Silence and outrage on Manipur violence

Dr Yumnam Oken Singh *

 Silence and outrage on Manipur violence
Silence and outrage on Manipur violence :: Pix - TSE

In the heartland of Manipur, India, a wave of communal violence between the Meitei and the Kuki communities has been raging on for over 90 days, leaving behind a trail of devastation and despair. The horrors of this protracted conflict have led to the loss of more than 150 precious lives, the incineration of thousands of homes, and the displacement of over 50,000 innocent souls.

Amidst the chaos, the the Nationalistic BJP Government’s inaction and vague role have left the people of Manipur reeling in anguish, seeking solace from a seemingly indifferent leadership. It is doubtful if the State Chief Minister would remain in the post if it was not a BJP Government.

Many personalities ignorant of the ground realities, particularly from European and American countries, as well as many in mainland India, try to blindly consider it a clash between the Hindus and Christians. Well, the fact is different, but who cares ? Even the European Parliament brought up the issue while ignoring the riots raging on in Paris.

As the flames of violence continue to consume Manipur, the disheartening silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi looms large over the afflicted State. It seems as if the Prime Minister has taken a Mauna Vrat on Manipur communal violence.

While the world watches, the leader of the Nation, who holds the power to unite and heal, has chosen to remain distant and silent, touring distant lands in pursuit of peace.

The Prime Minister’s silence resonates as a profound betrayal to the suffering masses, leaving them to navigate the shadows of despair on their own. Then the honourable Prime Minister breaks his silence, that too in a very vague manner, when the video of two Kuki women being paraded naked goes viral. Only he knows if he would have remained silent without the video.

The communal violence engulfing Manipur is a multifaceted tragedy, far beyond the scope of a single incident caught on tape, however horrifying it may be. The root cause of this turmoil lies in deep-seated historical grievances, ethnic tensions, terrorism, illegal immigration, and socio-economic disparities that have been allowed to fester unaddressed for years or even generations. Instead of acknowledging these complexities, the international community’s focus remains fixated on condemning the isolated act of violence captured in the video.

Brutal and heinous crimes against women are not something new in India. We have witnessed the Nirbhaya Gang Rape Case (2012), one of the most infamous cases in recent Indian history, where a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was brutally gang-raped and assaulted by six men on a bus in Delhi on December 16, 2012. The victim succumbed to her injuries 13 days later.

Then there is the Kathua Rape Case (2018), where an 8-year-old girl from the nomadic Bakarwal community in Jammu and Kashmir was kidnapped, gang-raped, and murdered in January 2018. In the Unnao Rape Case (2017 and 2018), a teenage girl from Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, was allegedly raped in 2017 by a local politician.

In 2018, her father was beaten to death while in police custody. In the Hathras Gang Rape Case (2020), a 19-year-old Dalit woman was gang-raped and brutally assaulted in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. She succumbed to her injuries two weeks later.

In the Delhi Cantt Rape Case (2021), a 9-year-old girl was allegedly raped and murdered in the Delhi Cantonment area. In the Sow- bhagya Murder Case (2019), a woman was hacked to death in broad daylight in Andhra Pradesh in 2019.

The incident was captured on video and highlighted the issue of public acts of violence against women. In the Manorama rape and murder case in Manipur (2004), a 32-year-old woman was allegedly arrested by the Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force, on suspicion of having links to separatist groups in the State.

On July 10, 2004, Manorama’s lifeless body was found just a few kilometres away from her home. She had been raped and shot multiple times, even on her private parts. Well, such crimes continue unabated in the largest democracy in the world. And the list goes on and on. Remember that all these cases were in a peaceful context where there were no communal or religious violence.

Then recently, another heinous crime against two Kuki women in Manipur was brought to light through social media, and suddenly the whole world is aghast and brutal in its comments. Most of them even don’t know where Manipur is located. While the global condemnation of the heinous act against the two women is just and necessary, it is equally essential to recognize that this act is merely a symptom of a much larger malaise.

The silence on the larger issue of communal unrest speaks volumes about the world’s inability to confront the intricate web of challenges that Manipur faces. Please do not forget that a dangerous and violent communal clash is ongoing with far-reaching consequences at the moment.

The condemnations pouring in from politicians, actors, and activists worldwide, while well- inten- tioned, appear to be oblivious to the broader context. By solely fixating on the surface-level atrocities, these voices inadvertently contribute to the neglect of the underlying causes, preventing any genuine progress towards a lasting solution. To bring about true transformation and lasting peace, we must look beyond the sensational headlines and engage in a holistic understanding of the crisis at hand.

The State Government and the inaction of the Nationalistic BJP Government have only exacerbated the situation, failing to proactively address the escalating tensions between the Meetei and the Kuki communities. Without a sincere commitment to dialogue, reconciliation, and meaningful reforms, the cycle of violence remains unbroken, ensnaring innocent lives in its relentless grip.

To attain lasting peace in Manipur, the Government at all levels must rise above partisan politics and prioritize the welfare of the people. Only through transparent governance, unbiased law enforcement, and genuine efforts to bridge communal divides can the foundations of violence be dismantled.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the country’s leader, bears an immense responsibility to extend his support and empathy to the beleaguered people of Manipur. By overlooking their plight and choosing silence over action, he risks alienating an entire region from the Nation’s collective conscience. Nobody wants Manipur to return to a situation similar to the early 1990s.

It is essential to address the silence surrounding the root cause of the communal unrest in Manipur. The violence between the Meetei and the Kuki communities is a tragic culmination of deeply entrenched issues that demand our collective attention and action.

To truly honour the memory of the victims and pave the way for a brighter future, we must shatter the veil of indifference and embark on a journey towards understanding, reconciliation, and lasting peace. Only then can we hope to bring an end to the suffering that has plagued Manipur for far too long.

The Manipur Government and the Central Government must work together at a war footing to restore peace in the State, and the people of Manipur are eagerly waiting for that day to come.

* Dr Yumnam Oken Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
*** This article was published in The Sangai Express on 07 August 2023
This article was webcasted on 24 August 2023.

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