Imphal, May 17, 2024 (DIPR): The editorial, ‘Lame excuses: On Manipur and the ethnic conflict’ published by the Hindu on May 15, 2024 attempts to defame the measures undertaken by the Central and State government to resolve the unrest in Manipur by terming them as “over-simplification and biased” view of the conflict.

Since the Hindu does not have any clear understanding of the deeper issues in Manipur, it has cited Hon’ble Chief Minister, N Biren Singh’s statement that 5,457 illegal immigrants were found in Manipur’s Kamjong district as a claim to back up its allegations. However, the fresh arrival of illegal immigrants into Manipur, following the Military coup in Myanmar are just a tip of the iceberg.

Even before the state government started the drive to identify and collect the biometric data of the immigrants, as many as 996 new villages had already mushroomed in Manipur as a result of years of illegal immigration which went unchecked and undetected.

The measures to identify the illegal immigrants and collect their biometric data were started only in February, 2023 after forming a Cabinet Sub Committee which was chaired by Minister Letpao Haokip who is himself from the Kuki Tribe. This Committee which also had Minister Awangbow Newmai, a Naga MLA and Minister Th Basanta, a Meitei. During the identification drive carried out by the Sub-Committee, 2,187 illegal immigrants were found settling at 41 locations in Manipur.

The identification of such a large number of illegal immigrants in the first phase of the field visits itself became a reason for panic among the illegal immigrants settled in the state. It was during this identification exercise where the establishment of such villages was objected, and they were advised that shelter homes will be built by the government for them. The illegal immigrants strongly objected to the proposal and it was one of the reasons for the violence that broke out in Manipur.

Decades earlier, there was a massive influx of illegal immigrants from Myanmar into Manipur, particularly in the year 1988 and 1962. No measures were undertaken to collect their biometric data or identities. They were freely allowed to continuously encroach and settle upon the Protected Forest areas of Manipur. The Hindu chose to ignore the demographic changes taking place by the influx of immigrants and the adverse outcomes which have been taking place for years even before the measure for identification was launched.

The editorial accuses the State of being bias against a particular ethnic group, which is far from the truth and quite misleading. The Manipur state government is not biased against any ethnic community and identification of illegal immigrants is not limited to only one community. The state has a firm stand on illegal migration, and it has been monitoring the issue as per the directives and instructions of the Central government.

In 1972, there were only 6 Kuki MLAs while the Nagas had 13 MLAs. Now, there are 10 Naga MLAs and 10 Kuki MLAs. Why there is a reduction of Naga representatives contrary to how the numbers of Kuki legislators have significantly increased? The Hindu should come to Manipur and report on the available data & records instead of being a propaganda machine. Why has the Hindu ignored to look into the issues concerning the loss of forest cover in the state? Who are these people carrying out rampant deforestation in the hills of Manipur to carry out mass poppy plantations? The Hindu does not care to answer these questions or concerned about the loss of biodiversity in Manipur due to encroachment upon Protected and Reserved Forest areas.

The editorial also claims that refugees in Manipur are stigmatised and the state’s policies are contrary to the approach given by Mizoram. These are baseless allegations as the immigrants are being provided with basic needs like foodgrains, water supply, power supply, even roofings and other essential commodities in their respective camps such as the ones located in Kamjong. The deportation of illegal immigrants is being carried out by the district administration on both sides of the border, and only after they have chosen to return to their respective villages after normalcy returned in particular areas. The state government had also announced that the further deportation will be resumed only after normalcy returns.

Ironically, they have outnumbered the local populace of the places where they are sheltered. This has caused much issues in these places as was recently highlighted by the Hon’ble Phungyar MLA K Leishiyo. There has been continuous threat to the State’s heterogeneous population and demography due to the constant upsurge in the number of illegal migrants.

So far, around 16,161 acres of poppy cultivation in the Kuki Zo dominated areas in the districts of Churachandpur and Kangpokpi were destroyed under the War on Drugs campaign of the government.

Drugs amounting to Rs. 7887,76,32,330 have been seized and a total of 2351 cases have been registered while as many as 2943 persons have been arrested since 2017. The Hindu has also ignored to look into the sudden spike in seizure of the staggering amounts of drugs trafficked from Myanmar in Mizoram since 2023, following the unrest in Manipur. The Hindu once used to be a respected media firm but now it has murdered all ethical journalism and standards.

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