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Modi’s priority to restore peace in Manipur: Shah

By, , Imphal/guwahati
Apr 16, 2024 05:35 AM IST

The priority of the next government at the Centre under PM Modi would be to restore peace in strife-torn Manipur through talks, the Union home minister said.

The priority of the next government at the Centre under Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be to restore peace in strife-torn Manipur through discussions and without dividing the state, Union home minister Amit Shah said on Monday.

Union home minister Amit Shah speaks at a public rally ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in Manipur’s Imphal on Monday. (PTI)
Union home minister Amit Shah speaks at a public rally ahead of the Lok Sabha polls in Manipur’s Imphal on Monday. (PTI)

Also Read: PM Modi says ‘marked improvement’ in situation in violence-hit Manipur

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Addressing an election meeting in Imphal to drum up support for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from the Inner Manipur Lok Sabha seat, Basanta Kumar Singh, Shah said the upcoming polls is between forces trying to break Manipur and those keeping it united.

“I want to tell people residing in the (Imphal) valley and hills of Manipur that in the coming days Narendra Modi’s priority is to bring peace to the state by talking to all sides and keeping the state united,” Shah said during his second visit to Manipur since the ethnic clashes broke out on May 3 last year.

Manipur has been roiled by ethnic clashes between the Meiteis, who are dominant in Imphal Valley, and Kukis, who are in majority in some hill districts, since May last year. The violence has claimed 221 lives and displaced around 50,000.

Also Read: AFSPA extended for another 6 months in Manipur

The violence has led to divisions on the ground, with both sides setting up barricades at borders between districts and not allowing people from the other community to enter. Since the start of the violence, Kuki MLAs, including seven from the ruling BJP, have demanded creation of a separate administration in areas dominated by them.

Hours before Shah landed in the state capital, security was heightened across Imphal, with police and paramilitary forces taking over the streets and snipers deployed on buildings near the rally venue at Hapta Kangjeibung public ground. It was necessitated as just two days ago (on April 13), two men were killed and their bodied mutilated in a gunfight at a village, around 32 km from Imphal.

“There was no development in Manipur during the past Congress rule. In the past six years, the BJP-led government in the state tried to change that, but one incident of ethnic clashes happened. I want to assure all that in the coming days, we will talk to all sides and establish peace without compromising on the state’s integrity,” Shah said. “This is the resolve of the Narendra Modi government.”

Also Read | Manipur car blast: NIA files charge sheet against 2, including main conspirator

Shah accused the previous Congress governments at the Centre and state of ignoring Manipur.

“This election is not between BJP and Congress, but between those who want to divide Manipur and those who want to keep the state united,” he said. “The Congress speaks of division wherever it goes. It was responsible for the country getting divided (into India and Pakistan).”

“Even now it speaks of dividing it into north and south India. They formed an agenda in Manipur of dividing the state. I want to reiterate that no one has the guts to divide Manipur and we won’t let it happen,” Shah added.

Shah also spoke on the Centre’s decision announced in February to seal the India-Myanmar border and scrap the free movement regime that allows people living along the border on either side to travel up to 16 km in the other country without a visa, and stay up to two weeks.

“There’s a conspiracy to change demography of a small state like Manipur through infiltration of illegal immigrants (from Myanmar). The government under Narendra Modi has decided to seal the borders with Myanmar to secure Manipur. We have started work on sealing the boundary. FMR was misused for smuggling narcotics. We decided to abolish it,” he said.

Efforts by Modi were responsible for peace in the northeast, a region troubled by insurgency since Independence, Shah said. More than 10 peace deals have been signed with terror outfits of the region in the past few years, which has resulted in over 9,000 cadre of these groups giving up arms, he added.

“The Congress never respected Manipur. There were thousands of road blockades during their rule, three years of strife and hundreds of people killed in fake encounters when Okram Ibobi Singh was chief minister,” Shah said.

Shah reminded how around 750 people were killed during the ethnic conflict between Nagas and Kukis in Manipur in 1992, nearly 100 killed in clashes between Meiteis and Pangals in 1993 and around 350 killed in conflict between Kukis and Paites in 1997.

Shah reminded that it was the BJP-led Centre that decided to implement inner line permit regime in Manipur to keep tab on entry of outsiders to the state. The minister stated that during its 10-year rule from 2004 to 2014, the Congress-led government at the Centre provided 39,000 crore for Manipur’s development. In contrast, since 2014, the BJP-led Union government has given 1,20,000 crore to the state.

Shah listed development projects undertaken in the state including construction of highways, rail tracks, air connectivity and hospitals. He promised that in the next five years, everyone in Manipur will have houses with electricity, toilet and cooking gas connection, and each person will get 5 lakh as health insurance.

Polling for the Inner Manipur seat, which includes districts such as Imphal East, Imphal West and Thoubal, will be held on April 19, along with some parts of the Outer Manipur constituency. The remaining parts of the Outer Manipur seat, a tribal-reserved constituency, will go to polls on April 26.

All political parties in the northeastern state have been holding campaigns without large gatherings, display of flags or use of loudspeakers. Meetings are being held behind closed doors and in the houses of village heads.

“An advisory was issued by Arambai Tenggol (radical Meitei group involved in violence) to keep campaigning low key and avoid use of flags. All parties are following it. The AT said this was necessary to respect the sentiments of the many who suffered in the ethnic clashes,” a woman BJP executive member said, requesting anonymity. “In recent weeks, today is the first time, we saw so many party flags or such a big gathering in the city.”

Reacting to the minister’s speech, Manipur Congress working president K Devbrata said Shah’s claims over the introduction of ILP and border fencing in state are “baseless and fabricated”. “ILP hasn’t been implemented effectively and the work on border fencing along Indo-Myanmar border was taken up in 2012-13 (Congress regime). Shah lied that it was done by the BJP government at Centre.”

Claiming that all issues during Congress regimes ended with solutions, he maintained that the same was not the case with the BJP. “During his visit to Manipur in June last year, Shah had promised to return with a solution within 10 days to address the ongoing crisis, but that didn’t happen,” the Congress leader said.

(With inputs from Sobhapati Samom)

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Prawesh Lama covers crime, policing, and issues of security in Delhi. Raised in Darjeeling, educated in Mumbai, he also looks at special features on social welfare in the National Capital.

  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Utpal is a Senior Assistant Editor based in Guwahati. He covers seven states of North-East India and heads the editorial team for the region. He was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.

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