A recently formed platform of youths from the Meitei-majority Imphal valley demanded a change of chief minister and the formation of a regional party in Manipur during a meeting with valley MLAs in Delhi on Saturday.
While a Manipur government media statement said these demands from the Youth of Manipur were not accepted, the development underlines the growing public unease at the authorities’ handling of the 151-day-old unrest.
The BJP has led a coalition government in Manipur since 2017 with N. Biren Singh as chief minister.
The government media statement said ministers and MLAs “representing the valley area” met the Youth of Manipur at Manipur Bhavan in New Delhi and discussed possible resolutions to the Manipur crisis.
"... Several key agreements were reached: Reiteration of our commitment to no separate administration, ensuring security arrangements to prevent firing and seeking audience with the Hon’ble Prime Minister,” the statement, issued late on Saturday night, said.
The state’s 10 Kuki-Zo MLAs and Kuki-Zo organisations have demanded a separate administrative arrangement saying they can "no longer live" with the Meiteis.
The government statement said all the MLAs and ministers expressed “readiness” to promptly return to Imphal to finalise an arrangement for a meeting with the Prime Minister.
The statement then referred to the Youth of Manipur raising “additional” demands that were “found to be unrelated to the core issues and, regrettably, unacceptable”.
The demands included the formation of a regional party, “change the chief minister”, “appointment of an alternate chief minister” and a request for a specific date by when the agreed points would be implemented, it said.
“The demand to establish a regional political party was not deemed relevant to the current situation. The demand for a change of chief minister was outside the scope of the meeting's objectives,” the statement said.
“The suggestion to appoint an alternate chief minister was discussed but not agreed upon. The demand for a specific timeline for the execution of the agreed points... remains under consideration.”
The statement said that some Youth of Manipur members got “aggressive and tried to hit” minister L. Susindro Meitei. “This was uncalled for and would invite legal action,” it said.
Youth disillusionment with the central and state governments was further underlined at a protest by sportspersons on Sunday in the valley district of Bishnupur where, sources said, sloganeers demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister, Union home minister and the chief minister.
The growing public resentment against the administration and the unease within the ruling party was reflected also in a representation sent by the state BJP to party national president J.P. Nadda on September 28.
“Public anger and protest is now slowly turning the tide, putting the sole onus of this prolonged disturbances solely on the failure of the government in dealing with the situation,” the representation said.
It requested Nadda to “persuade” Prime Minister Narendra Modi to give an audience to a joint MLAs’ team camping in Delhi.
Sources said 38 valley MLAs, including five from the Congress, were camping in Delhi to meet Modi — in vain so far. The valley accounts for 40 of the state’s 60 Assembly seats.
Sources said Saturday’s was the third meeting the Youth of Manipur had had with valley MLAs.
The Imphal-based Youth of Manipur was formed on September 4 after a public meeting in the state capital to help find an early solution to the ongoing unrest. It has since grown in strength and influence, sources said.
After a meeting with the chief minister on September 11, Youth of Manipur members got 23 ruling party MLAs to sign a resolution saying: “We would stand for the territorial integrity of the state of Manipur and no form of separate administration will be agreed to by us.”
The MLAs then left for Delhi in batches to meet the central leadership to try and find a solution to the unrest, which has left at least 176 people dead and over 67,000 displaced since May 3.