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Communist leader calls India's Manipur strife ‘state-sponsored’

Annie Raja makes claim at premier of Hindi-language documentary on sectarian violence gripping northeastern state
A protestor holds a placard to mark a year of the ongoing ethnic conflict in the northeastern Manipur during a demonstration in New Delhi on May 4. The placard mocks Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has not visited the troubled state so far.

A protester holds a placard to mark a year since the start of ongoing ethnic conflict in the northeastern Manipur during a demonstration in New Delhi on May 4. The placard mocks Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has not visited the troubled state so far. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 14, 2024 05:22 AM GMT
Updated: May 14, 2024 06:01 AM GMT

An Indian communist leader has reiterated the claim that ongoing ethnic violence against indigenous Christians in Manipur is “state-sponsored.”

“It was a complete failure of the federal and state governments to check violence in Manipur that started in May last year,” said Annie Raja, a senior Communist Party of India leader at the May 10 Hindi-language premiere in New Delhi of a documentary on the troubled northeastern Indian state, bordering civil war-hit Myanmar.

The pro-Hindu government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi “shrewdly carried out strategies to materialize its hidden corporate agenda,” said Raja who is contesting India’s Lok Sabha (lower house) polls from southern Kerala state.

“The clashes in Manipur are state-sponsored,” she told the gathering comprising students, scholars and activists on May 10.

The 23-minute documentary, “Manipur — a Blot on Indian Democracy,” was produced by journalist Anto Akkara and  had its English-language premier on May 3 on the first anniversary of the start of the violence in Manipur where Kuki tribal Christians are fighting Meitei Hindus over a court proposal to grant special tribal status to Meitei people. 

The move, Kuki Christians say, will help Meitei people get priority in government jobs, education, and other affirmative action programs meant for indigenous people. It will also allow Meitei people to buy land in indigenous areas.

“We plan to show the documentary across the country" to let people know the indifference of the government, led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Modi who is seeking a third consecutive term in office, Raja said.

On July 8 last year, a case was filed against Raja who visited Manipur as part of a fact-finding team which blamed state Chief Minister N Biren Singh for failing to maintain peace in the state.

After the visit to the troubled state, we submitted a memorandum to the federal government. But there was no response, Raja said.

In a report, Raja and her team termed the violence in Manipur as “state-sponsored”.   

The clashes in Manipur are “not communal nor is it a fight between two communities.” It involves “land, resources, fanatics and militants,” said the general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women, the women’s wing of the Communist Party.

The documentary is about the plight of 2.6 million people in Manipur where Christians account for more than 40 percent of the population.

The burning of 247 churches within 36 hours after the conflict started was a warning.  The pro-Hindu government was alarmed by the popularity of Christianity, especially among the  Meitei people, observed Akkara.

Women were paraded naked, houses of ministers and lawmakers burnt, police officers kidnapped from guarded residences, an armory looted, and ambulances torched with mothers and injured children inside. This is the situation in Manipur, Akkara noted.

“Do you call it democracy?” asked Akkara while introducing his documentary.

Modi has not visited the border state despite repeated calls to do so by the Indian Church and civil society groups and was tight-lipped for three months.

However, the 73-year-old prime minister was forced to speak after two tribal Christian women were paraded naked and the youngest of them was gang-raped on May 4.   The video of the incident surfaced in July.

“Indian democracy has never undergone such a protracted shameful situation as witnessed in Manipur,” said Akkara.

The Indian election is the largest democratic exercise in the world with the participation of nearly 970 million voters. This time, the polls are held in seven phases, starting April 19, and ending on June 1. The results will be declared on June 4.

Raja is trying her luck in the Wyanad constituency in Kerala against Rahul Gandhi, the senior-most opposition leader of the Congress party who visited Manipur in July last year.

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