Manipur Crisis And Its Impact On The BJP - Eastern Mirror
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Manipur Crisis and Its Impact on the BJP

By EMN Updated: Jun 18, 2024 9:47 pm

The fortunes of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies in some of the north eastern states seem to be waning as both have suffered losses to the congress/regional parties in the 2024 parliamentary elections. The year long ethnic conflict between a minority community and a dominant and majority Meitei community in Manipur, without any signs of serious efforts to resolve the crisis and restore peace and communal harmony, seem now to be more like an attempt to browbeat one of the minorities in Manipur to submission.

The minority people in the states are worried by the ill-treatment meted out to their brethren in the ethnic conflict. The minority community of Kuki-Zo have suffered terribly in the hands of majority Meiteis who are covertly, sometimes openly, supported by the state government dominated by the Meitei community. The Meiteis have 40 MLAs out of a House of 60 MLAs and 8 ministers including the chief minister thereby controlling the state government. Manipur has gone through more than a year of lawlessness, but the state government is not bothered by the unauthorised occupation of Kuki-Zo buildings in Imphal city by radical elements, undeclared economic blockade of Churachandpur district by Meitei organisations, open extortion by radical elements, free movement of radical elements within their Imphal city, the inability of the ten Kuki-Zo MLAs and their tribes to return to Imphal the capital city of the state.

As the unresolved conflict drags on, battle fatigue and despondency now prevails in the entire state. People have stopped talking about the conflict in disgust and shame. No one supports the continuation of the internecine fight between two communities anymore except the radical elements for whom the persisting conflict has become their bread and butter. The ceaseless ongoing conflict in Manipur, without any signs of any serious intention to resolve the crisis by the governments in the state and centre, has adversely affected the image of the BJP. Even the RSS chief has stated recently that the Manipur crisis needs to be resolved on priority.

The impact of the ethnic violence in Manipur on the outcome of the parliamentary election results may not be discernible in mainland India, but is clearly evident in the states of Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and  Manipur where the BJP and its allies lost parliamentary seats to the Congress and regional parties. Manipur conflict had provided an opportunity to the Congress and the regional parties to paint the BJP and its allies in bad light in the election campaign.

The knee jerk reactions of withdrawal of FMR (Free Movement Regime) by the central government, as a consequence of a remedial action to contain the Manipur crisis, added salt to injury. The decision to scrap FMR and erect border fencing, on the recommendation of Manipur chief minister, was not taken kindly by the tribes of the affected states in Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. In fact, there are ten times more refugees from Myanmar in Mizoram than Manipur. Mizoram is sheltering more than 40,000 refugees and has not faced any crisis as they have kept the refugees confined in the camps at the border area itself while extending all humanitarian assistance.

Contrary to the policy adopted by Mizoram, Manipur government adopted the policy of turning back refugees back to Myanmar without realising that only a short portion of the boundary has border fencing. This made the refugees walk into the Manipur from the unfenced areas and set up shelters. Without any humanitarian assistance they were compelled to erect their own shelters and carry out farming for sustenance, perhaps including poppy.

Had Manipur government acted in a similar manner as Mizoram government did, there would not have been any unauthorised settlements of refugees and farming. The remedy to a temporary movement of refugees, on account of atrocities committed against ethnic minorities in Myanmar by the ruling junta, is not removal of FMR.

The scrapping of FMR and erection of border fencing by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) conveyed a message to the tribes in Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur that the BJP care more for the Meiteis than the minority tribes in the North East (NE) states. This knee jerk reaction of MHA contributed to the dislike for the BJP and regional parties associated with them resulting in losses for BJP and its allies in the just concluded parliamentary elections.

The inept handling of the communal situation between the Meitei and Kuki-Zo communities not only caused deaths and destruction of properties but also adversely impacted the economy, ushered in a state of lawlessness and extortion. Worsening law & order situation witnessed the rise of radical elements and the free movement of the militant and radical cadre parading the streets of Imphal in police/armed forces uniform. The state government was brought to its knees by the radical elements who made Meitei MLAs and MPs recite an oath in the Kangla Fort with the tacit blessings of a befuddled team from MHA.

More than half of the guns looted from police armouries are still in the hands of radical elements on both sides. The police and security forces are not doing anything to stop unlawful activities lending credence to the suspicion that there are oral orders not to take any action against radical elements in possession of looted guns. With the blame for all the continuing ills of Manipur caused by the unresolved ethnic conflict heaped on the BJP governments in the state and centre, the BJP lost the support of the people resulting in resounding defeats by unprecedented margins of over 83,000 to one lakh plus votes in both the parliamentary seats of Manipur.

In Manipur, the Meiteis went against the BJP for ushering lawlessness, extortion and causing price rise and misery in the state. The Kuki-Zo voted for the Congress in Outer Manipur constituency as they wanted to punish the BJP for abandoning them and the five Kuki-Zo BJP MLAs (out of total of ten MLAs) in favour of the predominantly Meitei Hindu community. The Kuki-Zo are not in favour of voting for Naga People’s Front (NPF) for their proximity with the NSCN, their bête noire, and their alliance with the BJP. The association of the NPF with the BJP became a curse for the NPF as people started distancing themselves from the NPF. Corrective actions to resolve the crisis in Manipur needs to be taken post haste by the BJP led coalition government at the centre to prevent further erosion of their support in the north eastern states.

The chief minister of Assam seems to have got a sense why the BJP and its allies were defeated in states having predominant Christian population. The ongoing Manipur conflict seems to have made church leaders decide to become proactive like their counterpart in Mizoram to save the people from anti-minority political party and their associates. The church leaders cannot be blamed for their proactive action as they were pushed to save the people from the anti-minority policy of the BJP.

Now that the BJP is forced to lead a coalition government at the centre there is hope that the strident anti-minority policies would be watered down for fear of ruffling the feathers of its powerful coalition partners.

Ngaranmi Shimray

New Delhi

By EMN Updated: Jun 18, 2024 9:47:08 pm
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