07/31/2023, 16.54
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Manipur: Opposition tables no-confidence motion against Modi, Church calls for peace

by Nirmala Carvalho

The main opposition bloc wants the prime minister to report on the violence tearing apart the north-eastern state. Following a fact-finding visit, opposition MPs found the “complete breakdown of law and order". In a statement, Card Oswald Gracias describes the conflict as tribal, not religious, urging the local Church to work for harmony.

Imphal (AsiaNews) – The main opposition bloc in India’s parliament has presented a motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his handling of the ongoing crisis in Manipur.

Violence broke out in north-eastern state three months ago, pitting ethnic Kuki, who are mostly Christian, against the largely Hindu Meitei in a state ruled by the prime minister’s own Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In a video message posted on 26 July, Card Oswald Gracias said that clashes in Manipur are not a conflict between Hindus and Christians, but a tribal conflict; in his view, the unrest is not confessional in nature.

Over a hundred people have died in the violence so far with more than 60,000 internally displaced, but this figure has not been confirmed since the Internet in the state has been suspended and it is still hard to obtain information.

The opposition bloc, an alliance of parties that recently took the name of Indian National Development Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), wants the prime minister to report in parliament about the violence after 21 MPs visited Manipur over the weekend to assess the situation.

The lawmakers also submitted a memorandum to the state governor, lamenting  the "complete breakdown of law and order" in Manipur and the "pathetic" condition of relief camps.

INDIA’S no-confidence motion is bound to fail because the ruling party enjoys a large majority in parliament and can stave off any attempt to defeat the government.

A few days ago, Prime Minister Modi spoke for the first time about the problem; this followed the release of a video showing two Kuki women sexually molested by Meitei men. The video dated back to 4 May, but only surfaced in July.

Modi said those responsible for the sexual violence would be punished, but the opposition slammed the ruling BJP for doing nothing to restore peace.

Indian troops were deployed to bring the situation under control, but they were not ordered to disarm local armed militias. For several local sources, the police sided with one or the other parties to the conflict.

Meanwhile, along a major highway, rival gunmen have set up outposts and dug in bunkers, regularly shooting at each.

For one scholar, the situation is "a mixture of anarchy and civil war and a complete breakdown of the state administration."

Cardinal Gracias has called for the conflict to be resolved peacefully, noting that the confrontation is between two historically rival groups.

"There have been attempts to give a religious colour to what is happening in Manipur,” he explained, “but this is not a religious conflict. It is a tribal conflict. Two tribes have been historically hostile to each other.”

The prelate added that he spoke with the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India to discuss ways to restore peace and what role the Church can play towards that goal.

“Efforts for harmony and peace must continue,” he said. “The Church should also come forward for this.”

Sectarian clashes broke out after Kuki held a peaceful protest against plans to grant the Meitei schedule tribe status, which provides for government subsidies and quotas allocated to disadvantaged indigenous peoples.

Located on the border with Myanmar, Manipur is one of the smallest states in the Indian Union with a population of 3.2 million. Kuki represent 16 per cent of the population, while the Meitei are 53 per cent.

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