May 3 violence was likely pre-planned: Manipur CM Biren Singh

CM N. Biren Singh said the video of the two women who were gang-raped on May 4 in Thoubal was leaked as part of a conspiracy by Opposition parties

August 24, 2023 10:55 pm | Updated August 25, 2023 07:00 am IST - New Delhi

Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh inaugurates a Temporary Shelter Home for displaced families, in Imphal East on August 23, 2023. Photo: X/@NBirenSingh via ANI

Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh inaugurates a Temporary Shelter Home for displaced families, in Imphal East on August 23, 2023. Photo: X/@NBirenSingh via ANI

Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh said on Thursday that he was in touch with the legislators from the tribal Kuki-Zo community and would provide adequate security for them to attend the Assembly session slated for August 29 in Imphal. He said the violence that started on May 3 was likely pre-planned. He said to stop “illegal migration” from Myanmar, the State has sought more Central forces for the speedy fencing of the 398-km porous international border. 

He said the video of the two women who were gang-raped on May 4 in Thoubal was leaked on July 19, a day before the Monsoon Session of the Parliament as part of a conspiracy by Opposition parties, adding that he was unaware about the sexual assault till then or else the police would have arrested the accused much before. 

Editorial | Festering wounds: On Manipur’s elusive peace

Mr. Singh told The Hindu in an interview that he has spoken to the Meitei civil society groups and will ensure that the Kuki-Zo MLAs are not harmed. The tribal MLAs are likely to skip the Session due to security concerns. Vungzagin Valte (61) a Kuki MLA from BJP, also an adviser to Mr. Singh on tribal affairs, was physically assaulted by a mob on May 4 when he was leaving after attending a meeting at CM’s office in Imphal.

“The [Kuki] MLAs and Ministers, we are old friends, I am talking to them, I told them we cannot be separated. We have been together all these years and will be together in future as well. Only the illegal migrants cannot be accommodated,” Mr. Singh said. 

He said they would seek more time, beyond September 30, from the Centre to complete the process of recording the biometrics of illegal immigrants lodged at a detention centre in Imphal. Around 2,800 illegal immigrants from Myanmar were detected after the State government initiated a drive in March. Most of the undocumented Kuki immigrants are said to have fled to Manipur after a military coup in neighbouring Myanmar in February 2021. He said he wants to deport the immigrants through constitutional means.  

The Chief Minister was in Delhi to meet Home Minister Amit Shah. He said the priority is to accommodate the displaced persons of both communities. Around 4,000 pre-fabricated homes are being constructed in hills and valley, he said, adding that the long-term plan is to rebuild the houses of people that were burnt down or destroyed in the violence.

More than 150 people have been killed and more than 50,000 people displaced in the ethnic violence between the tribal Kuki and Meitei communities since May 3. 

“The State government is not against anybody. I was compelled to start the war on drugs in 2018 as I am the gatekeeper of India since Manipur shares border with Myanmar.... thousands of acres of poppy cultivation were destroyed, around 2,800 people were arrested,” the Chief Minister said. 

Elaborating on the violence being pre-planned, Mr. Singh said the tribal solidarity rally was organised to protest a High Court order but the State government never concurred with the court’s recommendation to include the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe list. 

“There was no reason for violence. Had we agreed for ST demand then there would have been a reason. We cannot take the decisions unilaterally, there are 34 tribes in Manipur,” Mr. Singh said.

He said around 1,000 police weapons were looted from the hill districts of Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, Tengnoupal and around 3,000 weapons from valley areas. “We have launched an operation and around 1,200 weapons have been recovered,” he said.

He said the supply of essentials was not affected due to the blockade called by Kuki groups on National Highway-2. The NH-2 which connects Imphal valley to Dimapur in Nagaland passes through the Kuki-dominated Kangpokpi district.

“We are not facing any shortage due to road blockade in Kangpokpi. We do not want to use force but Centre has sent paramilitary forces and we want the Centre to do something. NH is national property. The other axis, NH-37 from Silchar in Assam is operational,” he said. 

Mr. Singh said committees appointed by Supreme Court and the Centre were most welcome in the State as the situation is “beyond any regular law and order” problem. 

He further said Assam Rifles has done a lot of good work in the State but there were some allegations against them and certain issues needed “streamlining.” The Meitei civil society groups and the BJP legislators in the valley have demanded the withdrawal of Assam Rifles from the buffer areas, where Kuki and Meitei settlements are adjacent to each other, alleging bias and support for “one side” only.

He denied that valley based insurgent groups have been revived in Manipur. “The youths are coming forward to protect their people from SoO groups [Kuki insurgent groups in peace pact with Centre]. They are all volunteers, they are all pro-India, there could be five or 10 [persons] who have come from Myanmar,” he said. 

He said he was in Delhi to seek the guidance of Mr. Shah. “As Home Minister of such a big nation, he came down and stayed for three nights in Manipur, never happened before. He is monitoring the situation 24/7. We speak daily, sometimes he gets to know about things before me. There are many agencies which report to him. He is more informed than me,” Mr. Singh said. 

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