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A screen grab of election related recent violence among BJP workers at Bishnupur BJP office

Unlike in the Past a New Violent Political Culture is Setting Roots in Manipur

Even as many warnings were evident as early as October for the violent political actions in connection with the forthcoming Manipur Legislative Assembly elections, Manipur government fails to take preventive measures. Rather the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) engages in undemocratic and violent political activities.

The fire of the violent incident in Heirok killing Ningthoujam Rohit aka Kunao of Heirok Part-II Mayai Leikai and a college student who was reading BA 5th Semester at Thoubal College, an innocent person who did not involve in electioneering activities, was shot dead while his father Ningthoujam Premchandra was injured critically and another person in another incident at Heirok Bazar also sustained bullet injuries took place in the intervening night of December 21 and 22 in which is not yet totally extinguished.

A number of violent incidents in other Assembly Constituencies between the rival candidates even amongst the same party have occurred. Warnings were evident as early as October for the violent election campaigns Manipur is witnessing now.

Amidst the bomb attacks against the candidates or workers in many Assembly Constituencies, the ruling BJP workers engage in undemocratic violent activities.

The most unfortunate and unexpected violent activity by the BJP is the one carried out by them in front of the office of the Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) in the evening of January 6 led by the Indian Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Pratima Bhoumik and Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) president Manoharmayum Barish Sharma.

A BJP mob, led by a Union minister, attacking the state Congress office and burning effigies of Congress central leaders

Video clips which went viral on social media show that members of the BJP in Manipur burned effigies of All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Sonia Gandhi and its senior leader Rahul Gandhi in front of the MPCC office in the evening of January 6. The BJP members even kicked the gate of Congress Bhawan at BT Road, Imphal.

The burning of effigies is said to be in protest against “security breach” in connection with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit in Punjab on January 5.

Reports said the Prime Minister was stuck on a flyover in Congress-led Punjab for 15-20 minutes on January 5 due to a blockade by farmers, an incident the Union Home Ministry described as a “major lapse” in his security.

While condemning the violent activities carried out by the BJP members led by Indian Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Pratima Bhoumik, in front of the Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) gate, the Congress Party has demanded the authorities concerned to remove the minister from her post at the earliest.

The Congress has also filed an FIR against BJYM president Barish Sharma.

Addressing the press at Congress Bhawan, BT Road on Friday, All India Congress Committee (AICC) Manipur in-charge, Bhakta Charan Das said the incident of burning the effigies of Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi on the night of January 5 in front of the MPCC gate that reportedly led to clash is highly condemnable and ‘unconstitutional’.

The burning of effigies was incited by the said Union Minister, Das said, adding that conducting such violent activities by blocking the road is an offense and has never happened in the country before.

Hareshwar Goshwami, the General Secretary of the AICC Manipur unit told the media after the incident, “BJP goons wearing saffron caps, which had BJP written on them, started attacking us. A woman office-bearer of the Congress was also manhandled.”

Moreover, the Left Coordination Committee, Manipur on January 7 strongly condemned the attack on the office of Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) by BJP workers led by union minister of state Pratima Bhoumik and demanded her resignation and arrests of those involved.

In a joint press release by CPI CPI (M), RSP, and AIFB, the committee demanded that Pratima Bhoumik, who is currently serving as minister of state in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in the Second Modi ministry, should resign.

The committee also accused the BJP of unleashing violence in the state in the run-up to the election, stating that attacks on other political parties and its workers, which even led to the death of one, was undemocratic and unconstitutional. It is unfortunate for the people of the state that the state forces are standing idle amidst such situations, it added.

The left committee also appealed to the people of the state to stay vigilant against such designs of BJP.

Meanwhile, violent activities of the BJP continue to happen and this time within the party itself. Several shots were fired in the air by a man in a SUV making attempts to rush out of the BJP district office venue located at Bishnupur. The incident took place as the pre-poll opinion poll organised by BJP Manipur Pradesh concluded on January 7. The pre-poll opinion was said to have been organised in an effort to assess the moods of party workers and leaders in the districts of Manipur.

Reports said tension prevailed during the opinion poll for Bishnupur District as many people who came to the venue were prevented from participating in the exercise. Those who wanted to barge in and participate in the poll failed to prove that they were active party members. Most of these people who wanted to take part in the BJP opinion poll belonged to those who recently joined the party. But they could not produce any authentic documents to prove that they were active BJP party members or Mandal officials, reports added.

Reports said that the shots were fired from the vehicle being used by the President, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) Manoharmayum Barish Sharma who was there to oversee the conduct of the opinion poll as returning officer of Moirang and Bishnupur Assembly Constituencies. The way the shots were fired from inside the vehicle took everyone present by surprise. What is even more appalling was the way how the police personnel stood there shocked by the incident.

Videos being widely circulated in the social media show the man who drove the vehicle firing and rushing out of the venue. The vehicle was being chased by those who were present there followed by the armed police personnel who seemed not ready to handle the situation. There were reports of a woman who fainted on hearing the shots and others who sustained minor injuries.

Later, Manoharmayum Barish Sharma, BJYM President of Manipur, Bivuti Bhuyan, Sayogi (Assam) and L Deven Singh, BJP General Secretary, Manipur Pradesh in a letter to the President of Bharatiya Janata Party, Manipur Pradesh claimed that the incident happened after they opposed “the list of voters” that brought to them for the BJP opinion poll.

The letter further stated that Pukhrem Sharatchandra Singh MLA Moirang Assembly Constituency insisted that the RO and the official should approve the “voter list”. Based on this there were an argument between the MLA’s workers and Manoharmayum Barish Sharma.

“They tried to snatch the ballot box. A huge mob attacked us and our vehicles. To escape from the mob, my escort Akoijam Bamkim blank fired” which was a felt necessity at the moment, said the letter.

Many analysts and observers of Manipur politics have said and speculated many a times in different local TV channels also that violent actions will engulf the forthcoming Manipur Assembly Election if the present pre-poll violent activities are allowed to continue. It has already been warned that the intra BJP violence might have been happened due the high number of intending candidates in an Assembly Constituency.

The incident at BJP Bishnupur Office on January 7 is obviously related and due to the high number of intending candidates and unlike before a new violent political culture sets in Manipur.

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