TODAY -

Indeed, no comparison with Manipur violence
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: February 21, 2024 -



When a bench of the Supreme Court of India comprising Justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih observed that the Sandeshkhali incident cannot be compared with the Manipur ethnic violence while rejecting a petition seeking a court-monitored investigation by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the recent violence in West Bengal's Sandeshkhali village, we couldn't agree more.

For the uninitiated in strife-torn Manipur, who have not been able to see or do anything beyond trying to fend themselves from the impact of an unprecedented ethnic conflict that broke out between two communities and has been going on for more than nine months now, the island village of Sandeshkhali in the Sundarbans of West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district has been experiencing violent protests since February 8.

The violent protests are linked to accusations against a local Trinamool Congress leader and his supporters, who allegedly engaged in land grabbing and sexual assaults of women soon after the party came to power in West Bengal in 2011.

Taking serious note of these allegations, one Alakh Alok Srivastava, who is a lawyer by profession, had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court seeking transfer of the investigation into Sandeshkhali incident from West Bengal Police to CBI or SIT under the monitoring of the apex court with formation of a Committee of three retired Judges of high courts, in line with the one set up in the case of Manipur incident (Dinganglung Cangmei Vs. Mutum Churamani Meetei & Ors, 2023 INSC 698), in order to enquire into the nature of violence against women that occurred in the village.

However, the apex court on Monday not only dismissed the PIL on the ground that the Calcutta High Court is already seized of the matter and taken suo motu cognisance of reported occurrences of sexual assaults against women in Sandeshkhali at gun points and transfer of lands of tribal people in violation of relevant laws, but also dissuaded the petitioner from comparing the Sandeshkhali incident with the Manipur violence, which is "still an ongoing thing".

As a matter of fact, we dare to add here, there had been no incident in the past and, hopefully there would be none in the future, that would come close to comparison with the ethnic violence in Manipur which has been going on since May 3 last year after Kuki-Chin people clashed with the Meitei/Meetei over the latter's demand for granting recognition as scheduled tribe (ST) under the Constitution of India.

Apart from differences in the nature of the crimes committed and the issues as well as the type of people involved in the Sandeshkhali and Manipur incidents, the response of political parties, regardless of whether belonging to the ruling or the opposition bloc, to the two incidents has been in stark contrast so much so that it has compelled the people once again to raise the question of why the ethnic violence in Manipur is going on for close to 10 months now with no solution in sight.

The answer to this question should come easy this time if one is keeping track of the political response to the Sandeshkhali incident.

By saying this, we are in no way trying to belittle or undermine the gravity of the crisis in Sandeshkhali.

But the manner in which the national president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) JP Nadda lost no time in appointing a six-member fact-finding team led by Union minister of state for education Annapurna Devi to conduct an on-the spot-study in Sandeshkhali and how the Indian National Congress (INC), which could never see eye to eye on any issue with the BJP, has come together in hitting out at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee after their respective delegations were stopped by the police from visiting unrest-hit Sandeshkhali due to prohibitory orders which are in place, explains a lot than one could possibly understand about the political games of trying to score some brownie points against one another even at the cost of human life.



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