On the Manipur violence and the top political response

After two and a half months of relentless and widespread violence in Manipur, there was finally a response from Prime Minister Narendra Modi following the shocking display of tribal women being paraded naked in Thoubal district on May 4. However, the Prime Minister\’s statement fell short of acknowledging the root causes and consequences of the escalating conflict in the State, which continues to pose a grave threat.

The Supreme Court of India took suo motu cognizance of the video depicting sexual assault and issued ultimatums to both the Union and State governments, criticizing their failure to restore normalcy in Manipur. The lack of action from the leadership has been met with outrage from Members of Parliament and political representatives of all parties.

Mr. Modi\’s silence on the Manipur violence, despite his usual penchant for being in the limelight and dominating the airwaves, revealed an uncaring attitude towards the crisis in the State. While the renewed attention on the conflict forced the State government to promise action against the perpetrators, it exposed a significant divide between the Meitei and the Kuki-Zo communities, requiring strong leadership to facilitate reconciliation.

Despite Home Minister Amit Shah\’s visit to Manipur in late May, little progress has been made in resettling displaced people or mitigating ethnic hostilities; sporadic violence persists. Chief Minister N. Biren Singh\’s policies and statements have shown an inability to rise above identitarian politics, with the Kuki community viewing him as part of the problem. The BJP itself appears divided along ethnic lines.

The situation underscores the untenable position of Mr. Singh as Chief Minister. However, the BJP seems reluctant to alienate the Meitei majority, whose support enables Mr. Singh to hold on to power. While some action has been taken by Mr. Singh\’s government, arresting four men in response to the May 4 crime, more comprehensive efforts are needed to quell the hostility. Appointing a less controversial leader could pave the way for civil society representatives from different ethnicities to initiate genuine reconciliation and peace initiatives. The current \”double engine\” government of the Bharatiya Janata Party has thus far fallen short of providing effective leadership in this crisis.

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