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  Opinion   Edit  17 Apr 2024  AA Edit | Protect Manipur’s diversity: ILP divisive, try to avoid it

AA Edit | Protect Manipur’s diversity: ILP divisive, try to avoid it

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Apr 17, 2024, 12:13 am IST
Updated : Apr 17, 2024, 12:13 am IST

Amit Shah's statement on Manipur's Inner Line Permit highlights inconsistent approach to the state's conflict.

Union Minister and BJP leader Amit Shah speaks at a public rally ahead of Lok Sabha polls, in Imphal, Manipur, Monday, April 15, 2024. (PTI Photo)
 Union Minister and BJP leader Amit Shah speaks at a public rally ahead of Lok Sabha polls, in Imphal, Manipur, Monday, April 15, 2024. (PTI Photo)

Home minister Amit Shah’s statement that the Union government will not allow the break-up of Manipur and has conceded the state government’s demand for the Inner Line Permit betrays the ad hoc and contradictory positions the Union government and the BJP have been adopting about the strife-torn border state for quite some time now.  

The home minister is right when he says the Union government has not allowed the division of the state. The mighty Indian armed forces have the men, material and other resources to protect the political maps of the constituent states of the Indian republic but they can do only so much to unite minds. It has been almost one year since the ethnic conflict between the majority Meitei and the minority Kuki/Zo tribes broke out in Manipur— it was on May 3, 2023 that the first case of arson and looting was reported in the state. Since then, more than 200 people have been killed, countless homes and residential units destroyed and dozens of educational and religious institutions reduced to ashes. Several thousand people became refugees and hundreds of students had to either stop their studies or move out to other states.

Although a whole year has passed, nothing has returned to normal yet in the state. Little attention has been paid to the job of bringing the two warring groups — the Meitei and the Kuki — to the peace table. Instances of kidnappings and murders continue. Villages still erupt in violence, resulting in casualties. The thousands of rifles and lakhs of rounds of ammunition looted from the police stations have not yet been returned despite appeals even by Mr Shah himself. The Kuki/Zo people have not gone back on their demand for a separate administrative region for themselves.  What’s worse, despite claims of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the contrary, the Union government and Mr Shah have done precious little to restore the confidence of the people in the government mechanism despite the Supreme Court expressly saying the constitutional machinery has completely broken down in Manipur. 

Chief minister N. Biren Singh has been given an unacceptably long rope despite his presence proving to be a divisive factor.

Mr Shah said the Union government has conceded the chief minister’s position that Manipur cannot remain united without an Inner Line Permit, “an official travel document issued by the state government to allow the inward travel of an Indian citizen visiting the state for a specific time period”. This means that henceforth outsiders visiting the state for extended periods will be required to show this document. The Inner Line Permit has been a longstanding demand of the Meitei people but the Kuki/Zo have always feared that it will lead to the Meitei who dominate Imphal Valley encroaching on their hill areas. It is a divisive issue. India is a nation of diversities; every state is a mini-India, and comes with its own specialties and requirements.

The BJP and its leaders, who always call for uniformity in every matter of statecraft, will do well to remember that the survival of the republic is possible only through the recognition and promotion of the diversities and through efforts aimed at finding and preserving strands of unity amongst them. This is true for every state, and is true for India that is Bharat; not for Manipur alone. 

Tags: manipur violence, amit shah, aa edit