PM Narendra Modi must break his silence and immediately address the communal flare-up in Manipur, they say
Civil society groups and Christian organizations seek restoration of peace in the violence-torn Manipur state in New Delhi on June 24 (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj)
Christian groups and civil society organizations in India demanded restoration of peace in northeastern Manipur state where ethnic violence has claimed more than 130 lives and displaced over 50,000 people, mostly Kuki tribal Christians.
“More than 40 organizations convened in Delhi to show solidarity with the people of Manipur. They wanted restoration of peace,” Christian activist Minakshi Singh, one of the organizers of the June 24 rally, told UCA News.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been tight-lipped on the ethnic flare-up in the hilly state bordering Myanmar but held a meeting with federal Home Minister Amit Shah on June 26.
"We demand that the prime minister immediately address the issue,” said Singh, who is general secretary of Unity in Compassion, a charity based in northern Uttar Pradesh state.
The organizations participating in the Delhi rally handed over a memorandum to Shah, who convened an all-party meeting on June 24 coinciding with similar programs held in different parts of the country.
Public rallies seeking restoration of peace were held in three northeastern states -- Assam, Nagaland, and Meghalaya -- and in southern Tamil Nadu state.
A rally was also held in Manipur’s Churachandpur district where the communal riot started on May 3 over a court proposal to grant tribal status to majority Meitei Hindus to get priority in government jobs, education, and other affirmative programs meant for the indigenous people.
The Kukis, mostly Christians staying in hilly places, oppose this move as they allege the inclusion will pave the way for the prosperous Meitei Hindus to acquire lands in tribal-dominated places.
The violence has reportedly killed more than 131 people, hurt 419 people, and displaced over 50,000 people.
Though the Kukis have been at loggerheads with Meitei Hindus for decades, this is the first time places of worship have been targeted in a major way. Manipur, bordering civil war-hit Myanmar, is ruled by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.
Violent mobs, according to Church sources, have set on fire more than 200 Kuki villages and 250 places of worship.
The number is expected to increase as reports from the violence-hit villages said most of the Christians have fled for their safety and information from these places is difficult to gather.
In the memorandum to the home minister, the protesters expressed anguish over the destruction of churches and the displacement of thousands of people.
Pastor Ezekiel M from the riot-hit Manipur state said there has been an absolute breakdown of law and order in the state where armed mobs currently rule.
Properties built and developed over many decades have been reduced to ashes in a matter of hours, the pastor observed.
The state government has failed in its duty to protect the life and property of people, Pastor Ezekiel said.
The federal government on June 8 approved a sum of 1 billion Indian rupees (US$12.5 million) for providing "relief to the internally displaced people in the state.”
Grace, who goes by her first name, said the rehabilitation package falls short in adequately addressing the needs of individuals who have suffered physical violence, loss of their homes, and livestock, and in some instances their entire means of livelihood.
More than 1,000 individuals, including women and children, have sought shelter in neighboring Assam and Mizoram where they are reportedly facing shortages of essential items like food, clothing, and clean water.
The displacement of children has hit their schooling, she said.
The memorandum asked the federal government to provide adequate facilities and amenities at relief camps.
The protesters wanted a hike in compensation and drew the attention of the government to the case of the late Archbishop Raphael Cheenath versus the Union of India, wherein India’s top court laid down guidelines for additional compensation.
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