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Editorial: The LOP lustre

The fact is that bringing about a political solution to the Manipur problem was never high on the agenda of the late lamented BJP regime of Modi, which saw it as an immigration and infiltration issue and allowed the Biren Singh state government to employ majoritarian tactics to show the Kukis their place

Editorial: The LOP lustre
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Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Manipur on Monday is commendable for bringing a burning issue back to the nation’s attention and building pressure on the Union government to snap out of its shameful dereliction of duty towards the people of the state. Ethnic violence has convulsed the border state for 14 months now and New Delhi’s only response so far has been to leave it to the prejudiced state government of N Biren Singh to try to bring about peace between the Meiteis and Kuki-Zo tribes.

More than 250 people have been killed in the strife and 60,000 continue to be sheltered in squalid relief camps. Spasms of violence continue to occur as militants on either side still have free access to weapons abandoned by the state police or smuggled in from Myanmar. What inmates of relief camps in Jiribam and Churachandpur told Rahul Gandhi on Monday effectively repudiates the statement made by the Prime Minister in Parliament on July 2 that conditions have returned to normal in the Meitei valley and the Kuki-Naga hills. Indeed, while schools may have reopened, as the PM claimed, thousands of families continue to live in shelters, having lost their homes to arson and destruction. The streets are still not safe for women and vigilantes have the run of several towns.

The fact is that bringing about a political solution to the Manipur problem was never high on the agenda of the late lamented BJP regime of Modi, which saw it as an immigration and infiltration issue and allowed the Biren Singh state government to employ majoritarian tactics to show the Kukis their place. In the current NDA dispensation, Manipur ranks no higher on Mr Modi’s to-do list. It did not even merit a mention in the President’s address to Parliament last month.

In that context, a visit to the troubled state by the Leader of the Opposition at this juncture throws a glaring light on the Union government’s failure. Nothing brings out the Centre’s negligence more starkly than the fact that this is Rahul Gandhi’s third visit to Manipur while the PM has fought shy of showing up in Imphal even for his favourite activity of electoral canvassing. It is entirely to Rahul Gandhi’s credit that he has drawn attention to the Manipur problem at every opportune time. A mere few weeks after trouble broke out in May 2023, he visited the state to talk to civil society groups despite being barred from going to relief camps. In January 2024, he chose to start his Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra from Imphal to highlight the problem.

The assertive Rahul Gandhi we are seeing since the election is a stark contrast to Modi, who seems to have been overcome by a post-election stupor. The status of Leader of the Opposition has added lustre to Rahul Gandhi’s visage while Modi’s fabled veneer has worn thin. While Rahul Gandhi’s expansive speeches in the Lok Sabha on the NEET-UG issue and religious tolerance made him appear magisterial, Modi looked defensive by resorting to his familiar tactics of mockery and sarcasm. In the five weeks since the election results, the Congress leader has run through a spree of people contact activities, visiting families bereaved in the Hathras stampede and railway loco pilots suffering severe work stress and now people displaced by the Manipur violence. Modi’s choice of company has been altogether different: G-7 leaders, the World Cup winning cricket team, and now the leaders of Russia and Austria. Sure, it comes with the job, but people do notice contrasts.

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