AA Edit | Act swiftly, end Manipur strife before it’s too late

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

Amit Shah's directive to deploy Central forces aims to restore peace amidst mounting violence in border state

Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Pande and Vice Chief of the Army Staff Lt General Upendra Dwivedi with other officials during a high-level meeting chaired by Union Home Minister Amit Shah to review the security situation in Manipur, in New Delhi, Monday, June 17, 2024. (PTI Photo/Arun Sharma)

It is a welcome development that the Union government has chosen to take the path of talks to end the ethnic strife in Manipur after it broke out more than a year ago but the latest instance where a mob set fire to a bus that transported troops of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) after asking them to dismount points to the speed with which the situation in the border state is slipping out of hand.

Union home minister Amit Shah’s statement after a review of the situation in the state that the Union government will be talking to the warring groups — Meiteis and Kukis — and ensure that the ethnic divide is bridged at the earliest follows reports of increased violence of a grave nature almost every day for the last several weeks. They are taking place in the capital Imphal as well as in remote areas. In fact, in the latest bout, around 2,000 villagers were forced to flee the border village of Jiribam and seek asylum in neighbouring Assam fearing more violence. It was only last week that rebels targeted the advance convoy party of chief minister N. Biren Singh. The Union government is justifiably worried about the strife spreading to new areas.

The public expression of angst by Mr Mohan Bhagwat, the leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which is the ideological mentor of the leaders of the BJP including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr Shah, that it is time the Union government restored peace in the state after a year of mayhem, may also have prodded the Union home ministry into action.

Mr Shah’s directive that Central forces be deployed strategically to restore peace and tranquillity in the state is a late but reassuring intervention. The Kuki tribes, one of the parties to the conflict, have long been complaining that the state police have been partisan. They have been favouring the Meities, the valley people. In fact, the Kukis have been seeking that the Central forces replace the state police for quite some time. Their deployment will go a long way in fulfilling the home minister’s assertion that the government is fully committed to ensuring the safety and security of all the citizens in the state.

But administrative actions alone cannot instil confidence in the people for the purpose of starting a meaningful process to return to normalcy. The very fact that the same people who wanted Central forces deployed in the state chose to attack their vehicle shows the desperation the rebels are forced to live with. At the same time, the incident ended without loss of lives which signals that there still exists mutual trust between the people and the forces.

It has been almost a year since the Supreme Court lamented that constitutional machinery has broken down in the state but the Union government did very little to address basic issues, one of which is the unacceptably partisan attitude of the police and administration at the behest of the chief minister. The Union government has given him a long rope but he has not been able to deliver. It is incumbent upon the government to be realistic and make honest moves while there is still some goodwill among the people.