BJP’s Letpao urges separate state amid Manipur violence, refuses to return to valley despite hunger threat
Ten legislators, including seven from the BJP, call for separate state amid massive devastation in Manipur following violence, with vehicles, schools, churches, and houses set ablaze.
Violence erupted between tribals and non-tribals in Imphal after a protest march by the All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM), leading to the torching of vehicles. (Photo: ANI)
In the aftermath of recent violence between the Meitei and Kuki communities in Manipur, ten legislators, including seven from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have written a letter to Union Minister Amit Shah, calling for a separate state. While the situation in the valley is currently under control, tensions persist in the hills and foothills of Manipur.
Letpao Haokip, the Minister of State for tribal affairs and a BJP leader, expressed concerns over the situation, stating that the Meiteis have allegedly planned to remove tribals from the valley area.
He further mentioned that no officers or politicians are willing to return to the valley, as a population exchange has already taken place, resulting in a separation between the communities.
During an interview with India Today, Pao reiterated his experiences, stating, “I have faced two attacks, and my houses have been set on fire. Despite the presence of security personnel, they remained silent spectators, and it was only the BSF personnel who came to rescue me.”
He pointed out that Article 371C prohibits people from the valley and general population from settling in the hills without the involvement of a hill area committee and governor’s order. Pao claimed that the Meitei community aims to displace tribals from the valley due to land disputes. He expressed concerns about the lack of security in the valley area, emphasizing that they would rather starve than return.
Pao also mentioned that there are currently seven BJP legislators, two from the Kuki People’s Alliance (KPA), and one independent legislator who have called for a separate state. He added that a total of 20 tribal legislators, including 10 Kuki legislators, are expected to sign the letter demanding a separate state as they face pressure from their constituents.
Following clashes between the tribal Kuki community residing in the hill districts and the Meiteis, the dominant community in Imphal Valley, in Churachandpur town on May 3, a demand for a “separate state” has emerged. The clashes were triggered by various issues, including a proposal to grant Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the Meiteis.
The violence has resulted in at least 73 fatalities and the displacement of thousands, with incidents of arson, rioting, and targeted killings. The state government responded by issuing shoot-at-sight orders, implementing a curfew, and imposing a ban on internet services.
In response to the ongoing unrest, the Manipur government has extended the suspension of internet services throughout the state until May 20. The tribal communities, protected by Article 371C of the constitution, strongly oppose the granting of ST status to the Meiteis. They argue that the Meiteis, who are perceived as privileged elite Hindus, may encroach upon their reservation rights and infringe upon their lands.
Amidst allegations and counter-allegations between the Meitei and Kuki communities, both sides accuse each other of meticulously planning the violence. The result has been the segregation of Meitei and Kuki populations in the valley and hills of Manipur.
Dipu Gangmei, the chairman of the Hills Area Committee, acknowledged that in a democracy, everyone has the right to demand, but the decision-makers will assess the authenticity of the demand. So far, the demand for a separate state has been perceived as a communal demand, with no specific demand from the tribals.
Gangmei noted that this issue could have political implications, as it has caused a clear divide between the ten legislators and the ruling party. While there has been an improvement in the law-and-order situation, concerns still remain among the legislators regarding the situation.