Vikalp Sangam, a collective of non-governmental organisations, on Thursday demanded in a statement Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah take moral responsibility for the crisis in Manipur that has left over 200 people dead.
Manipur has been witnessing ethnic clashes between the Kuki and Meitei communities since early May, resulting in nearly 60,000 persons fleeing their homes. The state has reported cases of rape and murder, and mobs have looted police armoury and set several homes on fire despite the heavy presence of central security forces.
The statement has been issued by Organisations including Alternative Law Forum, Fridays for Future-India, Jagori Rural, School for Democracy and Yuva Ekta Foundation. They stated that the lack of the prime minister’s engagement with the situation was “unacceptable”.
They also speculated that the crisis has been allowed to spiral out of control with the collusion of intelligence agencies and the state.
“There are various intelligence agencies, including Research and Analysis Wing and Army intelligence, working in Manipur,” stated Vikalp Sangam. “Surely these agencies must have known what is brewing. The issues could have been foreseen or settled amicably.”
In view of this, they demanded that Chief Minister Biren Singh should immediately be dismissed and an all-party government is formed in Manipur. The government of India should also be held accountable for allowing such a situation, they said.
They said there should be “disciplinary action against armed forces personnel and police personnel who allowed or instigated violence, and let the loot of armouries happen”.
The collective added: “The Army should be withdrawn in a phased manner except those contingents who are guarding the borders.”
They also said that cases of sexual violence, murder, loot and other heinous crimes should be fast-tracked with support from the Central and state governments.
Further, the government should immediately form a Peace Building and Reconciliation Commission with at least 50% women representing every community in the state, said the organisations. The commission should also include members of the civil society, trade unions and government employees.
The organisations were of the opinion that peace-building efforts must also ensure the return of those who had to flee their homes and provide financial compensation as well as socio-psychological support, in relation to the loss of lives and destruction of their homes and belongings.
Manipur saw fresh unrest this week after the government said that two Meitei students – Hijam Linthoingambi (17) and Phijam Hemjit (20) – who had gone missing in July have been murdered. They are suspected to have been killed by Kuki militants, according to the Imphal Police.
On Monday, the state government said that the inquiry of the case has been transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation. It also urged citizens to exercise restraint and allow the authorities to investigate the killings.
Following, over 1,000 students from various city colleges and schools started a “peace march” seeking justice and punishment for the killing of the duo on Wednesday. When the rally was 2 km away from the chief minister’s bungalow, security forces intervened and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.
This resulted in over 50 students getting injured. The government also reimposed the ban on internet services for the next five days and ordered the closing down of all schools in Manipur on September 27 and 28.
The Manipur government on Wednesday also stated that the “disturbed area” status under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act will remain in place in the hill areas of the state for six more months.