All-party meeting | President’s Rule is not an option in Manipur: Amit Shah

Opposition demands removal of CM Biren Singh, questions PM’s silence; Home Ministry presentation underlines scale of violence — 131 killed, 5,036 cases of arson, 5,889 FIRs, 144 arrests

June 24, 2023 03:31 pm | Updated June 25, 2023 04:21 am IST - New Delhi

Union Home Minister Amit Shah arrives to chair an all-party meeting in New Delhi on June 24, 2023 on the violence in Manipur.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah arrives to chair an all-party meeting in New Delhi on June 24, 2023 on the violence in Manipur. | Photo Credit: PTI

Union Home Minister Amit Shah told an all-party delegation on Saturday that imposition of President’s Rule in Manipur was not an option and the situation was soon returning to normal, several members who attended the meeting told The Hindu. Mr. Shah said 1,800 looted weapons had been returned and 36,000 Central forces personnel deployed in the State that has been marred with ethnic violence since May 3. 

Mr. Shah chaired the all-party meeting on Manipur where members of the Opposition raised questions about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence and demanded the resignation of Chief Minister N. Biren Singh.

Also read | 12 cadres of banned Manipur extremist group released after mob stops Army

Mr. Shah informed the delegation that imposing President’s rule is not an option in the near future and remained silent on the Chief Minister’s removal, members said. He said the Prime Minister was apprised of the situation even during the U.S visit and as a Home Minister it was his responsibility to bring the crisis under control. He added that he was the only Home Minister to have spent three days in the State at the height of ethnic violence and the priority of the Modi government is that no more lives should be lost due to violence, one of the members who attended the meeting said.

In a presentation, the Home Ministry said that 131 people have been killed. Mr. Shah asserted that no killings have occurred since June 13. Since May 3, as many as 5,036 cases of arson have been reported, 5,889 FIRs have been registered and 144 arrests made. Around 36,000 security personnel are deployed in the State, 40 Indian Police Service (IPS) officers and 20 medical teams have been sent to Manipur. 

The meeting lasted three hours. This is the first time the Central government has officially shared the death toll in the ethnic violence between the Kuki and Meitei communities that erupted on May 3. The presentation was silent on the number of weapons snatched. More than 4,000 weapons are said to have been snatched or taken away from police armouries since the onset of the violence.

CPI(M) Member of Parliament John Brittas said he demanded the resignation of the Manipur CM who was “partisan and part of the problem”.

“I drew attention to the gross mismatch between the number of arrests and the crimes committed. Only 144 arrests when nearly 6,000 FIRs have been registered,” Mr. Brittas said. He added that the Home Minister hinted that it was difficult for security forces to enter some areas as women were at the forefront of protests, and that doing so may lead to other issues.

The Ministry cited three primary reasons for the violence — legacy issues, infiltration from Myanmar and the March 27 Manipur High Court order directing the State government to submit a recommendation for inclusion of Meitei in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) list. A member said that Mr. Shah indirectly blamed the 2021 coup in neighbouring Myanmar for the influx of illegal migrants into Manipur. He said that fencing of 10 km of the Myanmar-Manipur border had been completed and the tendering process for 80 km of border fencing is over. The survey of remaining areas is under way.

‘Disarm groups’

Except for former Manipur Chief Minister O. Ibobi Singh, who was representing the Congress in the meeting, there were no other representatives from Manipur. Mr. Singh demanded that all armed groups be disarmed immediately and that the Chief Minister should be replaced.

C. Lalrosanga of the Mizo National Front (MNF) said law and order had collapsed in Manipur and demanded a separate administration for the tribal Kuki-Zo communities. Mizoram, which shares ethnic ties with the Kuki-Zo people in Manipur, has sheltered nearly 11,000 displaced people from the community since the violence commenced. Mr. Lalrosanga said at the meeting that his party was demanding that the territorial integrity of Manipur should not be disturbed but separate administration for the Kuki-Zo people should be strongly considered.

Priyanka Chaturvedi of the Shiv Sena (UBT) said accountability could only be fixed when the Chief Minister is replaced.

At the meeting, the DMK’s Tiruchi Siva demanded a truth commission. “The Home Minister did not provide the number of weapons that have been snatched but said around 1,800 weapons have been returned. The Minister said that between the years 1993-2002, around 1,600 people were killed in Manipur stating that he was not justifying the [current] deaths,” Mr. Siva told The Hindu.

As many as 18 political parties, including the Bharatiya Janta Party, and four Members of Parliament from the northeast and two Chief Ministers — Conrad Sangma from Meghalaya and Prem Singh Tamang from Sikkim — attended the meeting.

Mr. Shah said that the Centre would consider all suggestions made by the members with an open mind, a government source said.

BJP president J.P. Nadda said at the meeting that the Manipur issue needed to be handled with sensitivity and it was “rooted in many historic factors which have also led to the flare-up of the present violence”, the source said.

Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien said, “After the meeting of our leaders in Patna, within 24 hours the Opposition spoke in one united voice for Manipur.

Opposition parties alleged that not enough time was given to them to speak compared to allies of the BJP. A member said the first speaker was Food Processing Minister Pashupati Kumar Paras (LJP) from Bihar, the second was the Meghalaya CM and the third was the Sikkim CM.

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