At least three delegations of politicians from conflict-ridden Manipur – two from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and one from the state Congress – have failed to have an audience with Prime Minister Narendra Modi so far in spite of having camped at the National Capital for some days now.
While Manipur has seen a series of violent incidents since early May, leading to loss of over a hundred lives and property worth lakhs and tens of thousands displaced, PM Modi has not spoken a word about the issue.
At a time when armed civilian mobs belonging to Kuki and Meitei communities are ruling the streets of Manipur, the PM’s continued silence on a state governed by his own party, the BJP, is being questioned by political opponents, civil society groups and locals.
Social media posts show that people’s anger with Modi’s studied silence and the state chief minister N. Biren Singh’s inability to control the law and order situation has manifested in posters decrying the PM as ‘missing’. In places, radio sets were broken as Modi’s programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’ aired.
As per local news reports, two sets of BJP MLAs from Manipur have been camping in New Delhi since June 15 to meet the PM.
An Imphal Free Press report said at least nine Meitei BJP MLAs opposed to the Biren-led government over its handling of law and order in the state (the CM is also the home minister), sought an appointment with Modi on June 15. They received an acknowledgement on the same day, the report said.
“But, as the PM is leaving on June 20 for an international tour, in the larger interest of Manipur, the delegation submitted the (a) memorandum (to the Prime Minister’s Office) on Monday (June 19),” it said.
The MLAs included Karam Shyam Singh, Th. Radheshyam Singh, Nishikant Singh Sapam, Kh. Raghumani, P. Brojen, Wangjing Tentha, T. Robindro, S. Rajen, S. Kebi Devi, Naoriya Pakhnaglakpa and Y. Radeshyam.
While their memorandum highlighted “the complete breakdown of law and order in the state, loss of faith by the public in the present state government and restoration of the rule of law so that the trust and confidence of the general public is restored”, it also pressed the government to not tamper “at any cost” with the integrity of the state and agree to the Kuki leaders’ demand for a separate administration of their areas.
Meanwhile, another set of BJP MLAs had also sought an appointment with the PM but were able to get a meeting instead with defence minister Rajnath Singh, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the party’s in-charge for the state, Sambit Patra.
This delegation too comprised of Meitei MLAs of the party besides including one MLA each from Janata Dal (United) and the BJP ally National People’s Party (NPP). One of the important appeals of this delegation too was to not consider a separate administration for the Kukis.
An Indian Express report quoting a delegation member said, “Sambit Patra spoke to home minister Amit Shah over the phone…the home minister has reiterated and assured [us] that the territorial integrity of the state will be maintained.”
The delegation, which also had MLAs that support the chief minister, sought the Modi government’s withdrawal from the tripartite talks with the Kuki armed groups under suspension of operation (SoO). Weeks before the Meitei-Kuki conflict broke out in Manipur, the Biren Singh government had withdrawn from the peace talks and recommended the same to the Union home ministry. The latter refused to entertain the request.
One significant query that this delegation raised with the party’s Union ministers was about Kuki armed group UKLF chief S.S. Haokip’s claim. Haokip has said that the group had helped the BJP grab power in the state by winning the elections.
“This has been in conversation in Manipur and needed to be clarified,” an MLA told Indian Express, adding that, “They (the Union ministers) assured us that there is no such tactical understanding or arrangement between the party and SoO groups and that a clarification will be issued by the party in a day or two.”
Reacting to the Prime Minister not taking out time even for his own party’s MLAs coming from a violence-hit Manipur, Congress spokesperson Jairam Ramesh tweeted, “Today, one group of BJP MLAs from Manipur met the Raksha Mantri. Today, another group of BJP MLAs from Manipur went to submit a memorandum to the PM, which said that the people had completely lost faith in the state administration – essentially saying the CM has to be replaced. He did not see them of course. The BJP itself in Manipur is not united. That is why the state is bitterly divided today. And the PM simply doesn’t care!”
Aside from the BJP delegations, a Congress delegation led by former state chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh has also been camping in New Delhi for days now to have an audience with the prime minister.
On being asked whether any acknowledgement has come from the PMO about the state Congress’s request, Ramesh told The Wire, “No, not yet”.
The PM has flown out of the country today for a four-day visit to the United States and Egypt. In the US, he is scheduled to meet not only the American president Joe Biden and top names from his government but also about two dozen “thought leaders” and CEOs including Elon Musk. He will also be meeting delegations from the Indian diaspora and celebrating International Yoga Day on June 21 at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
On June 20, the all-party delegation led by Ibobi Singh of the Congress held a press conference at the Congress headquarters, stating that they have been camping in Delhi to meet the PM since June 10 but without success. “Now we have decided that we will wait for the PM to return from his foreign tour,” said Singh at the press meet.
Besides Singh and state Congress president K. Meghachandra Singh, the press conference was attended by leaders from parties like the Trinamool Congress, Shiv Sena (Uddhav), Janata Dal (United) and Aam Aadmi Party.
This article was first published by TheWire