INTERVIEW | Governments at Centre and Manipur must act on ground rather than normalizing violence: MP Angomcha Bimol Akoijam

Akoijam spoke to TNIE about why he thinks PM Modi’s statement on Manipur camouflages the ground reality and the way forward to restore normalcy in the strife-torn state.
Congress MP Bimol Akoijam from Inner Manipur speaks in Parliament on July 1.
Congress MP Bimol Akoijam from Inner Manipur speaks in Parliament on July 1. Photo | PTI

First-time Congress MP from Inner Manipur, Angomcha Bimol Akoijam, hogged the headlines for his powerful speech in Lok Sabha early this week. An Associate Professor at the JNU, Akoijam spoke to Preetha Nair about why he thinks Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on Manipur camouflages the ground reality and the way forward to restore normalcy in the strife-torn state.

Q

PM Modi in Rajya Sabha said that there has been a decline in violence in Manipur and schools have reopened in most parts of the state. Your response..

A

The PM was forced to break his silence in Rajya Sabha because of the pressure from Rahul Gandhi and all the other MPs to make a statement in Lok Sabha. However, I'm disappointed with his statement because it normalizes the abnormal conditions that we have been  subjected to. He said that many schools and offices have started functioning. But the Meiteis do not go to certain areas to attend offices or school and colleges and Kukis do not go to offices or school or colleges in the central valley areas. Besides, thousands of children are being dislocated from their regular schools. However, the PM gave a different picture. Moreover, 60,000 plus people are still languishing in the relief camps suffering from every forms of violence and humiliation every day. The situation reminds me of the Partition of India. Even today, firing is happening in the periphery of Imphal and villages have been attacked by gunmen. But the PM’s statement camouflages this reality on the ground and gives a misleading picture to the rest of the country and the world. While asking us to go beyond politics, he is indulging in politics. I wish the PM showed a little more honesty and in tune with the ground reality.

Q

The PM also reminded the Congress that the state has been under the President's Rule for 10 years.

A

President rule has been imposed by Union government under various political parties, including the BJP. In fact, the BJP has done worst kind of such imposition. In Manipur, it is a de facto implementation of the President’s Rule by violating the Constitution. An extra-judicial act of subverting the autonomy of the state. A Cabinet Minister, in Imphal, said the appointment of the Security Advisor was done by the Union Government. The irony is that the notification was issued by the state government in the name of the Governor, not in the name of the President. Union Home Minister Amit Shah once said on the floor of the House that the Chief Minister is cooperative. The State Government is a willing partner in the de facto subversion of autonomy of the State.

In one of the flagrant violation of constitutional schemes of federal structure in the country we may highlight the instances of imposition of President Rule in Uttarakhand overthrowing the democratically elected INC-Government in the year 2016. However, a bench headed by Justice K.M. Joseph of High Court of Uttarakhand quashed the President Rule restoring the INC government. Pertinently, elevation of Justice K.M. Joseph was blocked by Modi Government as a vindictive move. Fortunately, after much friction with the Supreme Court collegium, Modi Government succumbed and notified the elevation of Justice K.M. Joseph to Supreme Court but his seniority was compromised.

Congress MP Bimol Akoijam from Inner Manipur speaks in Parliament on July 1.
Manipur MP Angomcha Bimol Akoijam slams PM Modi for doing nothing
Q

Recently, Home Minister Amit Shah held a high-level meeting in Delhi to review the security situation and he promised steps to deal with the situation.

A

That it was done without the state political executive of the state speaks of the same subversion of the autonomy of the state. Law and order is a state subject. This is besides the contradictory statements that the Home Minister and the Manipur CM have been making on the situation in Manipur. Sometimes they say, the crisis is caused by foreign elements, at another, they say that it is a conflict between two communities, and on another occasion, the Chief Minister says that it is a conflict between the illegal immigrants and the State Government. The State Government says it is something to do with narco- terrorism and then the Home Minister says it has nothing to do with terrorism. They have not only failed to bring normalcy but also themselves are confused and create confusion amongst the people.

Q

What according to you is the core issue? What are the imminent steps to be taken to restore peace?

A

The abject failure of the state is the core issue. This is besides the lack of clarity on the situation as their contradictory statements show. The State Government and the Centre must come out clean on the nature of the problem. Is it a conflict between communities? If it is not, why are we trying to have a conversation between two communities? If this is a conflict between foreign elements, why should we talk to them? Manipur Government says it is related to terrorism while the Home minister says it’s not. The Governments at the Centre and State must act on the ground rather than normalizing the violence by saying the schools, colleges and offices are open. They should speak the same language.

Manipur is one of the most militarized states in the country and every square centimetre is covered by either Central Police Organizations or Paramilitary Forces like Assam Rifles. With such heavy deployment of armed forces, how did 60,000 plus people lose their homes, and more than 200 people were slaughtered? Why can't people move from one area to another? All these questions must be answered.

Q

CM Biren Singh has said that the central forces are not doing enough..

A

The CM must ask the Union Minister why his directives are not being followed by the armed forces? The State Government has turned into a proxy government. This is worse than the Emergency.

Q

Should the CM step down?

A

It is something that the Central Government must ask. It is their affair. But the State and Central Government are hand-in gloves. I think honesty is required.

Q

The Kuki community has been strongly demanding separate administration .. Your take.

A

I am not in favour of their demand. There are reports quoting some Kuki armed groups that they have an agreement with the BJP to create a separate administration if they help the BJP in the recently held Assembly elections. I think the BJP and Kuki groups must come out clean on whether there was an agreement between them to create a separate administration. Is this violence anything to do with that reported understanding between them.

Q

In your speech you said the silence of the state on the Manipur issue forced you to contest the elections.

A

Yes. I've been speaking out, not only on the present crisis in Manipur but on issues of public importance. I think I have made the right decision to enter politics as people are now taking note of the issues, that I have been consistently raising in the last few decades.

Q

Your debut speech in Lok Sabha was made around midnight..

A

I was conscious of ‘Nehru’s speech of ‘Tryst with Destiny’.  I thought my speech would be another tryst with destiny for the people of the Northeast, and my state in particular, a freedom from marginality, to claim our place as dignified citizens in this country. I am glad that destiny has imposed this on me.

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