Manipur, the Northeastern state of India has been burning for more than three months now. Violence which broke out on May 3rd between Meitei and Kuki communities has killed more than 150 people and thousands injured are lying in hospitals. An estimated 50,000 children and adults have been displaced and putting up in 349 relief camps affecting the normal lives including health, education, livelihood etc. Although the Meiteis and the Kukis have traditionally shared a complicated relationship but the recent violence has been attributed to the non-tribal Meitei people’s demand for Schedule Tribe status.
After 3rd May incident majority of Meteis are concentrated in Imphal valley while the Kukis are occupying the hills. There is anger against the BJP government for not able to control the violence in the State. Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘s silence on Manipur for 80 days also brought criticism for the party. Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to the state and announcement of Rs 101.75 Crores package could also not stop the violence. The opposition parties including Congress has been slamming the BJP government for the critical situation of the State , Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Statement in the Parliament “Bharat Mata has been killed in Manipur” brought laurels to Congress but not for the people of Manipur.
It was only after the horrific incident (video) of two women being paraded naked got viral in July, that government came into action. The government has constituted a 53 member CBI team to investigate the violence in the state. But will CBI ensure justice for the victims is a big question. In order to find out whether the state is returning to normalcy or not Kavita Sharma of Asian News Makers spoke to Bikramjit Rajkumar a member of Youth Welfare Front who has been playing an active part in restoring peace in the state. In an Exclusive interview to ANM, Bikramjit spoke about the present situation in Manipur and the five demands of their community. Excerpts…
KS: Has the State returned to normalcy?
BR: No, the state has not yet returned to normalcy. The victims are still in relief camps. People need to go back to their houses. Meiteis and Kukis are geographically divided, we can see our houses that are burnt and vandalized but we can’t go there. Government is making fabricated houses for us which will take one year but not doing anything to get our own homes back. Though government has announced various packages but nothing has been fulfilled yet. They are only paying Rs 1000 to one person in relief camp, which is not sufficient.
KS: You mean fabricated homes are being built and you want your proper homes?
BR: yes mam, why Govt. is eager to built fabricated homes for us, we have our own homes, own property that are burnt, why govt is not rebuilding them, why these fabricated houses, these are temporary, we have already taken shelters in schools, clubs and relief camps so why BJP MLAs are speeding up on fabricated houses, they are doing business. Is the govt not interested in sending us back to our properties…
According to the reports, the narco– terrorism is one of the major reasons of the volatile situation in Manipur. The unrest has led to the spike in the trafficking of drugs in Mizoram from Myanmar. Manipur and Mizoram have been conduits of drug trade from Myanmar in South-Eastern Asia. After Violence broke out on May 3, the trafficking of Heroine, cocaine, cannabis, and some foreign cigarettes has registered a spike in Mizoram. Many items have been seized in adjoining states of Manipur in last three months.
KS: Is Manipur violence linked with drug mafia, narcotics trade?
BR: Yes drug mafia is flourishing in neighbouring states of Manipur, In the month of May we were very helpless, nobody was there to help us, I called few news channels telling them all this is happening in Manipur, because of drug mafias, I told many people that drugs business and arms ammunition will flourish in neighboring states, the drug cases in Mizoram and other states increased in May, June and July. After violence broke in Manipur maximum cases of seized drugs were reported in news. This is narco terrorism, this is a big issue in Manipur from so many years, this has been discussed in Parliament also. Manipur shares its border with Myanmar that is 400 kms, there is only 10 km fencing and 380 km area is open border so infiltration is common, our people can go and they can come. You can cross international border by just showing your Aadhar card and paying fees of Rs 40.
KS: Have you visited Myanmar?
BR: Yes I have visited Myanmar 3-4 times on my bike. No strict checking at the Border and drug is very easily available there. Even in Imphal drug is easily available in pouches.
KS: Were Drugs easily available at the time of violence also after 3rd May?
BR: No.. after violence broke the drug was not easily available but it became costlier, many people in villages started stealing things, like cylinders and expensive items to purchase drugs, because the price of drugs went high.
There are many instances in the state where
Assam Rifles , the oldest paramilitary force have been found supporting the Kukis . Police in Manipur have registered an FIR accusing the Assam Rifles of preventing police from doing their duty by blocking the way with armoured vehicles, which allowed Kuki militants suspected of killing Meiteis to escape. The Meiteis in Manipur have been demanding oust of Assam Rifles from the State.
KS: Why are you demanding to remove Assam Rifles from Manipur?
BR: Assam Rifles(AR) are supporting the Kukis, they are doing poppy cultivation under them. Manipur people believe that Assam Rifles are directly and indirectly involved in this violence and drugs menace, when the state police and Army’s Gorkha regiment did joint operations in the hilly areas, the Assam Rifles supplies like food items etc were found there, I am not saying this it has already been published in newspapers.
Manipur is a beautiful hilly State of Northeast but is being neglected by the political parties. The people of Manipur are disappointed and have lost hope now, especially the present Govt.. According to Bikramjit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not aware of the problems of our state. He travels to so many foreign countries But only visits Manipur during Elections. They have urged the govt to look after their demands to bring stability in the State.
KS: What are your main demands Now?
BR: the main demands of my society are 1.
Remove of Suspension OF Operation (SOO) , 2. implementation of NRC, (3.) immediate relief to victims and deceased, 4. sealing of International border, 5. proper investigation and strict action against 10 Kuki MLA’s for threat to Manipur’s Integrity.