Talks only way to bring peace in Manipur: Kiren Rijiju

Negotiations Key to Restoring Peace in Manipur: Kiren Rijiju
Union minister Kiren Rijiju
Union minister Kiren Rijiju

New Delhi | Union minister Kiren Rijiju on Thursday said negotiations are the only means to restore peace in ethnic violence-hit Manipur and returning the state to normalcy will be the Narendra Modi government's next phase of efforts.

Rijiju put the blame for the ongoing ethnic clashes between the Meitei and Kuki communities in the northeastern state on a Manipur High Court order recommending Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the Meiteis. The violence has claimed at least 219 lives in the restive state.

Rijiju said the problem in Manipur was not an uprising against the BJP-led Centre but ethnic clashes between two dominant groups -- the Meiteis and the Kukis.

"If anyone wants to help restore peace in Manipur, then first go and appeal to both the Meities and the Kukis that do not pick up arms. An armed struggle will not lead to a solution. Peaceful negotiations are the only means to achieve a peaceful atmosphere and get normalcy back. That will be the next phase of our efforts to bring development in Manipur," he told PTI in a video interview.

The Union minister of earth sciences said the government has been trying its best to restore peace and Prime Minister Modi had appealed for peace from the ramparts of the Red Fort as well as from Parliament.

"In fact, this year's Independence Day speech began with an appeal to Manipur that the whole nation is with you. Despite that they (opposition) are raking up this issue," he said.

Rijiju, who hails from Arunachal Pradesh, said those who want peace to be restored in Manipur should emphatically say that the warring groups must stop violence and talk to each other as that is the only way out.

"The Union Home Minister (Amit Shah) stayed there for four days, our MoS (Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai) was there for 22 days and many officers were there," he said.

Rijiju put the blame for the ongoing ethnic clashes between the two communities in the state on the high court order recommending ST status to the Meiteis.

He said the conflict was triggered when the high court delivered the judgment, telling the government that ST status should be given to the Meities within three months.

"Don't you think that was a very unique kind of an order from the high court? Determination of a community as tribal or non-tribal is the government's job. It is a policy matter.

"When the high court passed a direction that ST status should be given within three months, naturally, there was reaction from the other side. So the clashes happened. If anybody says that the Centre is the reason for the clashes in Manipur, he can be described as a foolish person or the most unfortunate person to pass such comments," Rijiju said.

He said the problem in Manipur was "unfortunate" as the Modi government has been making efforts to restore peace in the northeast.

"What Modiji has done for the northeast in the last 10 years, it is 100 times more than what the Congress did in 60 years. Yet one incident in Manipur became a talking point for the Congress, the communists and other people. They have wasted a whole generation," he said.

On March 27, 2023, the Manipur High Court instructed the state government to consider the inclusion of Meiteis in the list of STs. This direction triggered the ongoing ethnic conflict between the Meiteis and the tribal Kuki community in the state.

However, on February 21, 2024, the high court modified its order, directing the removal of paragraph 17(iii) that had instructed the Manipur government to consider the inclusion of Meiteis in the list of STs.

The ethnic violence broke out in Manipur on May 3, 2023 after a tribal solidarity march was organised in the hill districts to protest against the majority Meitei community's demand for ST status.

Since then, at least 219 people have been killed in the violence.

While a section of the Kukis has demanded a separate administration or separation from the Manipur government, the Meitei groups are dead against it. They have warned legislators against any such design and asked them to foil such attempts.

Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur's population and live mostly in the Imphal valley, while tribals, including Nagas and Kukis, constitute 40 per cent and reside mainly in the hill districts.

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