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President’s Rule ‘last option’ in Manipur, government to wait and watch

People from Manipur, stage a protest over the ongoing violence in the State, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on June 19, 2023.

People from Manipur, stage a protest over the ongoing violence in the State, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on June 19, 2023. | Photo Credit: ANI

As ethnic violence and protests continue in Manipur for the past 45-days, multiple people in the government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said that President’s Rule was only a “last option” as the idea was to exhaust other available measures first.

Several organizations have demanded the imposition of President’s Rule in the State owing to perceived and known biases in the State administration and security forces. While the Kuki legislators, including those from the BJP, have blamed the State police for planning attacks against the community, the dominant Meitei community has accused the Assam Rifles of helping the Kuki insurgent groups.

The BJP is in a dilemma regarding the continuance of Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh at his post as the State continues to see incidents of violence, and removing him at this juncture could alienate the Meitei community more, but also lead to President’s Rule, a situation considered a “last option”.

“Biren Singh’s removal will lead to alienation among the Meitei community, but President’s Rule will also mean take over by Central forces, and a return of instruments like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act [AFSPA] that the Central government had worked so hard to withdraw from various districts of Northeastern States, including Manipur,” said a senior source in the BJP.

Political processes would have to take a backseat, as would civil administration, a situation that would push back normalcy as well, said the source. And yet, the attacks on the homes of even residences of BJP MLAs and Union Minister Rajkumar Ranjan Singh’s house being torched are still on.

Reports of protests during Modi’s US visit

There are reports that Meitei organizations in North America have organized protests in Washington DC during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the US this week. The Association of Meitei in the Americas has announced a demonstration in Lafayette Park in Washington DC on June 22.

A senior government official said they were not expecting the situation to be better anytime soon. “We are taking all kinds of measures, which include outreach as well as combing operations. It is wait and watch for now, we are mindful that it may take months as well. When the Kuki-Naga conflict happened in the 1990s, more than 700 people were killed and it took years to bring in normalcy,” the official said.

To add to this, the unified command headed by retired Central Reserve Police Force Director General Kuldiep Singh, as announced by Home Minister Amit Shah during his visit to the State from May 29-June 1, is also facing teething issues with multiple reporting channels. More than 40,000 Army and Central armed police forces have also been deployed in the State. There are three verticals at present operating in the State under the Inter-Agency Unified Command, the Combined Headquarters, Strategy and Operations Group and the Operational Intelligence wing. An official said although regular meetings were held among the agencies, “coordination” was a problem.

The Home Ministry had in the last two years rolled back the AFSPA from certain areas in Manipur owing to improved security situation, until the ethnic violence erupted on May 3.

Out of the 92 police stations in Manipur, the AFSPA has been removed from the limits of 19 police stations — all of them are in the valley.

“If the Army has to conduct an operation where AFSPA is not there, the civilian staff such as the executive magistrates have to be requisitioned, which leads to loss of precious time,” said the official.

Internet restoration

Another government official said that the Internet was unlikely to be restored in the State immediately.

“There are hundreds of videos of violence inflicted on both the communities, we do not want any fresh flare-up as emotions are high,” said the official.

Pointing to the difficulties in maintaining law and order, the official said that the police was deeply divided on ethnic lines and they were seeking the help of Central forces. As reported, Central forces are being deployed in buffer zones, the areas where the hills and valleys, occupied by the Kukis and non-tribal Meitei, merge.

More than 50,000 people have been displaced in the ongoing violence.

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