Amit Shah mishandled Manipur crisis: embraced Meiteis, offended Kukis, three errors.

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In relation to the recent events, the Union home minister made an error when discussing Manipur. Amit Shah seemed to focus on immediate responses that felt right at the time, yet he overlooked a more strategic approach that would have better served Manipur’s future. Unfortunately, such lapses in judgment are not uncommon in the realm of politics.

One glaring misstep was Shah’s defense of Chief Minister Biren Singh. The home minister’s argument centered around the chief minister’s cooperation, preventing his dismissal. Shah pointed out that the chief minister had agreed to various changes, including replacements and the acceptance of a security adviser.

However, it’s important to consider the context. When the home minister, a high-ranking member of India’s government, makes a request, cooperation is almost a given, as it falls in line with party loyalty. Refusal could be seen as defiance. Moreover, cooperation doesn’t equate to competence.

It’s undeniable that Manipur has been plagued by turmoil for a prolonged period, with the chief minister failing to reinstate law and order, let alone harmony. The question arises: how much longer will the central government continue to support him? When does his failure become undeniable? At what point does retaining him implicate the central government?

Despite apparent cooperation, Biren Singh has lost the trust of Manipur’s 16% Kuki community. The Kukis view him as anti-Kuki and an obstacle to peace. This presents a strong argument for his removal.

It’s evident that a different narrative held sway for Shah. Furthermore, the chief minister has garnered admiration from the Meiteis, even hero-worship in some cases. Given that the Meiteis comprise 53% of the population, their support holds significant electoral weight, potentially influencing the BJP’s stance.

However, an important oversight by the home minister was the discontent within his own party’s legislature in Manipur. As early as May, all seven BJP Kuki MLAs expressed their lack of confidence in Biren Singh. In June, eight BJP Meitei MLAs submitted a memorandum asserting public loss of faith in the state government. This accounts for 15 out of 32 MLAs from the party, indicating a lack of support.

The second error emerged during Shah’s Lok Sabha speech, where he attributed ethnic violence to Kuki refugees from Myanmar. While this is an element contributing to the crisis, it raises questions about the core of his explanation.

Three main reasons suggest otherwise. Firstly, the state government itself acknowledges that the number of refugees is under 3,000. In contrast, Mizoram has accommodated around 45,000 refugees. Secondly, Shah’s adoption of a Meitei narrative appears biased and partial.

Thirdly, his assertion that these refugees, fleeing Myanmar’s junta, have settled in Manipur’s forests, prompting demographic fears, exaggerates their impact and echoes the Meitei narrative.

It’s unsurprising that all 10 Kuki MLAs, seven of them from the BJP, expressed dissent. They criticized the home minister’s statement that attributed ethnic cleansing to the influx of Kuki refugees following the 2021 junta takeover.

They highlighted the home minister’s oversight in ignoring Meitei organizations branding Kukis as “foreigners” and stoking animosity. This disconnect between the home minister’s analysis and ground realities points to a one-sided perspective.

Shah’s assertion about the Kuki Democratic Front’s role in the influx of refugees led to further contradiction when the Kuki National Organisation denied the existence of such a group. This lack of accurate information undermines the credibility of his analysis.

In such a critical juncture, one would expect the home minister’s analysis to be impeccable, factually precise, and undeniably reliable. However, this wasn’t the case in his explanation of the Manipur crisis.

Ideally, Shah should have engaged both warring communities in Manipur. It seems he embraced the Meiteis, but in doing so, he may have inadvertently alienated the Kukis. By favoring one side over the other, he made an error that’s quite evident.

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