which happened on May 4 surfaced on July 19.
Calling the incident “a blot on society”, the senior BJP leader said, “The video is of the May 4 incident. No one can support these anywhere in the world. Media friends pointed to me and said should not this video be handed over to the police? Why did it come a day before the Parliament session?”
He added that nine people have been identified and arrested and they are facing trial.
The two women are alleged to have been sexually assaulted before being set free by a mob. A 26-second video of the incident had surfaced on July 19.
Shah Explains Myanmar’s Link in Manipur Violence
Explaining the events that led to violence, he said, “In 2021, there was a change in government in Myanmar and the military seized power. There is a Kuki Democratic Front in Myanmar which started a movement for democracy. The military launched a crackdown on them. Since there is no fencing on the Myanmar border, a large number of Kuki people from Myanmar started to come to Manipur and Mizoram. They started settling in jungles. Manipur people started to feel their demography will change. In 2022, the Home Ministry decided that there needs to be fencing on the border. We have completed 10 km of fencing and work is underway on 7 km. The survey is underway for 600 km. This is being done to stop illegal immigration.”
Shah said that the Manipur High Court’s order to declare Meitis as tribals added fuel to the fire in the state.
“Meitis live in the valley and Kukis and Nagas reside in the mountains. From January 2023, we started to give those seeking shelter identity cards. We took their thumb impression, and eye impression and put their details in a negative list of voter cards and Aadhar cards. But their numbers (those coming from Myanmar) increased, and Meitis started to have a sense of insecurity. On April 29, a rumour spread that 58 places of refugees have been declared as villages. This led to unrest in the valley. The Manipur HC’s order in April added fuel to the fire. The HC said Meitis should be declared as tribal. This led to unrest in the mountains and there was a clash on May 3,” he added.
‘Violence is not a Solution’: Shah Appeals for Peace
Shah said that violence is not a solution to anything and appealed to both communities in Manipur to sit with the Government of India and find a solution for peace.
“We are in discussions with the Meitei community and also with the Kuki community. I request, let’s sit together and talk to resolve the issues. The Government of India has no intention to change the demography. I also want to say that politics should not be done over this (Manipur) issue,” he said.