Poll Panel Nips Home Ministry’s Bid to Quit Elections in Manipur

Even as the Election Commission (EC) has been giving final touches to the Meeting polls schedule, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has been making desperate attempts to stop elections from occurring in trouble-torn Manipur, among the five states going to polls a month.

Based on MHA records obtained by The Quint, the Joint Secretary (Northeast) Satyendra Garg’s 1 January letter to the Election Commission shows that the ministry estimated that “it might be impossible to have fair and free elections in Manipur at this point in time of tense and potentially volatile situation”.

Minstry of Home Affairs’ Plea

The MHA’s letter was motivated by the continuing “economic blockade” imposed on Manipur — primarily targeted at preventing the movement of vehicles carrying vital supplies through National Highway two and National Highway 37 — because ancient November 2016. The “economic blockade” has been in response to the Manipur government’s development of seven new districts.

The financial blockade was imposed from the United Naga Council (UNC), backed by the insurgent outfit National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah). The NSCN-IM is in a ceasefire agreement with the Centre and signed a “peace deal” with all the Narendra Modi government after the latter assumed power in May 2014. There has, however, been no final agreement, even as discussions continue to drag on.

Centre’s Rationale

The MHA isalso, with wonderful difficulty and from thinning compels from sensitive areas such as Kashmir and also LWE (Leftwing Extremism) regions, supplying 870 Coys (employers) to the forthcoming elections in five countries. It would be impossible to provide some additional force, with no seriously and negatively impacting security in sensitive areas such as Kashmir, LWE regions, other States from the North East, along with for/or along the international borders.

Joint Secretary (Northeast) Satyendra Garg’s correspondence

Bid to Quit Election

The Election Commission set apart the MHA’s correspondence which, poll panel sources said, had been an effort to “stop the elections from Manipur”. The EC’s conclusion was predicated on the response of the state authorities of Congress Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh, which said in its two January answer to the MHA’s correspondence:

The financial blockade is associated with a few sporadic episodes, which the State Government has effectively managed… Subsequently, the counter-blockade (from Meiti groups in the Imphal valley) has been called off. That isn’t any failure of public sequence as projected in the (MHA) report and also the situation at present is totally normal in the Condition.

Manipur Govt’s Response

The Manipur government’s letter goes on to claim that there “is no exodus of Naga people from (the Imphal) valley as mentioned in the (MHA) Report. Actually, the Naga people residing in the valley go to their native places in hills during Christmas and return after annually, which is an yearly feature. All the road leading to (the) hills are available and there is free movement of vehicles along with people.”

The Quint had previously reported that a full-blown warfare of words had ensued involving the Home Ministry and the Ibobi Singh government on the dilemma of restoration of normalcy in the state as the economic blockade was imposed in early November.

Intelligence Bureau sources said that the UNC, “acting in cahoots with the NSCN(IM), which is being backed from the Centre, had sought to create conditions to an informal tie-up between the Nagas and the BJP which is trying to make inroads to Manipur”.

‘Managing to Tackle Blockade’

According to the Manipur government’s counter-response to the MHA:

Although there is economical blockade over the highways, the state government has been handling movement of trucks and key commodities, such as oil products.

Asserting that the “state authorities has actually discharged its legitimate duties by alerting people accountable” to the violence in November and December annually as well as the ones who levied the “counter-blockade”, the Ibobi Singh establishment struck back, saying that the MHA’s claim that 135 businesses of CPMF (central paramilitary forces) were sent to the state is “absolutely wrong”.

The state administration’s counter-reply states:

In fact, there were only 49 Coys of CPMF from the State before economic blockade. This has been verified by the mind of the CPMF organisation located in the State. Exactly the same was supplied by DGP Manipur into MHA on 31-12-2016 by facsimile to rectify the characters.

The Manipur government notice states that excluding merely 10 Meeting segments (from the hills), the “law and order situation is totally normal” from the remaining 50. “The financial blockade is limited to NH-2 and telephone for picketing limited to Naga-dominated areas, which should not be viewed as a whole breakdown of public order”, the correspondence to the EC states. It moves on to attribute the UNC for taking steps to “intensify the agitation” by way of picketing of government offices in Naga-dominated regions “with result from 31-12-2016.”

Supporters of the Naga United Council (UNC) clash with security employees during an agitation from the Manipur authorities in Senapati, Manipur. (Photo: PTI)
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Poll Panel Nips Home Ministry’s Bid to Quit Elections in Manipur