Modi’s silence on Manipur ends, but on what terms?

Modi’s silence on Manipur finally ended in the Parliament, although it didn’t come with any tectonic shift but the usual lambasting of the Congress party.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally broke his silence on the northeastern state of Manipur, which has been engulfed by ethnic violence since May 2023. Mr Modi’s silence on Manipur was criticised during a scathing attack by the Indian National Congress (INC) Member of the Parliament (MP) A Bimol Akoijam, who has been elected from the state. Mr Akoijam highlighted the “civil war-like situation” prevailing in the state for over a year and the government’s total apathy.

While Mr Modi’s silence on Manipur was finally broken, it resulted in a customary blaming of the INC for “politicising the Manipur issue.” 

Did Mr Modi’s response come out in favour of the Manipuri people or was it just another episode of the blame game played by his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)?

Modi’s routinely finger-pointing to the Congress

Mr Modi openly blamed the INC for “taking advantage” of the Manipur issue in the Parliament. Attacking the opposition he said, “Stop politicising the Manipur issue, one day Manipur will reject you.”

In the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Mr Modi’BJP and its ally, Naga People’s Front, were voted out from the Inner and Outer Manipur constituencies respectively, giving an easy win to the INC candidates amid the ongoing conflict in the state.

Mr Modi also inculpated the Congress for the imposition of the President’s rule, ten times, in the state during its tenure. He said, “Congress should not forget that because of these reasons, the President’s rule had to be imposed ten times… and this has not happened in our tenure.” 

Six out of the ten times that the President’s rule was invoked in Manipur, were in the late 1960s and 1970s. The impositions had come during a period when there was prevailing political instability in Manipur and a surge in the number of political parties opposing the INC. 

Mr Modi claimed that over 500 people have been arrested and more than 11,000 first information reports (FIRs) have been filed since the violence erupted in the state. He also claimed that the situation in Manipur is “coming to normalcy” with schools and other institutions reopening. 

The INC’s general secretary Jairam Ramesh, highlighting the rampant “tense situation” in Manipur, attacked the prime minister for this remark after “months of absolute silence.” He criticised Mr Modi for not meeting the political leaders of the state since the violence broke out in May 2023. 

Mr Jairam was not the only one to criticise Mr Modi’s silence on Manipur for a year. Other Opposition MPs took jibes at the prime minister in the Parliament to speak on Manipur. 

Opposition’s robust criticism of Mr Modi’s silence on Manipur

The most influential speech, which forced Mr Modi to break his silence on Manipur, came from the Inner Manipur MP, Mr Akoijam, who defeated the BJP’s Thounaojam Basantakumar in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. 

Mr Akoijam expressed his anguish by stating, “The silence on Manipur tragedy is not unique, it is a reflection of this general continuity of colonialism. A national party like BJP will be comfortable with the silence in Manipur.” 

He urged the leader of the house, “If you hear the anxiety and pain in my voice please go back and see the 60,000 people languishing in relief camps, don’t talk about Partition Remembrance Day till then.”

The MP also vocalised that hurt and anger “has thrown a nobody like me to be part of this temple of democracy, beating the BJP cabinet minister” and exhorted the nationalist party to say “that Manipur is a part of India and we care for the people of that State.”

INC MP Praniti Shinde spotlighted “a gross display of the PM’s insensitivity and lack of empathy towards the burning issue of Manipur.”

Rajya Sabha MP and the deputy leader of Shiv Sena UBT, Priyanka Chaturvedi, acclaimed that “it should’ve been PM Modi’s duty to visit Manipur after forming his government…” instead of visiting Italy. 

Mr Modi visited Italy, as his first foreign trip in his third consecutive term, to attend the G7 Summit this June. 

Ms Chaturvedi underlined that the prime minister’s words in the parliament are “hollow and fact-free.”

Manish Tewari, Congress MP from Chandigarh in his speech highlighted that the catastrophic situation in Manipur is a living example of the saffron party’s communal politics in the last 10 years.

Mahua Moitra, an Opposition MP from Krishnanagar, noted that during his election campaign, Mr Modi used words like “Musalman, Mulla, madrasa, mutton, machhli (fish) and mangalsutra, but not once did they mention Manipur.”

INC president Mallikarjun Kharge also repeated the same narrative in the Rajya Sabha.  

Mr Modi’s forced response to the opposition’s condemnation of his silence on Manipur chiefly addressed ‘Congress’s fault.’ Where does the real issue of Manipur go from here? 

What’s next for Mr Modi in light of Manipur’s outcry? 

The pressure of the Opposition forced Mr Modi to speak in the Parliament on the situation in Manipur. But the ethnic violence in Manipur isn’t the only issue the battered state is facing now.

Manipur has been submerged because of massive flash floods for a month, amid dire conditions of living due to the ongoing violence and is screaming out for help and attention. It has been urging those in power to act to save Manipur. 

Mr Modi’s silence on Manipur violence was long, it’s to be seen how much time his government takes to act on the flood and provide the people with some temporary relief.

A journalist interested in national and international news. She aspires to highlight the common people's concerns through human interest stories and deep-dive articles on geopolitics.

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