Ethnic violence-hit Manipur: Kuki leaders, MLAs demanding separate state under militants' pressure, says Union Minister
Imphal, May 21, 2023, IANS
Union Minister of State for External Affairs and Education, Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, has informed Prime Minister Narendra Modi that Kuki leaders, along with their 10 MLAs, have demanded a separate political administration equivalent to a separate state for the tribals. Singh revealed that this demand was made under immense pressure from various sources, including militant groups.
Singh, who represents the Inner Manipur parliamentary constituency in the Lok Sabha, expressed his concerns in a letter addressed to the Prime Minister. He stated that the demand for a separate political administration posed a significant risk for Manipur, a small state already comprising 35 different ethnic groups.
"The norm should be peaceful coexistence, and incidents like the Naga-Kuki conflict, Meitei-Pangan clash, and the recent Meitei-Kuki riot should be seen as exceptions. Such incidents must be swiftly controlled and suppressed. We must not encourage any form of ethnic division or balkanization at any cost," stressed the Union Minister.
Singh highlighted the recent turmoil in Manipur, stating that for a few days starting from May 3, the region experienced widespread chaos, leading to a breakdown of trust between the Meitei and Kuki communities. He emphasized the need for a humane approach in resolving the Manipur crisis, devoid of any ethnic bias.
"We must not allow anyone to exploit the troubled waters. It is not about the number of casualties or torched houses belonging to the Meiteis or Kukis. This is an unfortunate humanitarian crisis caused by the actions of immature minds," stated Singh.
According to the Union Minister, the recent ethnic violence in Manipur has resulted in the loss of 71 lives, with 300 people, including police personnel, sustaining injuries, some of them severe. Out of the 16 districts in the state, 11 have been affected, with six of them severely impacted. Over 25,000 individuals have been displaced, approximately 1,700 houses have been burned, and more than 200 vehicles have been destroyed.
Singh's letter, accessed by IANS, outlined how violent mobs wreaked havoc, burning and destroying everything in their path. He explained that the situation escalated due to an action-reaction syndrome, making it impossible for the local police to contain the rioters until the arrival and intervention of the Army and Paramilitary forces. The clash between the two communities was triggered by a peaceful rally that suddenly turned violent.
The Union Minister emphasized that if the Meitei community peacefully demands Scheduled Tribe (ST) status, it should not be a cause for concern for others.
Similarly, a peaceful protest by the tribal communities against this move should also be regarded as normal, as such incidents occur in other parts of the country. Singh made it clear that no community or ethnic group should be blamed, as the goal is to foster peaceful coexistence with all ethnic groups.
While acknowledging the relief and compensation measures announced by the state government for the victims and sufferers, Singh requested financial assistance from the Central government. He called for the affected houses, vehicles, and properties to be compensated with aid from the Centre.
Singh further demanded the continued deployment of the Army and Paramilitary forces in Manipur until peace is restored and complete normalcy returns. He highlighted the existing trust deficit and emphasized that peaceful coexistence is the only mantra for a small, multi-ethnic society like Manipur. The Union Minister strongly opposed the division or fragmentation of the state along communal or ethnic lines, stressing that all issues and demands should be resolved through amicable discussions. He suggested that the Centre play a role as a jury and arbiter in finding a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Union Minister Rajkumar Ranjan Singh has urged for peaceful coexistence, swift resolution of conflicts, and the avoidance of ethnic divisions. The government's intervention, support, and financial compensation are necessary to restore peace and rebuild the lives of those affected by the crisis. (Edited)