New Delhi: Collective conscience of India has been shaken by the Manipur incident two months ago when two tribal women were paraded naked and raped by a group of marauding men in the midst of ethnic violence in this north eastern state of the country. As if it was not enough, the whole incident was video graphed and made viral in the social media for the world to watch.
Clearly, governance in the state has collapsed. More clearly, the Centre failed to restore order, the dreaded armed forces special powers act, notwithstanding. Home Minister Amit Shah visited the state amid unchecked violence and promised to act. But nothing happened. Violence continued, albeit muted.
By all accounts, the state government had failed to maintain law and order in the state and there was sufficient ground for the Centre to take over under President’s Rule. Why was the Modi government a silent spectator? This gives rise to insinuations that the ruling party was complicit. It is unthinkable that no strict action was taken to arrest it when ethnic violence had gripped the state for more than two months. Indeed, it is not just the failure of the state administration, it is also the gross irresponsibility of the Centre as well.
Manipur, as most other north-eastern states, has always had ethnic tensions. It is well known and documented in government files. This was the reason why armed forces special powers act was legislated many years ago which still exists despite repeated protests by local people against the measure.
Agreed, the AFSPA is not meant to be used against civilians. It was meant to be used against armed rebels who perpetrated acts of terror in the region. But there are numerous examples of armed forces being deployed to bring normalcy in riot affected regions in the past. In Manipur’s case the local police had become suspect in the eyes of people of the state. It remained silent spectators in the face of violence, it is alleged. It was also alleged that the police played partisan role in discharge of their duties. Even complicity was alleged in several places. And yet the authorities closed their eyes. It calls for an independent enquiry commission to find out the truth as to why things were allowed to go as they did. Surely, time may come when this demand will be raised. There was Shah Commission enquiry which went into excesses during infamous Emergency imposed by late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi soon after she lost election.
No doubt the Manipur ethnic violence and the shameful and horrific incidents that followed will become election issue around the country in the forthcoming national polls. The people will definitely give their verdict without waiting for any commission of enquiry.
The Centre never tires of asking for peoples’ mandate in the name of “double engine sarkar”. It already had one in Manipur with its own party rule. But what happened there is for all to see.
Ten years of power at the Centre seems to have gone into the head of the rulers. The “Ajaatshatru” (invincible) image is largely self-made. People are avid observers. They strike when it hurts the most. India is a democracy.