The North East India Christian Council has appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and bring about reconciliation in Manipur, pointing out that “it brings shame upon the state administration and the central government as well for the violent conflicts to continue for so long....”
The influential umbrella body of 55 Christian denominations in the region has emphasised the history of the coexistence of the Meitei and Kuki communities in Manipur.
The council also sought to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the destruction of places of worship, mostly church buildings, and its implications for religious freedom.
In a letter to the Prime Minister on Monday, the council demanded the increase of troops deployed to protect people and places of worship.
The letter said: “Reconciliation between the parties in conflict is the immediate need of the hour. We do appeal to your good office to expedite the process, leaving no stone unturned to reconcile conflicting parties that have been living together in the state for hundreds of years.... It is highly crucial to take up the task of relief, rehabilitation and reinstallation effectively, keeping in mind the biggest challenge is to remove fear and mistrust in the minds of people affected by the violent clashes.”
Since May 3, at least 140 have been killed and around 60,000 displaced in clashes between Meiteis and Kukis over the majority Meiteis’ demand for Scheduled Tribe status. The Prime Minister is yet to speak on the issue.
Around 40,000 security personnel are now deployed in the state. Two incidents of firing with no reports of casualties have been reported in Manipur since Monday night.
PTI reported that the house of an Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) official was torched by a mob in Thoubal district after he foiled the attempts of rioters to loot firearms from the police armoury on Tuesday night.
Schools from Classes I to VIII have reopened.
In its letter to the Prime Minister, the council said: “We would like to bring to your attention the dismal state of affairs in Manipur, which is awfully distressing to every concerned citizen of India....”
“It is all the more disturbing that the situation, instead of improving, seems to be deteriorating each day for the past 62 days, affecting thousands of Indian citizens, and more severely the poorer sections of the society,” reads the letter, signed by Rev. Dr Ramengliana, the general secretary of the council, and Rev. R. Lalnunzira, its president.
Pointing out that “the ugly ethnic clashes remain unchecked” even after two months have passed, the council said in the letter: “Arson, inhuman violent attacks on people and destruction of houses and places of worship have not abated. The law and order situation is a matter of grave concern. It appears to be a total failure at this time.”
The North East India Christian Council listed four immediate concerns.
“It is of grave importance to immediately put an end to physical violence in Manipur as clashes are being reported till date. Please take urgent steps to further strengthen the security forces to ensure the safety and security of the people who have been suffering mentally and physically. The people of Manipur cannot afford to live in this condition any longer,” the council said in the letter to Modi.
“Religious places of worship need special protection. It has been reported that more than 300 places of worship have been burnt or destroyed in the past two months. These destroyed structures mostly are church buildings of Christians in Manipur. Apart from the loss of properties, the destruction of religious places of worship implies the loss of religious freedom to worship and practice one’s religion, which is a case of curbing our fundamental rights to practice and propagate the religion of our choice, as provided in the Constitution of India,” the letter said.
Another priority, which the council described as the immediate need of the hour, should be “reconciliation between the parties in conflict”.
Another “gargantuan challenge” is the relief, rehabilitation or reinstallation of the people displaced from their homes and jobs. “People in thousands have fled to the nearby states or to find shelter in other parts within the state, thereby forcibly leaving their homes and workplaces. It is highly crucial to take up the task of relief, rehabilitation and reinstallation effectively, keeping in mind the biggest challenge is to remove fear and mistrust in the mind of people affected by the violent clashes.”
The council reposed faith in the Prime Minister, saying “we trust the wisdom, knowledge and skills of your esteemed office to bring about social or political solution to the imbroglio that deeply hurts all sections of the people of the state”.
“We are looking up, with high hope and expectations, to your honourable office and your intervention for the restoration of peace and harmony in this strife-torn state of Manipur. Any indifferent delay in a serious process of peace results in the acute suffering of thousands of people each day. The people of North East India are awaiting your decisive resolve with utmost eagerness to bring peace and reconciliation and to protect the affected communities on the basis of the principles of justice, equality, and unity.”