CW: This piece mentions ethnic violence and assault against women.
Manipur has been burning for close to 100 days, and the Prime Minister of India has finally opened his mouth.
The North-eastern Indian state is currently witnessing an ongoing conflict between two ethnic groups — the majority Meitei Hindus and minority Kuki Christians — which has killed almost 200 people in just over three months. Although this is a number sourced from the Indian government, the death toll is likely even higher. Hundreds of churches and a dozen temples have been destroyed in riots during this period.
Recently, a video of two Kuki women, paraded naked by a group of Meitei men shocked the world after it was circulated widely on social media. Because of planned internet shutdowns by the Manipur state government and the union government, both of which are governed by the Hindu nationalist party BJP, the video emerged almost 80 days after the events occurred on 4 May. There are now many similar videos being released. Such was the graphic nature of this video, the Prime Minister — who was touring abroad touring the world at the time of the incidents — was forced to make a public statement.
India has one of the most authoritarian governments in the world, led by PM Narendra Modi, who is the face of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the broader Hindu nationalist movement.
Despite this, many world leaders including the Australian PM Anthony Albanese fend for the Indian PM Narendra Modi. Recently when Modi toured Australia — while the North Eastern Indian state of Manipur was actually burning — Albanese made horrible comments calling PM Modi the “boss” in a public forum attended by over 18,000 people. While asked what he thinks about the various human rights abuses that Modi is allegedly responsible for, he said that it is the “internal matter” of India.
Global leaders are largely sticking up for Narendra Modi, likely because of India’s rapid economic growth. This growth, rather than being spurred by Modi’s BJP, has been fuelled by the policies of previous governments and has significantly benefited billionaires such as Modi allies Gautum Adani and Mukesh Ambani at the expense of the wider Indian public and the environment.
Manipur has been burning for over 80 days. In that time, Narendra Modi has been touring 7 different countries — Australia, the United States, Japan, France, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Papua New Guinea. In almost all of these countries, he met the privileged Indian community living a very comfortable life in each country. These communities are strong supporters of Modi, a reflection of this privilege. If they were living in any of Modi’s conflict driven territories, they would have used their voices to shout for help instead of applauding Modi.
It is no secret that the North East of India is one of the most heavily militarized regions in India and probably the world. The Indian government also uses surveillance techniques like phone tapping and extensive usage of cameras, under the pretext of “protecting the region”. This invasion of privacy occurs despite privacy being one of the seven fundamental rights in India. But is today’s India still considered a democratic country that values the constitution?
In the riots that have happened in Manipur, the internet was shut down. This has also occurred in other zones in India suffering conflict and iron clad authoritarianism — for example, Kashmir. So, not all that happened in Manipur is public knowledge. Some incidents might never even come out. This has been purposefully done by the ruling authoritarian governments, so the state driven human rights abuses don’t become a topic of debate in the global arena and the rest of the country. This violence and conflict perpetrated between the Hindu Meitei and Kuki Christian communities is also state sponsored terrorism, rather than a self induced situation, similar to the previous instances under the same BJP governments.
In 1992, Babar Masjid (a heritage site in Uttar Pradesh, India built by the Mughal kings) was demolished and in 2002, many Muslims were killed in Gujarat under the same pretext of a planned riot among the majority and minority communities in the region. In 2002, the chief architects were none other than Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, who then was the Chief Minister (equivalent to Premier in Australia) and Home Minister of the Indian state Gujarat, respectively. Today, they have together risen to become the Prime Minister and Home Minister of the entire nation, a rise to power fuelled by nothing but hate against religious, linguistic, cultural minorities and the lower castes, while cunningly catering to the needs in the different regions of India.
The BJP’s motto, right from the start, has been to target the minorities and they have successfully done that against the Adivasis (indigenous people), Muslims, Dalits, and now Christians. They have also been ideologically against linguistic and ethnic minorities. Before they knock on the door of the next minority group in India, it is important for us to voice out and seek justice for all the horrors that they have committed. Before Modi and the BJP appoint a Kuki Christian from Manipur to the ceremonial position of President of India in a political gambit, merely just in the position of a ceremonial President of India, they must be wiped away from the parliament, so they have no power to appoint presidents, or cause any more harm to the community that they hail from.