After Prime Minister Narendra Modi's remarks on the incident of women being paraded naked in Manipur, the Congress on Thursday accused him of playing politics by mentioning Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh while "breaking his silence" on the northeastern state and said this was "too little too late" and "mere words won't do anymore".
Hitting out at Modi, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said after more than 1800 hours of an "incomprehensible and unforgivable silence", the prime minister finally spoke on Manipur for a sum total of 30 seconds.
He said after this, "the PM tried to divert attention from the colossal governance failures and the humanitarian tragedy in Manipur by equating crimes against women in other states, especially those governed by the opposition while ignoring atrocities on women in states like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat".
The prime minister completely sidestepped the issue of the ongoing ethnic conflict in Manipur, the Congress leader alleged in a tweet.
Before the start of the Monsoon session of Parliament on Thursday, Prime Minister Modi said the incident has shamed 140 crore Indians, asserting that law will act with its full might and no guilty will be spared.
He requested all chief ministers to further strengthen law and order mechanism in their respective states, especially to protect women and to take most stringent action.
Modi also mentioned states such as Congress-ruled Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh while calling for boosting law and order, and protecting women. "I want to assure the people of the country that no guilty will be spared. What has happened to these daughters of Manipur can never be forgiven," he said.
"My heart is full of pain and anger," Modi told reporters amid his criticism by opposition parties for not speaking on the ethnic violence in the northeastern state.
In his long Twitter post, Ramesh said, "He (Modi) has made no appeal for peace, nor asked for the chief minister of Manipur to step down. While he has commented on this one video that has surfaced, this is only one example of the hundreds of incidents of barbaric violence in the state of Manipur." He alleged that the prime minister tried to equate systemic and ongoing violence in Manipur with cases of crimes against women in other states.
Perpetrators of such "crimes have been arrested in Congress-governed states within 24 hours. In Manipur, it took 15 days to register an FIR against unknown persons and today, 64 days later, for the chief minister of Manipur (N Biren Singh) to claim that arrests have been made," Ramesh said.
He asserted that there has been a complete and total collapse of law and order and administration in Manipur. "This is too little too late. Mere words won't do anymore. Actions must speak louder," the Congress leader said and added that the prime minister and the home minister (Amit Shah) cannot escape accountability.
"The chief minister of Manipur should step down immediately. INDIA (opposition coalition) will continue to demand answers — to ensure a path towards peace and reconciliation in Manipur," he said.
Tension mounted in the hills of Manipur after a May 4 video surfaced on Wednesday showing two women from one of the warring communities in Manipur being paraded naked by a mob from the other side. The Manipur Police on Thursday arrested one of the main accused who was seen in the video.
Manipur has been witnessing ethnic clashes since May 3 between the majority Meitei community, concentrated in the Imphal valley, and the tribal Kukis, occupying the hills. Over 160 people have been killed in the violence so far.
Congress leader Ramesh also tweeted, "The demand of the 26-party INDIA (coalition) is very clear. The prime minister should make a statement on the horrific and tragic developments in Manipur since May 3, 2023 in both Houses of the Parliament, after which there should be a discussion. This is the first order of business." Reacting to Modi's remarks, senior Congress leader and former home minister P Chidambaram said the first thing that the prime minister should do is dismiss the "discredited government" of N Biren Singh and impose President's Rule in Manipur.
"Hon'ble PM has broken his silence on Manipur. He did not spare a thought for the people of Manipur when he was traveling to the US, France, the UAE and to various states in India to inaugurate something or other," Chidambaram said in a tweet.
"I wonder what prompted him to remember Manipur? Was it the horrific video of the unspeakable crime against the women of Manipur? Was it the Supreme Court taking cognisance of the massive violation of human rights in Manipur?" he said.
The Supreme Court on Thursday said it was "very deeply disturbed" by the video of two women being paraded naked in Manipur, terming it "simply unacceptable in a constitutional democracy".
Taking cognisance of the video, a bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud asked the Centre and the Manipur government to take immediate action. Speaking with reporters on behalf of the Congress after Modi's remarks, party MP Ranjeet Ranjan alleged that the prime minister broke his silence on Manipur for the first time after so many days "but did politics".
"He had to break his silence due to the pressure of the people… It is sad that he broke his silence and keeping aside Manipur, he talked of Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan," she said.
"We request the prime minister with folded hands to keep aside politics, that can be done later. But over 75 days have passed, the women and child development minister said she spoke with Manipur chief minister, but the culprits have not been arrested. The Chief Justice of India has also taken cognisance, it is shameful. Did the prime minister speak out of shame," Ranjan asked.
The prime minister's statement was "full of politics" and not one to share the pain of the victims, she alleged.
Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said, "Prime Minister Modi spoke for 8 minutes and 25 seconds before the session started - and he had only 36 seconds for Manipur." She said instead of speaking on Manipur, he started "taunting" Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. "The (Manipur video) incident is 77 days old and you are really getting to know about it now? The truth is that you are as much responsible for this brutality as those seen in the video," Shrinate tweeted.
"Today every woman of this country is feeling naked - it seems someone is not only tearing the body but also the soul. Shame on you Modi ji, it is unfortunate that you are the prime minister of this country," she said.
Before the Monsoon session of Parliament started, leaders of several opposition parties met at the chamber of Congress president and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge in the Parliament complex to chalk out their joint strategy for the session.
At the meeting, the leaders decided to raise the Manipur violence issue and demand a discussion on the situation in the northeastern state.
Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.