Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

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Union Home Ministry meeting on Manipur security situation at North Block on June 17, 2024

The Approach of The Union Home Ministry And Central Scurity Forces Deepens The Trust Deficit of The Manipuris With The Government of India

Whether it is interpreted as biased or unbiased by someone, the fact is that the Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren was not invited to the June 17 meeting convened by Union Home Minister Amit Shah to discuss the Manipur situation. Nongthombam Biren is not only the Chief Minister of Manipur but also holds the Home Affairs of the State.

However, the Manipur government was represented by the Security Advisor Kuldiep Singh, a retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer; Chief Secretary Vineet Joshi, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer and Director General of Police (DGP) Rajiv Singh, an IPS officer – all are not citizens of Manipur though Vineet Joshi is a Manipur cadre IAS officer who started his career with the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports in Manipur till 1999. In 2000 he started working in the Union Ministries. Then he became Chairman of Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and National Testing Agency (NTA) till he was appointed Chief Secretary of Manipur on May 7, 2023 after the Manipur violence erupted on May 3 in Churachandpur last year. No Manipuri – be that a Meitei or Pangal or Naga or Kuki (who became a citizen of Manipur before the merger with India on October 15, 1949 and their descedants) – was invited to the meeting which discussed about Manipur. This approach of the Union Home Ministry approach deepens the trust deficit of the Manipuris with the Government of India (GOI).

There might be reasons best known to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for not inviting Manipur Chief Minister to the meeting which discussed about Manipur situation. Who knows if Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren himself was amongst the agenda to be discussed? Not only Kuki-Zomi militants and their frontals but also the even the 10 MLAs of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ally Kuki People Alliance (KPA) also alleged Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren as Chief Minister for the Meiteis only and partisan.

Notably, reacting to the exclusion of Manipur Chief Minister in the meeting, newly-elected Manipur Congress MP Angomcha Bimol Akoijam on June 17 said the Union government was “treating Manipur as a non-entity” and as its own “fiefdom” “as if there is no State government there”.

According to reports, Bimol Akoijam said in addition to the Union government coming under suspicion among some populations of the State, this also raises questions about the Chief Minister’s “submissiveness”. It was “intriguing” that the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police were there but not the Chief Minister, he added.

Bimol further said, “For the security review meeting of a territory like Jammu and Kashmir, it was seen that the Lieutenant General was present at the meeting. Insofar as there is a State government, law and order is a State subject. It appears as if the Union government is treating Manipur like a non-entity. The State is being run as some sort of a fiefdom of the Union government; and the rest of the country should take note — this is just the Union government flexing its muscles”.

Moreover, the BJP Government in Delhi seems not to trust fully its own government in Manipur led by Nongthombam Biren. It is obvious from the appointment of Kuldiep Singh as Security Advisor on May 4 last year and entrusting him the chairmanship of the Unified Command, which is normally in the domain of Chief Minister. Though he was technically appointed by the Governor of Manipur, the general belief is that he was appointed on the instruction of the Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

The people of Manipur consider the decision as infringement in the federal power of a state government undermining the autonomy of the State in the matters of Law and Order. However, Chief Minister Biren seems submissively accepted the Union Home Minister’s decision as long as he remains the Chief Minister of Manipur.

Besides, the Union Home Minister Amit Shah had limited the State’s responsibility of maintaining public order after Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren was summoned to Delhi by the Union Home Minister on June 25, 2023 by sending a charter flight. Soon after arrival at Imphal Airport from Delhi, the Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren declared that the law and order in the hills will be looked after by the Union Home Minister Amit Shah while the valley will be his responsibility. The Chief Minister told the media about the details of the meeting with the Union Home Minister at the capital of India soon after landing at Imphal Airport in the night on the same day, June 25, 2023.

From May 4 last year Indian Security Forces have been airlifted to contain the violence between the Kuki-Zomi militants and the Meiteis. The Indian Security Forces including Army, Paramilitary and Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) are estimated to be around eighty thousands besides around forty thousand state forces in a population of 3.5 million.

In the name of prevention of clashes between the Kuki-Zomi militants and Meitei Village volunteers, the Indian Security Forces created “buffer zones” in the periphery of Imphal Valley. However, sporadic killings continue to this day due to Kuki-Zomi militants’s gunfire and bombs continue for area dominations against the Meiteis and retaliation of Meitei village volunteers. The creation of these “buffer zones” has triggered a fear in the minds of the communities of the State particularly Meiteis that it would lead to eventual division of the state.

And while the Meiteis have little faith in the Indian Security Forces, including the Assam Rifles, the Kuki-Zomi people are adamantly opposed to the deployment of the Manipur Police in the areas where Kuki-Zomis dominate caliming their exclusive territorry where there is no role for Manipur Police.

Recently, when violence erupted in the relatively calm Jiribam after killing a Meitei on June 6 and arsons by Kuki-Zomi militants, the Indian Security Forces after evacuating Meitei civilians from their villages they rushed back to guard the Kuki villages with barbed wire fencing. While the Kukis feel safe with the security provided for by Indian Security Forces stationed near their villages, a lack of trust for the very same forces following Union Home Ministry’s order increases amongst the Meiteis.

In the meantime, the outcome of the June 17 meeting led to decisions among others deployment of more India Security Forces in sensitive pockets in the Valley periperies where the mountains meet while the issue of frequent attacks by Kuki militants in the fringe villages of the valley and obstruction in movement of security personnel by both Kuki women and armed militants in Kuki dominated areas continue. This leads the Valley people particularly Meiteis believe that the Union Home Ministry is determined to disarm the Meitei village volunteers and understood to have ‘identified’ the intervention of Meira Paibis in movement of forces and recovery of arms looted from police armouries as twin challenges which needed to be dealt first and foremost as if the Meiteis are the problem for the violence that started from Churachandpur.

It is well known to everyone that the Indian Security Forces remain silent spectators while the Kuki-Zomi militants attack the Meitei villages as if the Kuki-Zomi militants are harmless. Even the Indian Security Forces allows less than 50 Kuki women to block the National Highways turning back the trucks carrying essential commodities for the people of the State. Besides, Indian Security Forces allows the Kuki-Zomis to burn the vehicles ferrying the security personnel themselves on the National Highway 2. They might interprete their inactions towards Kuki-Zomis as exercise of retraint while the innocent student protestors in Imphal were shot.

The Indian Security Forces do not feel themselves threatened or public order is violated when Kuki militants attacking villages in peripheries of Imphal Valley or Kuki militants stopped them from proceeding further brandishing their guns.

However, they feel perturbed when armed village volunteers with or without help from state forces begin to retaliate to the attacks by Kuki-Zomi militants. Besides they feel threatened when Meira Paibis resist them from covering Kuki-Zomis.

While the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains silent till now, the attidues and behaviours of the Indian Security Forces who are following the instructions and orders of the Union Home Ministry towards the people of Manipur parlticularly Meiteis create a new context where the trust deficit of the Meiteis with the Government of India deepens.

1 thought on “The Approach of The Union Home Ministry And Central Scurity Forces Deepens The Trust Deficit of The Manipuris With The Government of India”

  1. A. Issue of Trust Deficit between the people of Manipur and the Indian Government is well-highlighted.
    B. Submissiveness of Biren by accepting anything so long as he remains CM is rather painful for the people of Manipur.
    C. While contextualisation is the contemporary approach for policy formulation, the opposite is the case in Manipur as evidenced by the discussion on Manipur by a gathering of some who have only heard about Manipur.
    Nicely put👍

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