August 27, 2023
CPI(M) Delegation Led by its General Secretary Visits Manipur

WHILE the BJP boasts of forging a 'unified India' by revoking Article 370 in Kashmir, the reality reveals a different story - their actions have effectively divided the small state of Manipur into two parts. This was the first hand experience of a CPI(M) Central Committee delegation that visited the state from August 18-20. The delegation led by Party’s general secretary, Sitaram Yechury included Jitendera Choudhury, Debolina Hembram and Suprakash Talukdar. It was accompanied by K Shanta, CPI(M) Manipur state secretary as well as senior leader Sarat Salam and others.

During this visit, as the delegation was making their way to Moirang and Churachandpur – areas that had been impacted by the recent violent incidents in the state since May 3 – a significant gathering of women staged a blockade of an Assam Rifles convoy near the Bishnupur Forest Gate, situated around 20 km from Moirang. The reason behind this was the establishment of 'check posts' by both communities to control the movement of outsiders into their respective areas. This segregation is stark: the Imphal Valley no longer houses anyone from the Kuki-Zo community, even government officials who've moved to Kuki-Zo areas. Likewise, Meitei individuals are absent from Kuki-Zo dominated regions. This separation extends to law enforcement, with Meitei police avoiding Kuki districts and vice versa. The Bishnupur roadblock aimed to prevent Assam Rifles from reaching Churachandpur due to suspicions that they favored Kukis. This incident highlighted Manipur's deep ethnic divides.

The delegation's first stop was the Saithong Relief camp in Moirang, where 370 Meitei individuals sought refuge since May 4th due to violence in Kangrai and Torbung areas of Churachandpur district starting on May 3rd. The shocking conditions were evident as the inmates continued to sleep on the ground without proper bedding after three and a half months. The state AIDWA provided relief materials, with Sundari Debi, Ashabala Debi, Binodini Debi, Roma Debi, and others participating. Sitaram Yechury inaugurated the relief distribution for the women at the camp.

Next, the delegation proceeded to Churachandpur district and visited two relief camps. The initial one, situated in a school at Koite, accommodates about 200 Kuki-Zo individuals, including two newborns and four pregnant women. The delegation was disheartened to learn that the camp lacked essential facilities and nutritious food for the babies, mothers, and other inmates. This camp is managed by the NGO KKL, while the government's contributions consist of rice, dal, potatoes, and oil. During their visit, they met Boinu, a woman who had tragically lost her husband on July 16th. He was killed by an armed group in their native village while protecting their belongings and fields. Boinu was residing in the camp with her four children.

The delegation also inspected another camp at Saidan, housed in a hall belonging to the Hmar Youth Association. This camp accommodates Hmar and Thadao speakers who fled Sangang and Lanja villages on May 4. Although nine babies were born in the camp, they have not received vaccinations to date. The camp's sanitation conditions were deplorable, forcing residents to endure unhygienic surroundings.

The delegation met with Churachandpur's civil society groups and prominent individuals at the Kuki INPT office in Tuibong. The ITLF chairman extended a welcome, while the President of Kuki Women Organisation for Human Rights, Ngaineikim, highlighted the dire situation, including the sexual assault of seven women – two of whom were killed. These attacks were not solely due to gender but also ethnicity.

The secretary of ITLF, Muan Tombing, shared the pain and suffering endured by the hill districts' people in Manipur. He highlighted that on the same day, extremists had killed three young individuals in Sipijang village near Thowai Kuki village and Ukhrul village. While urging the CPI(M) to take the lead in restoring peace and normalcy to the state, the organisations expressed their appreciation for the CPI(M) delegation's visit, acknowledging the people's untold hardships amid the ongoing unrest in Manipur. In his brief address, Sitaram Yechury pointed out the BJP government's failure to protect citizens' lives and property despite commanding 60,000 security forces in the state. He criticised the lack of political will within the BJP government, led by Narendra Modi at the centre, to intervene effectively in ending violence and restoring normalcy. Yechury reassured that the Party would earnestly work in New Delhi to prompt effective government action in alleviating the situation in Manipur.

The delegation engaged with Churachandpur's DC and SP, urging the enhancement of relief camp conditions. Specifically, they emphasized the need for improved care for women and children, provision of nutritious food, and better sanitation, as highlighted by Sitaram Yechury.

After their visit to Churachandpur, the delegation met with the state's Governor, Anusuiya Uikey, in the evening. In addition to central committee members, the group included Manipur's state secretary K Santa and secretariat members Sarat Salam, A Binodini Debi, and N Thoiba. Sitaram Yechury, leading the delegation, shared insights from the relief camps and urged the governor to intervene for improved camp conditions and the provision of nutritious food. He expressed deep concern about the illegal possession of a significant amount of firearms and ammunition by unlicensed individuals. Yechury lamented the under-utilisation of the substantial paramilitary and military forces in the state, emphasizing that they could enhance security and restore normalcy.

Yechury also highlighted the dehumanisation process evident in Manipur and the erosion of human values, expressing the urgency of effective action to address the situation. The governor appreciated the delegation's visit and called for united efforts from all political parties to curb violence and foster mutual trust. She said she had made a personal appeal to the prime minister for swift measures to end the state's unrest and turmoil.

On the morning of August 19th, the delegation engaged with Archbishop Dominic Luman, who provided insights into Manipur's current situation and the causes behind the ongoing violence.

Subsequently, the delegation held meetings with various civil society organizations, including the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur, United Naga Council Peace Committee of Manipur, All Manipur United Club Organisations (AIMUCO), and Federation of Civil Society Organisations. The leaders of these organizations openly discussed the present state of affairs in Manipur from their perspectives. There was a unanimous agreement that restoring peace and ending violence must be the state's top priority.

In the evening, a joint meeting of 10 opposition parties convened at the Manipur Pradesh Congress Bhawan. The gathering included leaders from Indian National Congress, CPI, CPI(M), JDU, AAP, RSP, AIFB, NCP, Shiv Sena (UBT), and AITC. Among them were Sitaram Yechury and former chief minister of Manipur OkramIbobi Singh.

Ibobi Singh welcomed the CPI(M) central delegation's visit to the state and praised Yechury and the team for their sincere effort in supporting the people during this difficult time. He criticised the ineffective handling of the situation by Manipur's ruling parties, which has brought the state to the brink of destruction.

In his brief speech, Sitaram Yechury noted the lack of initiation for essential political dialogue by the BJP government, despite over three and a half months of unrest in the state. He called on democratic forces to actively strive for peace and harmony restoration among various societal segments.

After the meeting, the CPI(M) team visited a relief camp operating at Khuman Lampak Sports Complex in Imphal. The camp shelters 193 Meitei individuals who fled villages like Ekoes, Sadu Yengkhuman, and Dolaithabi in Sawombung sub-division of Imphal East district. They were forced to leave due to an attack by around 2000 armed individuals on May 3. Their homes were subsequently burned and destroyed. Despite spending over three and a half months in the camp, the residents are growing frustrated as there has been no improvement in the situation.

On August 20, following their participation in an extended state committee meeting of the Party, the delegation attended a seminar on the ‘Danger of Communalism’ at a Press Club hall in Imphal. K Shanta, extended a welcome to the attendees. During the seminar, Sitaram Yechury recounted India's struggle for independence leading to a secular democratic republic. However, with the BJP-RSS in power, he noted a systematic erosion of the country's secular fabric. Yechury highlighted the BJP-led government's aims to replace the democratic republic with a fascistic ‘Hindu Rashtra,’ using religious communalism to retain power. He also pointed out the BJP's strategy of engineering ethnic divisions in places like Manipur to maintain power, which is turning into religious communal division. Yechury called for unity to counter extremist forces and promote peace.

The visit concluded with a well-attended press conference.