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The Deafening Silence Of Modi On Manipur Speaks Volumes; Will He Visit Burning Manipur At Least In His 3rd Term?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been gushing over his third consecutive win in the Lok Sabha elections in the largest democracy of the world, the only one to achieve this feat after Former Late Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. To celebrate his win, one of his first priorities in order was to visit Italy for G7. In just 4 days since his oath ceremony to swear in as the PM, he has embarked on the journey to Italy to participate in the G7 Outreach Summit.

It is to be noted that this visit happened just 2 years after his last visit to Italy in 2021 for the G20 summit. While it is commendable that India is finally actively participating in global events, it is pretty difficult not to compare it with the situation in the home ground – the burning of Manipur.

modi visits italy for g7

Why Is Manipur Burning?

Housing 3.3 million people, the northeastern state, once renowned for its pristine nature and blue lakes, has now been making headlines (or is it (a jibe at modern journalism)) for the ongoing violence that has enveloped the state for two years now.

Ever since this conflict began in May 2023, which led to the killing of 220 people, and more than 70,000 people were forced to lose their houses. In this violence, more than hundreds of religious places were destroyed, and this led to the police resources to their end. No statistics can capture the loss of rich culture and the impact on the survivor’s futures in the war-torn state.

Manipur has experienced long-going tensions between the Meiteis, who make up approximately 60 percent of the state’s population and predominantly inhabit the economically advantaged valley regions around Imphal, the state capital, and the minority Kuki-Zo and Naga tribes residing in the surrounding hill districts. 

Granting ST Quota to Meiteis

Under the Scheduled Tribes (ST) quota, the Indian constitution designates historically marginalized tribes for development action programs, granting them confirmed seats in government education and employment opportunities. For nearly a decade, the Meiteis have been campaigning for inclusion under the ST status, facing strong opposition from the tribal communities, who believe that they deserve it more than Meiteis.

In March 2023, the local court’s decision to extend the ST status to the Meiteis sparked a series of events that led to one of India’s most severe internal conflicts in recent years. Tribal groups organized protest marches throughout the hill districts, demanding the court for the order to be revoked. 

The Kukis and Nagas say that granting this special Scheduled Tribe status to the Meiteis will only benefit and elevate an already well-off group, thereby depriving the actual minority communities of crucial opportunities, required for their betterment and empowerment.

Meiteis did not sit back and came onto the streets themselves for protests. The situation escalated on May 3, 2023, when a few people (suspected to be Meiteis) set fire to a centenary gate in Churachandpur. It was built to commemorate a Kuki-Zo rebellion against British colonial rule from 1917-1919.

Needless to say, this act infuriated the tribal Kuki-Zo community and it led to deadly riots between the communities across Manipur.

Allowing Migrants From Myanmar

Additionally, there have been reports of illegal settlements by migrants from the neighboring country Myanmar. They are reported to frequently cross the rather poorly guarded border and establish unauthorized villages on government land in the hills of Manipur.

This issue has led to confusion between these illegal settlements and legitimate Kuki and Naga villages, resulting in the displacement of Kuki families from their homes. These combined factors have led to more fears of increased marginalization among the tribal communities.

manipur violence
It has been over a year since the violence in Manipur started

The Government’s Silence On The Issue

On the international front, the violence in Manipur has seen a limited spotlight, with the Indian government repeatedly saying that it is a domestic issue. 

The European Parliament passed a resolution on July 13, 2023, urging the Indian government to take steps to restore peace. Additionally, comments made by U.S. Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti on July 6, 2023, on this issue were met with a strong negative reaction from Indian authorities. 

In response to a no-confidence motion presented by the Opposition over the BJP’s silence on Manipur, Prime Minister Modi accused the Opposition of politicizing a sensitive situation. The Opposition walked out, and the BJP subsequently won the motion (not surprising).

Public outrage in India, along with mainstream media coverage, significantly escalated only after a distressing video of two Kuki women being assaulted went viral on social media. In the video, the stripped-to-skin women were forced to march with crowds surrounding them, depriving them of their dignity.

Although Home Minister Amit Shah visited the state in May last year and pledged to resolve the conflict, a state of peace remains elusive to this day.

Is The BJP Government To Blame For It?

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) often champions the principles of democracy on the global stage, yet its actions in India often prove the opposite. The recent turmoil in Manipur, coupled with the central government’s silence and failure to restore order, underscores the BJP’s apparent disinterest and ineffectiveness in addressing issues in India’s Northeast.

Prime Minister Modi’s scant attention to the brutal incident where two Kuki women were assaulted by a Meitei mob, aside from a brief mention in Parliament, exemplifies the BJP’s troubling silence on Manipur. 

Chief Minister Biren Singh, a Meitei and member of the BJP, has been criticized for ignoring the violence perpetrated by Meiteis against Kukis and Nagas. The Meiteis dominate the seats in the state legislature, holding 40 out of 60 seats (two-thirds).

Singh has also been linked to two Hindu nationalist Meitei militant groups, Arabai Tenggol, and Meitei Leepun, further exacerbating tensions and bias in the state.

manipur violence

How It Costed BJP Lok Sabha Seats In The Elections?

The lack of any serious effort by both state and central governments to resolve the crisis has tarnished the BJP’s image. Even the RSS chief recently emphasized the urgent need to address the Manipur crisis.

The ethnic violence in Manipur has had a significant impact on election results in nearby states like Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Manipur itself. The BJP and its allies lost parliamentary seats to Congress and regional parties. During the election campaign, the Manipur conflict provided an opportunity for opponents to criticize the BJP and its allies.

The Union government’s abrupt decision to end the Free Movement Regime (FMR) with Myanmar and erect a border fence, following recommendations from the Manipur chief minister, was not well received by tribes in Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram.

Mizoram, which hosts over 40,000 refugees from Myanmar, has managed to avoid a crisis by keeping refugees in camps and providing humanitarian aid. In contrast, Manipur’s policy of turning refugees back to Myanmar, despite the lack of complete border fencing, resulted in refugees re-entering through unfenced areas and setting up makeshift shelters, some even engaging in farming to survive.

Had Manipur adopted Mizoram’s approach, unauthorized refugee settlements and farming could have been avoided. Scrapping the FMR and erecting fences sent a message that the BJP prioritizes the Meiteis over minority tribes in the Northeast. 

The mishandling of the conflict between the Meitei and Kuki-Zo communities led to loss of life, property destruction, economic downturns, and increased lawlessness, including extortion. Radical elements, some in uniform, have roamed freely, further destabilizing the state. They even forced Meitei MLAs and MPs to take an oath at Kangla Fort with tacit approval from a confused home ministry team.

More than half of the stolen firearms from police armories remain in the hands of radicals on both sides. Police and security forces have largely failed to curb illegal activities, fueling suspicions of unofficial orders to avoid action against radicals. The BJP’s perceived indifference has resulted in significant losses, with the party losing both parliamentary seats in Manipur by large margins.

The Meitei community turned against the BJP because this situation impacted them, too. The prevailing lawlessness, extortion, and soaring inflation has costed them their peace and opportunities.

Meanwhile, the Kuki-Zo voted for Congress in the Outer Manipur constituency, obviously feeling abandoned by the BJP, which favored the Meitei. The Kuki-Zo rejected the Naga People’s Front (NPF) due to its ties with their adversaries, the NSCN, and its alliance with the BJP, leading to a loss of support for the NPF as well.

bjp loses seats in manipur

The Assam chief minister seems to understand why the BJP and its allies lost in states with significant Christian populations. The ongoing Manipur conflict has spurred church leaders to act to protect their communities from an openly pro-majority political party and its allies. These church leaders’ political stance can be attributed to BJP’s anti-minority policies.

N Biren Singh, the CM of Manipur, said in an interview, “The Centre knows everything. Due to the election, Central leaders were busy and couldn’t concentrate. After the new government forms, they will definitely intervene and help the state bring a peaceful solution to Manipur. That’s my opinion.”

He added, “In the last year, due to the complexity of the violence, neither the state nor Central government has been able to take strong actions against the groups on both sides. This has led to dissatisfaction among the valley people with both governments (in the state and at the Centre). Although law and order is a state issue, the Central forces play a key role here, yet we are not meeting public expectations.”

Elections did not stop the government from fast-tracking the inauguration of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, UP. How it became a factor in curbing a civil war in the state is beyond understanding. Building a temple and PR for elections truly took precedence over restoring peace in a crisis-ridden state. It says a lot about the center’s priorities and its intentions for the marginalized.

Modi’s Deafening Silence Speaks Volumes

There has been a lot of talk about the Prime Minister’s silence on matters where his voice is expected. Nevertheless, Modi is famous for having extraordinary communication abilities displayed in his Mann ki Baat radio shows, election speeches, campaign rallies and at international forums where he glorifies India’s diversity, democracy, tolerance among other virtues.

He rarely ever misses an opportunity to promote his government and condemn his enemies. These speeches and tweets that are carefully prepared by him are amplified through the mainstream media, which displays his eloquence, relatability in style, and ability to connect with the masses. Nonetheless, Modi understands the strategic value of silence.

When faced with ambiguous positions that may seem majoritarian or harmful to those who voted for him or when words can be used against him later on, when even every news channel cannot stop talking about something; even though it appears that he just sits and says nothing though he speaks volumes; if anything is likely to make him feel uneasy or caught off guard because it does not allow any slips like providing information spontaneously without preparation or thinking ahead, why should I invite you?

This is why you will never see Modi informally answering questions from journalists since 2014, except on several harmless occasions when necessary. Modi’s deliberate use of silence raises many questions about his governance style.

Throughout his first tenure in office there was no condemnation from Mr.Modi over the wave of beatings and lynchings by cow vigilantes targeting Muslims.

It was only in May 2017, after a critical editorial in The New York Times, that he commented on the issue. Similarly, when a Dalit family was publicly flogged in Una, he spoke out, likely with an eye on the Dalit vote.

Interestingly, Modi had criticized his reticent predecessor, Manmohan Singh, for not speaking out on national issues during his campaign. Yet, as Prime Minister, Modi, who is the opposite of Singh in terms of his love for public speaking, avoids topics that might ensnare him. 

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Minister Ramdas Athawale during a programme organised to pay tributes to Dr B.R. Ambedkar on his 64th death anniversary commemorated as Mahaparinirvan Diwas, at Parliament House in New Delhi on Dec 6, 2019. (Photo: IANS)

However, his silence can sometimes be seen as tacit support for provocative elements. For instance, he remained silent when speakers at Haridwar made violent threats and when the Hindu Yuva Vahini, founded by Yogi Adityanath, vowed to kill for a Hindu nation. This silence contradicts his pious statements about India’s values of secularism, tolerance, and religious harmony at international forums. 

Will Modi Visit Manipur Now?

Between February to April 2024, Modi visited Guwahati twice for roadshows but did not pay a visit to Manipur, where he should have as the prime minister of the country. 

Modi has consistently avoided meeting with BJP legislators from Manipur, despite multiple visits to the capital by the MLAs and a formal request from the Manipur BJP unit to party president J.P. Nadda, urging him to arrange a meeting with the prime minister. This request, made in October and signed by six senior party officials, including Manipur BJP chief A. Sharda Devi, followed at least three delegations traveling to Delhi in June, September, and October, hoping to secure an audience with Modi.

will modi visit manipur now?

Home Minister Amit Shah has visited the state only once last year, and never since then.

In December, the Supreme Court declined to consider a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) requesting the central government’s intervention in Manipur. The court stated that a committee, led by retired Justice Gita Mittal, was already addressing the issues related to the violence and other related matters.

Now, with the BJP leading a coalition government at the Centre, there is hope that their stringent anti-minority stance may soften to avoid conflicts with their powerful coalition partners.

As Shiv Sena’s (UBT) Uddhav Thackeray asked on Wednesday, “Will PM Modi visit Manipur now?”, we pose the same question. There seems to be no plan on the agenda. However, losing both the seats from the state should be a much-needed eye-opener for the center.

TinaGarg
TinaGarg
I am a content writer with 5+ years of experience in this field. I have an MBA degree from IIM Lucknow, prior to which I did my graduation in Chemistry from IIT Delhi and St. Stephen's College. I am passionate about writing on matters related to the country, business, and politics.
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