Talks only way to bring peace in Manipur: Kiren Rijiju

In an interview, Union Minister Kiren Riju spoke in detail about Centre’s plan to restore peace in Manipur; Modi’s government’s vision on development and the impact of Rahul’s yatra.

Updated - March 07, 2024 01:29 pm IST

Published - March 07, 2024 10:26 am IST - New Delhi

Union Minister of Earth Sciences Kiren Rijiju in New Delhi. File photo

Union Minister of Earth Sciences Kiren Rijiju in New Delhi. File photo | Photo Credit: ANI

Union Minister Kiren Rijiju on Thursday, March 7, 2024, said negotiations are the only means to restore peace in ethnic violence-hit Manipur and returning the State to normalcy will be the Narendra Modi government's next phase of efforts.

Mr. Rijiju put the blame for the ongoing ethnic clashes between the Meitei and Kuki communities in the northeastern state on a Manipur High Court order recommending Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the Meiteis. The violence has claimed at least 219 lives in the restive state.

Mr. Rijiju said the problem in Manipur was not an uprising against the BJP-led Centre but ethnic clashes between two dominant groups -- the Meiteis and the Kukis.

"If anyone wants to help restore peace in Manipur, then first go and appeal to both the Meities and the Kukis that do not pick up arms. An armed struggle will not lead to a solution. Peaceful negotiations are the only means to achieve a peaceful atmosphere and get normalcy back. That will be the next phase of our efforts to bring development in Manipur," he told PTI in a video interview.

The Union Minister of Earth Sciences said the Centre has been trying its best to restore peace and Prime Minister Modi had appealed for peace from the ramparts of the Red Fort as well as from Parliament.

"In fact, this year's Independence Day speech began with an appeal to Manipur that the whole nation is with you. Despite that they (opposition) are raking up this issue," he said.

Mr. Rijiju, who hails from Arunachal Pradesh, said those who want peace to be restored in Manipur should emphatically say that the warring groups must stop violence and talk to each other as that is the only way out.

"The Union Home Minister (Amit Shah) stayed there for four days, our MoS (Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai) was there for 22 days and many officers were there," he said.

Talking Politics | Manipur violence

Controversial HC order

Mr. Rijiju put the blame for the ongoing ethnic clashes between the two communities in the State on the High Court order recommending ST status to the Meiteis.

He said the conflict was triggered when the high court delivered the judgment, telling the government that ST status should be given to the Meities within three months.

"Don't you think that was a very unique kind of an order from the high court? Determination of a community as tribal or non-tribal is the government's job. It is a policy matter.

"When the High Court passed a direction that ST status should be given within three months, naturally, there was reaction from the other side. So the clashes happened. If anybody says that the Centre is the reason for the clashes in Manipur, he can be described as a foolish person or the most unfortunate person to pass such comments," Mr. Rijiju said.

Modi govt.’s northeast push

He said the problem in Manipur was "unfortunate" as the Modi government has been making efforts to restore peace in the northeast.

"What Modiji has done for the northeast in the last 10 years, it is 100 times more than what the Congress did in 60 years. Yet one incident in Manipur became a talking point for the Congress, the Communists and other people. They have wasted a whole generation," he said.

On March 27, 2023, the Manipur High Court instructed the State government to consider the inclusion of Meiteis in the list of STs. This direction triggered the ongoing ethnic conflict between the Meiteis and the tribal Kuki community in the state.

However, on February 21, 2024, the High Court modified its order, directing the removal of paragraph 17(iii) that had instructed the Manipur government to consider the inclusion of Meiteis in the list of STs.

The ethnic violence broke out in Manipur on May 3, 2023 after a tribal solidarity march was organised in the hill districts to protest against the majority Meitei community's demand for ST status.

Since then, at least 219 people have been killed in the violence.

While a section of the Kukis has demanded a separate administration or separation from the Manipur government, the Meitei groups are dead against it. They have warned legislators against any such design and asked them to foil such attempts.

Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur's population and live mostly in the Imphal valley, while tribals, including Nagas and Kukis, constitute 40 per cent and reside mainly in the hill districts.

‘Rahul’s yatra another miserably failed re-launch attempt’

The three-term Lok Sabha member from Arunachal Pradesh claimed that the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra is yet another attempt to launch Rahul Gandhi and that the former Congress president has failed in that endeavour miserably.

“Elsewhere in the world, you do not get a second chance to be launched. I think he (Gandhi) has now been launched 19 times. How long will you keep on launching one person?” asked Rijiju, who has held diverse portfolios in the central government, including home affairs (minister of state), minority affairs, sports and youth affairs, law and now, earth sciences.

“Normally, suppose I fail to lead my party, neither the party people will keep trying to launch me again and spoil their precious time nor I, myself, will try to waste the precious time of my colleagues,” he said.

“It works both ways. Parties should not do something that is not doable and the person concerned should also not try for something that he is not capable of,” the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said, citing the examples of British politicians who bowed out of politics after being unsuccessful.

Rijiju alleged that Gandhi is full of hatred towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi and spews venom at him at every given opportunity.

Asked about the Congress leader’s comments on the Ram temple in Ayodhya, the Union minister accused Gandhi of harbouring hatred towards the Hindu culture.

On BJP’s ‘third term’

Mr. Rijiju said a per capita income of USD 18,000 would be required for India to be counted among the world’s developed countries and it would be the Modi government’s endeavour in its third term to put the nation in the higher-income category.

He said despite lagging on many counts, the prime minister’s “aggressive and inspiring” leadership has catapulted India into another league in the global comity of nations.

“The whole world looks at India as a leader except that we are not a high-income country yet. But our status has reached here,” the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said.

Rijiju slammed the previous Congress governments for “not delivering” on basic necessities, such as toilets, bank accounts for people, food security, which, he said are now being provided by the Modi government.

“On one hand, India’s stature in the global community is rising. On the other hand, basic needs of people are being delivered at their doorsteps,” the Union Minister said.

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