Promise to end militancy dominate poll campaigns as peace eludes Manipur

BJP leaders are targetting Ibobi and alleging that the long problem of militancy deteriorated due to Congress's failure
Last Updated 24 February 2022, 16:49 IST

Name of Viplab Tripathi, an Assam Rifles Colonel from Jharkhand, who was killed by militants in Manipur four months ago is being often heard as the blame game and the promise to end militancy, the state's biggest problem takes centre stage in the campaign for the Assembly elections.

The Opposition Congress is talking more about the killing of Tripathi, his wife, minor son and four jawans in Churanchandpur, a hills district, as the party counters the ruling BJP's claim that they brought peace and development since they formed their first government in Manipur in 2017. "If they brought peace, why was the Assam Rifles colonel and his family killed? Was it not the government's failure?" veteran Congress leader and former CM, Okram Ibobi Singh asked in a campaign rally.

BJP leaders are targetting Ibobi and alleging that the long problem of militancy deteriorated due to Congress's failure to bring the militant groups into peace talks during its 15-year tenure between 2002 and 2017. "Before 2017, Manipur was identified by militancy and blockades. We have ended blockades and brought peace in the past five years. Militancy in Manipur is almost over and whatever is left will be wiped out in the next five years through dialogue. We need another term to solve the problem," defence minister Rajnath Singh said on February 14 in a rally in Imphal East district.

Ibobi alleged that militancy came down after 2017 as BJP had a "nexus" with the rebel groups and those who frequently resorted to blockades during his tenure. Even as BJP is claiming to have brought peace, militancy continues to be the biggest problem with several militant groups still unwilling to join talks and are bent on their demand for restoration of the erstwhile kingdom of Manipur, which was annexed by India in 1949. "We will solve the problem the way we have done in Bodoland, Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao districts in Assam, where 9,500 cadres have surrendered weapons and joined the mainstream," Union Home Minister Amit Shah said at Churanchandpur on February 23.

The National People's Party (NPP), a partner of the BJP-led government since 2017, has alleged during poll campaigning that Manipur is witnessing "unprecedented violence" before the elections. It said many of its candidates have been threatened by militants, who are asking voters and village heads to vote for BJP and Naga People's Front (NPF), contesting in 10 seats in the hills. NPP has fielded 38 candidates this time.

Genesis of the problem

Militancy in Manipur started way back in 1964 with the formation of the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) in the Imphal Valley with the demand for resotoration of the erstwhile kingdom of Manipur. People's Liberation Army (PLA), People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), Kangleipak Communist Party, Revolutionary People's Front (RPF), based out of Imphal Valley are unwilling to join talks.

NSCN-IM, the Naga outfit is active in the hills region having 20 of the 60 Assembly seats. Nagas and Kukis dominate the hills. PLA and Manipur Naga People's Front, a new rebel group had claimed responsibility for the killing of Tripathi and six others.

In a statement emailed to DH on Thursday (February 24), RPF said the peace talks and the suspension of operation can not solve the problems and they are bent on their demand.

At least 25 Kuki militant groups are in the suspension of operation with the government for a long time and have been waiting to sign an agreement to end their grievances. Over 2,000 such militants will even cast their votes through postal ballots this time hoping to end the conflicts.

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(Published 24 February 2022, 16:49 IST)

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