‘Won’t allow creation of separate administration at any cost’, says Manipur CM Biren Singh
Singh lashed out at opposition parties, particularly the Congress, saying “we are eating the poison fruits, seeds of which were sowed by them.”
Guwahati: I won’t allow Manipur to be divided, chief minister N Biren Singh said on Saturday even as ethnic violence continued to roil the northeastern state for nearly two months with little end in sight.
Since May 3, Manipur has been in the throes of ethnic clashes, triggered by an order by the Manipur high court that recommended to the government that the Meiteis, the dominant community in Manipur with 53% of the population, be included in the scheduled tribe list. This caused protests among the tribal population, particularly the Kukis, and tensions lead to clashes that soon spread across the state. The violence has since claimed 117 lives, injured over 300 and displaced 50,000. Protesting Kuki MLAs, including those from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and tribal organisations have demanded creation of a separate administration comprising the areas where people from their tribes predominantly reside.
“I will try to keep Manipur’s territorial unity intact without creation of any separate administration. I give my word as a CM and from the BJP’s side that I won’t allow Manipur to be divided for creation of a separate administration and make all sacrifices for the state’s unity,” Singh, a member of the Meitei community, told news agency ANI in an interview.
Asked about the reason behind the clashes, the CM said: “I am confused as to what was the reason behind the clashes. It was an order from the (Manipur) High Court directing the state government to submit recommendations within four weeks on whether Meiteis should be included in scheduled tribe (ST) category.”
He added that after the HC order (on March 27), he consulted with MLAs of hill areas, (where people from Kuki and Naga tribes primarily reside) and they asked him to take more time before giving the recommendations.
“I also felt that consensus and talks on this issue were needed. I told the MLAs of hill areas that we won’t give recommendations soon. Our government didn’t recommend anything on the issue. There was still time for it. But in the meantime, all these (the clashes) happened,” he said.
The remarks come a day after Singh seemed to have begun the process of resigning from his post, only to be prevented by protesters who gathered outside his Imphal home and prevented him from proceeding to the Governor’s residence 200 metres away. Singh later “clarified” that he would not demit office at this “crucial juncture”.
Commenting on his move to resign, Singh said that he took the decision after hearing some abusive comments about him from few people and also seeing effigies of the PM and union home minister being burnt by protesters and attacks on BJP offices.
“I wondered that despite whatever we and the Centre have done for the state in the past 5-6 years, did the people lose trust in us? Few days back, some people brought a body of a victim who died in an incident to the main marketplace in Imphal. Five-ten people in that group used abusive language against me. I felt bad and that’s why I had taken that decision (to resign),” he said.
“I felt good that when I came out (to submit my resignation) there was a huge crowd outside. Some of them were crying and expressed their confidence and faith in me. I realized that my feelings about losing the trust of the people were wrong as the public still supported me. They urged me not to resign. I agreed to the people’s decision,” he added.
Singh has been a deeply divisive figure during this time, with opposition leaders calling for his resignation for several weeks. Tribal organisations have long called for Singh’s resignation, objecting to his inclusion in a peace committee in the middle of June, and refusing to hold talks with Union home minister Amit Shah during his visit to the state, if Singh came with him.
During the interview, the CM also lashed out at opposition parties, particularly the Congress, saying “we are eating the poison fruits, seeds of which were sowed by them” .
“...Where did these problems come from? These are deep-rooted. They are not today’s problems. Those who are levelling allegations, like Congress - we are eating the poison fruits, seeds of which were sowed by them...The entire world knows whose mistake it was...The ethnic clash between Kuki and Meitei continued for two-three years, there were losses and deaths. That is why, the Kuki militants rose at that time...they were given a free run from 2005-2018, for 13 years. That is why this is happening...,” he said.
Talking about Union home minister Amit Shah’s three-day visit to the state between May 28 and June 1 and other efforts being undertaken to provide relief, he said: “The Centre is doing whatever it can to resolve the Manipur issue. The situation is being monitored 24/7 and even our state ministers and MLAs are doing whatever they can as per their capacities to take care of those in relief camps or evacuate those who are stranded.”
Making another appeal for peace, the CM said that all 34 tribes of Manipur should live together irrespective of whether some came to the state later or were indigenous residents.
“All Meiteis, Kukis, Nagas, Meitei Pangals and others have to live together. But we have to be careful that people from outside don’t come here in large numbers and settle because it could hurt the identity of those old ones, there is no demographic imbalance and lead to economic weakness (of the indigenous),” Singh said.