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Lok Sabha polls 2024: Separating Kukis, Meiteis geographically against idea of India, says Congress nominee Akoijam

An associate professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s School of Social Sciences, Akoijam asserted that as long as the two communities continue to be citizens of the country, they will have to live and work together.
Last Updated : 16 April 2024, 04:08 IST
Last Updated : 16 April 2024, 04:08 IST

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Imphal: Separating Kukis and Meiteis geographically in violence-hit Manipur in name of 'safety' is against the 'very idea' of India and should be condemned left, right and centre, said Congress' Lok Sabha poll candidate A Bimol Akoijam.

An associate professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s School of Social Sciences, Akoijam asserted that as long as the two communities continue to be citizens of the country, they will have to live and work together.

The comments by Akoijam, 57, came amid demands by the Kuki-Zo community in Manipur for a separate administration.

Equating the violence in Manipur to 'Rwanda-like ethnic conflict', Akoijam alleged that the BJP-led government at the Centre and in the state has deliberately allowed the situation to aggravate in the state and claimed that there is some purpose behind it.

"The kind of situation we are seeing...we don't believe that this can happen in a settled democracy like India...it almost sounds like an ethnic conflict like those happen in Rwanda for instance, this has been allowed to happen for so long...so returning back to normal life will take long, long time," he told PTI in an interview.

Akoijam, who is contesting his debut election from Inner Manipur constituency, questioned why is the Indian state allowing partitions to happen within itself.

"When a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country like India says that Kukis and Meiteis have been separated geographically, emotionally and so on and so forth, it is complete nonsense. It is against the very idea of India to say that Kukis and Meiteis cannot live together."

"If Sikhs were attacked...you tried to protect the locality where a certain community was residing. I am very suspicious of why did they start shifting these people from that side to this and vice versa in name of safety," he said.

"I consider this as an inability of the Indian state that it allowed to aggravate these situations and I suspect that it is being deliberately done. It is not inability of the Indian state, it is unwillingness to act, and my suspicion is that it has some purpose behind it," he further alleged.

Akoijam claimed that people seem to encourage and legitimise the separation and termed it a 'sorry state of affairs'.

"That's a very sorry state of affairs...I think that is why one must not celebrate. These kinds of issues must be condemned left, right and centre. As long as Kukis and Meiteis remain citizens of this country, they will share every platform be that Parliament, (state) assembly, government institutions, private institutions...as fellow citizens, they will have to live together and work together."

"You don't have to justify the fact that they can't work together. That is complete nonsense and unacceptable," he said.

Manipur has witnessed sporadic, sometimes intense, ethnic clashes since May 3 last year between the majority Meitei community and the Kukis, resulting in the loss of more than 200 lives. While the Meiteis are now concentrated in Imphal city, the Kukis have moved to the hills.

Polling for the two Lok Sabha seats in Manipur will be held in two phases. While Inner Manipur and some segments of Outer Manipur will vote in the first phase on April 19, the remaining segments of Outer Manipur will vote in the second phase on April 26.

Asked about the Congress' stand on the demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for Meiteis, Akoijam said, "It must be pursued and I shall be doing my bit to ensure that this process is done without harming or hurting other communities."

Akoijam is pitted against BJP's Thounaojam Basanta Kumar Singh, who is also the state's Law and Education Minister.

Asked about the steps he will take to address the situation, Akoijam said, 'change the narrative'.

"One of the things is to change the narrative. That is why in the Congress manifesto, we have the word 'reconciliation'. In a society that is fractured and where there is estrangement in inter-community relationships, you need reconciliation... My step would be to accentuate this process of reconciliation," he said.

"The violence must be reigned in, accountability fixed and justice done to the victims, that is the first priority. The crisis is manifestation of historically rooted issues in the state so it needs to be addressed with a particular perspective and I will be working on a project where every community can live together with a sense of dignity...a united Manipur," he added.

The Congress has fielded MLA Alfred K Arthur from the Outer Manipur seat, reserved for tribals. The BJP has not fielded any candidate from the Outer Manipur seat and is extending support to Naga People's Front (NPF) candidate Kachui Timothy Zimik.

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Published 16 April 2024, 04:08 IST

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