The Congress’s ‘Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra’ led by party leader Rahul Gandhi will start today from Thoubal district in ethnic violence-hit Manipur. Billed as an ideological and not an electoral yatra, the party will cover four more northeast state.
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Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh, flanked by party leaders Okram Ibobi Singh, Keisham Meghachandra Singh, Nabam Tuki, and Gaikhangam told reporters in the state capital Imphal that the biggest challenge before the country polarisation, economic inequalities, and political authoritarianism.
The yatra will be flagged off from a private ground in Thoubal district, instead of the state capital Imphal, the party’s initial choice. The BJP-led state government had given the Congress conditional approval to flag off the yatra from Imphal, restricting the number of participants. The Congress chose the other option.
The Thoubal district administration has also imposed some restrictions on the event such as the duration should not exceed an hour and the number of participants should not cross 3,000.
The yatra will be in Manipur for a day and cover a little over 100 km. Ethnic violence between the hill-majority Kuki tribes and the valley-majority Meiteis in the past nine months have killed over 180 and internally displaced thousands.
Before starting the yatra, Rahul Gandhi will pay homage to martyrs at the Khongjom War Memorial in Thoubal, built in memory of those killed in the last Anglo-Manipur War in 1891.
The influential civil society group People’s Alliance for Peace and Progress Manipur (PAPPM) in a statement on Saturday alleged Rahul Gandhi’s yatra “is in support of illegal immigrants”, alluding to the ethnic tensions in Manipur where the issue of illegal immigrants coming from Myanmar is extremely sensitive and controversial.
“Regrettably, we must acknowledge that the rehabilitation efforts for Kuki refugees in Manipur, inclusive of granting voting rights, were initiated by successive Congress-led central governments. The primary motive behind these endeavours appears to be the strategic objective of consolidating political support by integrating the refugees (illegal immigrants), into a potential voter base for the Congress party,” PAPPM chief M Bobby Meetei said in the statement on Saturday.
“We would like to highlight that the present violent crisis in Manipur is the result of uncontrolled influx of Kuki refugees (illegal immigrants) to Manipur especially from Myanmar (previously Burma) and their rehabilitation in Manipur with voting rights after merger to the Indian Union in 1949,” the PAPPM alleged in the statement.
The Kuki tribes claim the N Biren Singh government only wants to grab land in the hills and so invented excuses to engineer fear among the Meities against the Kuki tribes, eventually leading to the violence. Following the outbreak of clashes on May 3, 2023, the Kuki tribes have been demanding a separate administration carved out of Manipur.
The Meiteis, however, maintain the Kuki tribes have always been working towards demanding a separate land and their protest against the Meiteis’ demand for Scheduled Tribes (ST) category was only an excuse to bring a crisis in the state.