'This conflict is between two communities, not tribals and Meiteis': Manipur CM Biren Singh

It was a pre-planned attack on Manipur, he said

21-N-Biren-Singh N. Biren Singh | Salil Bera

Q/ Your government is taking strict action. Do you feel underground groups are violating suspension of operations (SoO) rules?

A/ This is something that we do not feel or assume. We have reports, evidence and records of groups violating ground SoO rules and freely roaming the streets with arms. There is footage of armed militants participating in the rally on May 3 (which sparked the ongoing violence).

Q/ Yes, but what about Meitei underground groups? Reports say they are active.

A/ Nothing has come to us about it, yet. If it comes, we will take similar action.

The security forces are trying their best. There is a command structure. Once the confidence building started by us is complete, there would be absolute peace.

Q/ Kuki leaders told me that they did not attack first at Churachandpur on May 3, but the ‘black army’, backed by the state government, attacked them first.

A/ What happened on that particular day will be properly and thoroughly investigated. Anyone found guilty of breaking the law will be booked and given appropriate legal punishment. However, playing the blame game is not important at this point.

Q/ So, you mean that the investigation has not come to a conclusion on who hit whom first?

A/ The Union and state governments are focusing on restoring normalcy to the state at the earliest. I would also like to clarify that the state government does not have any such ‘black army’, which, ironically, you have mentioned.

Q/ I am sorry, but that is the story being told in Kuki belts.

A/ There is no need of a ‘black army’ (not even politically), we have law enforcement mechanisms and security forces.

Q/ But, they failed to control the raging mob in the first 48 hours.

A/ It was a pre-planned attack on our state. So, I realised the need for more sophisticated force to help our own trained police, not ordinary policemen. With more Central forces arriving, they have been working day and night to restore peace and normalcy.

Q/ You rubbished the ‘black army’, but the Arambai force (the groups of women) is ruling the roost in Imphal. People say they are backed by your government.

A/ The state government does not own Arambai, and if your reportage is based in reality, they will be dissolved and disbanded.

Q/ Can we take this as your assurance, as they are standing in the way of the Indian Army and the Assam Rifles.

A/ Of course, let the Army tell me about this and I will take stern action.

Q/ In hotspots, I found that tribals other than Kukis, too, have left their homes in fear.

A/ If you are saying that tribals [other than] Kukis left their homes, then it is likely that the ground you visited is located in Churachandpur, Sugnu or the villages located in the peripheral areas of the valley, where Meitei communities have been settling and you are definitely mistaking the Meiteis with tribals.

Q/ No, sir, I am talking about Paite, Kom, Nagas... who also fear onslaughts.

A/ Mostly, the Meiteis who resided in these locations you visited fled, left their homes after they were attacked. As for the tribals in the valley, there are plenty of areas even in the heart of Imphal where many tribal communities are peacefully residing right now.

Q/ But I have seen the houses where they have fled in Imphal valley.

A/ No, you misunderstood. There are 34 tribes in Manipur. Can you name or identify all?

Q/ What do you propose to bring normalcy? Creating an autonomous district council (ADC) could be one of the solutions. Do you agree?

A/ Under the constant supervision and monitoring of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, measures are underway to hammer out a concrete solution to restore normalcy. We have devised the means to expedite relief measures and make essential items available. Compensations will be provided while mechanisms for dispelling rumours are being launched.

Q/ But is an ADC being considered?

A/ All options to restore peace will be considered. This recent conflict between the two communities has nothing to do with ADC. This is not a conflict between tribals and Meiteis, who are at peace with the Naga community and many other ethnic tribes.

Q/ How long will it take to bring peace? Violence continued unabated even after the Union home minister’s visit.

A/ The security forces are trying their best. There is a command structure. Once the confidence building started by us is complete, there would be absolute peace. But, we will never allow [underground] groups to blackmail an elected government.