Plot Thickens as Rajnath Issues Veiled Threat to Manipur CM Ibobi

Singh has laid the blame for the deteriorating law and order situation across the state on Ibobi’s government.

3 min read
Rajnath Singh has issued a veiled threat to Manipur Chief Minister Ibobi Singh. (Photo: Lijumol Joseph/<b>The Quint</b>)
  • Rajnath Singh’s 22 December letter to Manipur CM O Ibobi Singh is being interpreted as carrying the seeds of central intervention in the state
  • Citing the ‘distressing’ law and order situation in Manipur, Rajnath issues veiled warning to Ibobi Singh’s Congress government
  • The CM has been advised to ensure supply of essential commodities and restore law and order in Manipur
  • The MHA blames the state government for the prevailing situation in Manipur but does not name Naga groups, including NSCN(IM), for the economic blockade
  • Nagaland CM TR Zeliang has complained to Rajnath that Imphal valley-based groups are responsible for the Manipur crisis

Even as Naga protesters continue to lay siege to two important national highways that are Manipur’s “economic lifelines”, and the Centre is found wanting in handling the situation in an impartial manner, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has laid the blame for the deteriorating law and order situation across the state on the Congress government, led by O Ibobi Singh.

In a 22 December letter to the Chief Minister that is more a veiled warning of impending strong political action by the Centre, Rajnath has said: “For the sake of the people of Manipur, I call upon you to discharge these constitutional duties (maintaining law and order and ensuring supply of essential commodities) with utmost promptness, while reiterating the Government of India’s commitment to support your forces in keeping NH-2 open.” The Quint has exclusive access to the letter. 

UNC’s Economic Blockade

The United Naga Council (UNC), which is linked to the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), has laid siege to two national highways, NH-2 and NH-37, that connect Manipur with the rest of India and other northeastern states. It is protesting the state government’s decision to carve out new districts in areas that are Naga-dominated.

The over a month-long economic blockade, marked by violence and arson, continues even though 30 companies of central paramilitary forces remain deployed across the state.

State government officials and Intelligence Bureau sources reveal that the NSCN (IM)’s leadership is behind the current turmoil in Manipur and it has been orchestrated for political objectives that “suit the BJP”.

Central Rule in the Offing?

Rajnath’s two-page missive is being interpreted by Manipur government officials and Congress politicians as the first step in “creating conditions for the imposition of central rule”.

But the Centre will find it a difficult road to take, considering the Supreme Court’s no-nonsense judgement in response to the BJP’s bid to topple the Congress government in Uttarakhand by creating dissensions within the ruling party and invoking Article 356 of the Constitution.

The Home Minister’s letter, sent more than a month after Ibobi Singh’s official “SOS” (of 11 November) to him, has sought to project the Manipur government as the villain of the piece.

“Through this letter, I urge you once again… to ensure the supply of commodities to Manipur through NH-2, rationally using the assistance of central forces as necessary…The state government… has to display the will to do so, and take leadership.”

Blaming the State Government

Rajnath’s letter has sought to create an impression that the state government has done little to improve the situation in Manipur. “…there has been no initiative from the state government to either ensure the NH-2 is kept open or that at least movement of convoys is made.” The MHA did dispatch Special Secretary (Internal Security) Rupak Datta to Manipur to assess the crisis. Datta is said to have submitted a report detailing both the law and order and the economic situation in Manipur.

While acknowledging that the impact of the UNC’s economic blockade has caused an “extremely distressing situation”, the MHA has steered clear of even naming either the UNC or the NSCN(IM).

IB sources disclosed that even as the UNC has refused to budge, the NSCN(IM) continues to impose illegal “tax” ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 on shops and other businesses in Nagaland and parts of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, where there is a Naga presence.

Nagaland CM’s Letter

To muddy the waters, Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang has jumped on the anti-Manipur bandwagon. Zeliang shot off a letter to Rajnath on 18 December, drawing the Home Minister’s “attention to the plight of hundreds of Nagas who are stranded in the Imphal valley and are being prevented from proceeding to their respective villages in the hills in the aftermath of open threats to their lives by the valley-based organisations and public”.

While seeking the “intervention” of the MHA, Zeliang added that the “law enforcing authorities in Imphal are not in a position to check or stop such lawless and violent activities which is endangering the lives of Nagas in Manipur”.

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