Amit Shah appeals for peace in Manipur, backs Chief Minister Biren Singh

Centre does not intend to make demographic changes in Manipur, Amit Shah says during debate on the no-confidence motion; adds that ethnic violence is shameful, but politicising it is even more shameful

August 09, 2023 10:26 pm | Updated August 10, 2023 07:18 am IST - NEW DELHI

Union Home Minister Amit Shah speaks during the discussion on the Motion of No-Confidence in the Lok Sabha on August 9, 2023.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah speaks during the discussion on the Motion of No-Confidence in the Lok Sabha on August 9, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Home Minister Amit Shah made an appeal to both the Meitei and Kuki communities in Manipur to shun violence and enter into a dialogue with each other and with the Union government, which he said had no intentions of effecting demographic changes in the State. He was speaking in the Lok Sabha, during the debate on the no-confidence motion moved by the Opposition against the Narendra Modi-led government.

The appeal was made at the end of Mr. Shah’s speech, which ran for more than two hours. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla also asked members to support the peace appeal. Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary, asked that a draft of the appeal be first worked out and a formal resolution to the effect be passed in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, with a large number of MPs in the treasury bench raising their hands in support, the appeal was made and the House adjourned.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and other NDA members raise hands in support of the peace proposal on Manipur issued during the discussion on the Motion of No-Confidence in the Lok Sabha on August 9, 2023. Photo: Sansad TV via PTI

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and other NDA members raise hands in support of the peace proposal on Manipur issued during the discussion on the Motion of No-Confidence in the Lok Sabha on August 9, 2023. Photo: Sansad TV via PTI

Manipur CM ‘cooperated’

Manipur, which has been roiled by ethnic violence since May 3, formed a crucial part of Mr. Shah’s speech. He staunchly defended Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, stating that the imposition of President’s Rule or removal of a CM was only needed in case a CM was not “cooperating” with the Centre. “We sent a new Chief Secretary for the State, changed the Director General of Police, and the security advisor, the Chief Minister had cooperated in all interventions,” the Home Minister said.

“It is a matter of shame that such incidents took place, but it is a greater shame that politics is being played on it,” he said, referring to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Manipur. The Home Minister spoke at length about the government’s record in internal security, especially in the three “hotspots” of strife: Jammu and Kashmir, left-wing extremism, and in the north east, where a lot of investment has been made by the Modi-led government both politically and through Central intervention.

“The entire country has been misled that the government is not ready to discuss Manipur. Even before the House convened for the session, I had written that I was ready to discuss Manipur, but the opposition was not ready to hear me,” Mr. Shah said. He added that the Opposition should have heard him out and then being dissatisfied with his response, they could have asked for the response of the Prime Minister.

‘Myanmar Kuki refugees caused insecurity’

The Home Minister went into great detail describing the series of events that have triggered ethnic violence in the northeastern state, starting with the six years of peace that the BJP-led government in the State had ensured. “There was not a single day of curfew in Manipur in those six years, while previously there had been ethnic violence that led to bandhs, blockades for months on end,” he said.

Mr. Shah traced the current series of events to the military junta’s takeover in neighbouring Myanmar, which was opposed by the Kuki Democratic Front in that country, and which led to an influx of Kuki refugees into both Mizoram and Manipur. “We took the precaution of starting the fencing of the border where none existed earlier and biometric recording of refugees to create an identity card for them and to put them on a negative list for electoral rolls and Aadhaar,” he said.

Insecurities about a great demographic flux and change started growing among the Meitei community, which occupies the valley areas of the State. Mr. Shah said that the administration had done its best to quell the rumour — which circulated around April 29 — that 56 refugee camps were being designated as forest villages.

The spark that lit the fire, the Home Minister said, was the order of the Manipur High Court rekindling an old proposal to examine ways of declaring the Meitei community as tribal, without any opinions sought from the National Commission on Scheduled Tribes, the Union Home Ministry, or the State government. A May 3 rally of tribal groups opposing this judgment turned violent, and the State has seen sectarian violence since then, he added.

‘Violence is ebbing’

The Home Minister then proceeded to give casualty figures since May. “In May, 107 were killed in the violence, the figure was 30 people for June, 15 for July, and four for August till date. I am quoting these figures to demonstrate that violence is at an ebb, and the Centre has deployed 35,000 paramilitary in a buffer zone and taken other steps to quell violence,” he said.

Mr. Shah said that the video of two women in Thoubal district being stripped naked and paraded, one of whom was gangraped, was taken on May 4. He termed it a shameful incident, but added that there was speculation as to the timing of making the video public on the eve of the Monsoon Session. “Why didn’t whoever was circulating the video give it to the law enforcement agencies?” he asked. He gave details of the arrests made in that case.

‘Violence should not be politicised’

The Home Minister brought out examples from the past of similar ethnic clashes in Manipur, under different governments, where no discussion were held, or only the Minister of State for Home replied.

“They are asking why did Prime Minister Modi not speak, forgetting that when in 1993 a similar clash had happened, only then-Minister of State for Home Rajesh Pilot had replied in Parliament,” he said. Mr. Shah noted that he had stayed in the State for three days, and that his Minister of State Nityanand Rai had camped there for 23 days.

“This is ethnic violence and should not be politicised,” the Home Minister said.

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