A group of Indian opposition lawmakers on Saturday (July 29) visited a remote northeastern state where deadly ethnic clashes have killed at least 130 people, in a bid to pressure the government to take action against the violence which began in May.
The delegation of 20 lawmakers from 15 political parties, who are part of a new opposition alliance called INDIA, arrived in Manipur state for a two-day visit to assess the situation on the ground as the ongoing violence and bloodshed have displaced tens of thousands in recent months.
The conflict in Manipur has become a global issue due to the scale of violence, said Adhir Ranjan Choudhury, a lawmaker belonging to the opposition Congress party. “Our delegation is here to express solidarity with the people of Manipur in this time of distress. The top priority now is to restore normalcy as soon as possible,” he added.
Tucked in the mountains on the border with Myanmar, Manipur is on the brink of a civil war. Mobs have rampaged through villages, torching houses and buildings. The conflict was sparked by an affirmative action controversy in which Christian Kukis protested a demand by mostly Hindu Meiteis for a special status that would let them buy land in the hills populated by Kukis and other tribal groups and get a share of government jobs.
After arriving in the state capital, Imphal, the lawmakers went to Churachandpur district, where they visited two relief camps and spoke to community leaders.
The conflict has triggered an impasse in India’s Parliament, as opposition members demand a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the violence roiling the state. On Wednesday, the opposition moved a no-confidence motion against the Modi government. This means the government will soon face a no-confidence vote in Parliament, which is likely to be defeated, as Modi’s party and its allies have a clear majority.
But opposition leaders say the move could at least force Modi to speak on the conflict and open a debate.
Two weeks ago, Modi broke more than two months of public silence over the conflict in Manipur when he condemned the mob assaults on two women in the state who were paraded naked – but he did not directly refer to the larger violence. He has also not visited the state, which is ruled by his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, since the violence broke out.
Both houses of Parliament were adjourned at various times last week as the opposition stopped proceedings with their demand for a statement from Modi.
Despite a heavy army presence and a visit earlier by the home minister, when he met with both communities, the deadly clashes have persisted.
The violence in Manipur and the assault on the two women triggered protests across the country last week. In Manipur, thousands held a sit-in protest recently and called for the firing of Biren Singh, the top elected official in the state, who also belongs to Modi’s party.
The European Parliament also recently adopted a resolution calling on Indian authorities to take action to stop the violence in Manipur and protect religious minorities, especially Christians. India’s foreign ministry condemned the resolution, describing it as “interference” in its internal affairs.
The Associated Press