Rahul’s visit to violence-hit Manipur opens up divisions in the valley and a political storm

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi commenced his two-day visit to Manipur today, arriving in Imphal on Thursday, June 29. During his visit, Rahul Gandhi is set to inspect relief...

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi commenced his two-day visit to Manipur today, arriving in Imphal on Thursday, June 29. During his visit, Rahul Gandhi is set to inspect relief camps and engage with civil society representatives in Imphal and Churachandpur.

The visit began dramatically with his convoy hitting a road block near Bishnupur put up by the Manipur police after he traveled 20-25 kilometers. The Manipur cops cited “security reasons” and urged him to take chopper instead which was also advised by the government. Meanwhile, the Congress leader after staying out decided to head back to Imphal and take a chopper to go to Churachandpur, his visit has certainly one thing, that is open up clear divisions within the society predominantly from the valley on the present situation.

As the events played out, the divisions became clearer with many people belonging to the Meitei community shouting slogans of “Rahul Gandhi jindabad,” as opposed to many others mostly local women from neighbouring villages who were screaming out “go back Rahul Gandhi”. A larger crowd of people waited for him in Churachandpur with placards to welcome him as they did for Union Home Minister Amit Shah. “We want peace and we are not into who belongs to which party, so we want to welcome all leaders to see the situation for themselves,” said a young woman in Lamka.

The developments along Imphal-Bishnupur route are significant as it clearly revealed differences among valley residents which was somewhat evasive until now, since the conflict erupted between the Meiteis and the Kukis. Such developments perhaps indicate the level of support or the lack of support Chief Minister Biren Singh enjoys among the  populace in the valley. Singh has faced accusations from various segments of society, primarily from the hills, of allowing the situation to deteriorate to its current state.

The political ramifications of Rahul’s visit have already begun, potentially exacerbating the already volatile situation. It has already begun to create what some security experts say, “much needed space for questioning the current administration under Chief Minister Biren. The Chief Minister has so far not had any convincing answer to provide on why the violence has persisted without effective control until now.

Previous instances of violence have been curbed with a firm hand by the authorities, making this a crucial aspect to consider. The reception Rahul Gandhi receives from the hills and his assessment of the evolving ground situation will be closely observed. Whether he leverages this opportunity for political gain or evaluates the situation and proposes practical solutions will greatly influence the impact and outcome of his visit to Manipur.

According to reports, in a press conference held on June 28, the All Manipur Students’ Union expressed their demand to boycott Rahul Gandhi’s visit and highlighted the legacy issues associated with the Congress party. Several civil society organisations also called for Rahul Gandhi to refrain from visiting Manipur, fearing his presence may ignite further tensions.

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