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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 18 June 2024

Crossing Manipur divide: Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra moves from Imphal valley to Kangpokpi district

The Yatra, which resumed from Sekmai in Imphal West around 8.30am, was welcomed into neighbouring Kangpokpi by an enthusiastic crowd that lined both sides of the road

Umanand Jaiswal Kohima Published 16.01.24, 06:09 AM
Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra at Sekmai village in Manipur on Monday.

Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra at Sekmai village in Manipur on Monday. PTI picture

The Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra on Monday morning moved from the Imphal valley to the Kuki-Zo-dominated Kangpokpi district in strife-hit Manipur, baring in the process the deep divide between the communities in conflict and a yearning for peace, a common refrain on both sides of the divide.

The Yatra, which resumed from Sekmai in Imphal West around 8.30am, was welcomed into neighbouring Kangpokpi by an enthusiastic crowd that lined both sides of the road.

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Rahul met people and organisations and heard their issues. They extended him a warm traditional welcome.

In Kangpokpi town, about 26km away, he walked for half a kilometre, cheered by the gathering. He also had tea at a small restaurant run by three sisters.

The response, a resident said, was “beyond the Congress’s expectations”.

The Congress has been in free fall in the state after losing power to the BJP-led alliance in 2017. Party insiders hope the Yatra will hold the Congress in good stead as it tries to flag the issues and concerns of Manipur at the national level.

However, amid the greetings and warmth for Rahul and the Yatra, the fallout of the ongoing conflict could be felt.

Before entering Kangpokpi town, a few chants of “Welcome to Kukiland” were also heard along with “Welcome to Rahul Gandhi” — a reminder that the Yatra was in the Kuki-Zo area after crossing Meitei-majority Imphal Valley.

Seconds before it left Kangpokpi, two youths entered the bus carrying journalists.

When one of the journalists asked what they were looking for, the reply was: “We are looking for Meiteis.”

They left without saying another word but the incident underlined the deepening distrust and fractured ties between the Kuki-Zo and Meitei people.

Things have reached such a pass that the Imphal valley has become out of bounds for the Kuki-Zos and the Kuki-Zo hill districts for the Meiteis for reasons of safety.

No Manipur PCC office-bearers belonging to the Meitei community accompanied the Yatra team to Kangpokpi, a Kuki-Zo area. Members of other tribes, such as Nagas, Pangals and Kuki-Zos, accompanied the team after it entered Kangpokpi.

Amid the rousing welcome, Kuki-Zo organisations conveyed their demands for a separate administration and a separate central university, reflecting the fissures Manipur has suffered. But they also called for peace.

A member of the Kangpokpi-based Kuki-Zo organisation, the Committee on Tribal Unity (COTU), who had travelled with Rahul from the Kangpokpi border (Gamgiphai), told The Telegraph over the phone that they had conveyed their problems and their demands.

“He (Rahul) listened carefully and asked what they (the Congress) can do as an Opposition party and whether both sides can sit for peace talks. I told him that they need to raise the matter in the ensuing Parliament session and do whatever is possible,” the COTU member said.

The Yatra rolled into Naga-majority Senapati where, too, organisations sought peace. After lunch at Senapati, the Yatra entered Nagaland by evening.

The 100km Yatra from Kangpokpi to Kohima in Nagaland also brought to the fore the bad road conditions.

Rahul is likely to share his views on the Manipur leg of the Yatra on Tuesday afternoon but on Monday evening he posted on X that Manipur was looking at India with hope and that “we need to remove the pain from the eyes of the people” in the strife-torn state.

Naga plea

The Naga Hoho, the apex body of the Naga tribes, on Monday submitted a memorandum to Rahul on “non-implementation” of the Framework Agreement signed between the Centre and the NSCN (IM) on August 3, 2015, to resolve the vexed Naga insurgency.

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