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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 27 , July 1, 2023

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, July 1, 2023

Saturday 1 July 2023


Letter to the readers, Mainstream, July 1, 2023

It may be difficult to recall a moment from India‚Äôs political and administrative history when a region was gripped by violence & conflict and the Prime Minister of the country maintained pin drop silence. The summer 2023 ethnic strife in Manipur has gone on for two months causing 130 deaths, with hundreds of properties destroyed, some 200 tribal villages burnt and more than 300 churches burnt, over 4000 arms robbed from state armouries by organised mobs; There is no internet in the state of Manipur due to the current situation, Mobs led by Meitei women protesters (from the majority Hindu community) have apparently forced the Indian Army to release dreaded terrorists who have been held in prison for years; the violence has led to over 50,000 internally displaced people living in relief camps, some 12,000 fleeing into neighbouring Mizoram where the government is providing some assistance, and civil society groups including the church have been providing relief. There is an elected BJP government in Manipur and it has to take responsibility for what is going on. The Home Minister of India must also take full responsibility for being unable to control violence. Both the Home Minister of India and the Chief Minister of Manipur must resign, they have failed the people. Non-resident citizens of Manipur in different parts of India and abroad have been appealing for peace and calling on the Modi Government in Delhi to do all to put a halt to the violence. Manipur has seen decades of tensions between the various insurgent groups that belong to each community. A whole military machine with its laws of exception was used by the Indian state to curb violence. In fact, the Nagas, the Kukis, and the Meteis all three communities jointly wanted the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to go due to human rights violations. Readers will remember how Irom Sharmila from Manipur gave years of her life while on hunger strike against AFSPA. While that public campaign against AFSPA and official militarisation had wide appeal it hardly raised the question of private militarisation of society or take a stand against so many armed insurgent groups in the state. Too many guns have been flowing around for years in the region making it a high-octane place. The fact is that the violence of today is also connected with the sharp divisions and identity politics that have been around long time and growing further after the BJP came to power in Manipur. It is very laudable that Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi took the initiative to go and visit the relief camps in Manipur and offer a hand of solace and call for peace. All political parties in India should be using their influence to offer support to the people of Manipur in this crisis and the Government of India must allow an all-party delegation to visit Manipur to extend sympathy & solidarity with the affected people. The silence of the Prime Minister of India over the continuing violence in Manipur is very disturbing. Mr Modi must find time even when abroad or between the train inaugurations he does in India to record messages calling for peace for the people of Manipur. Somebody should tell him before he does a Mother of Democracy put-on act for G20 or such.

July 1, 2023 - HK

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