The Chief of Defence Staff, General Anil Chauhan, on Tuesday said the Manipur situation “had nothing to do with counter-insurgency and was primarily a clash between two ethnicities”, appearing to contradict BJP chief minister N. Biren Singh.
Singh had on Sunday said the latest clashes werenot between rival communities but between Kukimilitants and security forces, who had killed nearly 40 armed rebels involved in torching houses and firing at civilians.
“Unfortunately, this particular situation in Manipur has nothing to do with counter-insurgency and is primarily a clash between two ethnicities,” Chauhan told reporters in Pune.
“It’s a law-and-order kind of situation and we are helping the state government. We have done an excellent job and saved a large number of lives. The challenges in Manipur have not disappeared and it will take some time but hopefully, they should settle down.”
Military veteran Sushant Singh said in a tweet: “Manipur chief minister has gone on record calling them terrorists. So as per the CDS, the Manipur CM is wrong. Is there any consistency in the Central government or do we have a complete collapse of any sense of political leadership at the top?”
A former joint director with the Intelligence Bureau told The Telegraph that Singh’s comment was uncalled for and appeared to vilify all Kukis as terrorists.
“This is nothing but vilifying a community and giving credence to the narrative of the Meiteis who have been calling the Kukis illegal immigrants. This is not expected from a chief minister of a state that is burning amid ethnic violence,” he said.
While the majority Meiteis, who are largely Hindus, and the tribal Kukis, mostly Christians, have a long history of ethnic strife, the current conflict appears to have acquired communal overtones for which many have blamed the ruling BJP.
The Congress blamed the BJP’s divisive politics for the Manipur turmoil and complained to President Droupadi Murmu about the state government’s failure to restore normalcy.
A delegation led by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge submitted a memorandum to Murmu demanding immediate rehabilitation measures and an inquiry commission headed by a retired Supreme Court judge.
At a news conference, Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh blamed the BJP’s “politics of divisiveness and polarisation” for the conflict, saying: “Manipur was burning 22 years ago too (when) Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister.”
The state government has announced that it would provide a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the next of kin of those who died in the conflict and a job to a family member. The compensation amount will be borne equally by the Centre and the state, an official release said.