Assam CM Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma’s visit to Manipur: A Step towards Peace & Stability

In a bid to promote peace and stability in Manipur, Assam Chief Minister and North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) convenor Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma visited Imphal on Saturday. This marked his first visit to Manipur since violence erupted on May 3. The visit, referred to as a “goodwill visit,” aimed to facilitate discussions and build confidence among key stakeholders. Sarma met with his Manipur counterpart N Biren Singh, state cabinet ministers, party leaders, and civil society organization representatives during his visit. This article explores the significance of Sarma’s visit and the challenges faced in achieving lasting peace in Manipur.

A Goodwill Visit to Foster Peace

Sarma’s visit to Manipur was primarily driven by the desire to establish peace and stability in the region. Recognizing the importance of peace for the overall well-being of Manipur, he expressed his commitment to working towards the restoration of normalcy. The Chief Minister emphasized the need for dialogue and open communication to resolve conflicts, stressing that peace cannot be achieved through violence.

The Role of Stakeholders

During his visit, Sarma engaged with various stakeholders, including Chief Minister Singh, cabinet colleagues, party leaders, and civil society organizations. These interactions were aimed at understanding the concerns and grievances of different groups and fostering a sense of unity and cooperation. Sarma expressed his intention to report the outcomes of these discussions to the Union Home Minister for further necessary actions, highlighting the collaborative approach taken by the Assam Chief Minister.

The Absence of Kuki Leaders

Although Sarma’s visit encompassed a broad range of stakeholders, he did not have the opportunity to meet with Kuki leaders on this particular occasion. However, he assured that contact would be established with them when the need arises. This highlights the importance of inclusivity and the recognition of the diverse perspectives and aspirations of all communities in Manipur.

The Formation of a Peace Committee

In response to the ongoing violence in Manipur, the formation of a peace committee led by Governor Anusuiya Uikey was announced by Union Home Minister Amit Shah. While this initiative was aimed at addressing the conflict and facilitating dialogue, it was met with mixed reactions from both Meitei and Kuki groups. The persistence of violence in the state has led to ambivalence regarding the effectiveness of the committee.

Dialogue as the Path to Resolution

Khuraijam Athouba, spokesperson of COCOMI (an umbrella body of Meitei civil society organizations), emphasized the importance of dialogue in resolving conflicts. He highlighted the need to cease hostilities, particularly from the hills side, in order to create an environment conducive to meaningful discussions. Athouba expressed the view that dialogue is the most effective approach to finding lasting solutions, underscoring the necessity for all parties to come together at the negotiating table.

Obstacles to Dialogue

Kuki groups also voiced their concerns regarding the recent incidents of violence, asserting that these acts impede the possibility of engaging in dialogue. The ITLF President, Muan Tombing, highlighted the contradiction between the appeal for peace from the Union Home Minister and the continued acts of violence. He reiterated the readiness of Kuki groups to engage in dialogue once the attacks cease, indicating a willingness to work towards a peaceful resolution.

Trust and Confidence Building

The presence of Chief Minister Singh among the members of the peace committee raised concerns for some Kuki groups. They questioned the credibility of the state government and expressed a preference for engaging with the central government. Thangminlen Kipgen, a member of Kuki Inpi Manipur (the apex body of the Kuki community), stressed the importance of building trust and confidence among all stakeholders involved. He highlighted the need for transparent and inclusive dialogue, where the interests and aspirations of all communities are respected and addressed.

Addressing Socioeconomic Concerns

In addition to the security aspect, Sarma also discussed the socioeconomic concerns of Manipur during his visit. He acknowledged the need to address the developmental gaps and promote inclusive growth in the state. The Chief Minister pledged to work towards improving infrastructure, healthcare, education, and employment opportunities in Manipur. By addressing these underlying issues, he aims to create an environment conducive to long-term peace and stability.

The Way Forward

The visit of Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to Manipur holds significance in the context of fostering peace and stability in the region. It highlights the importance of dialogue, inclusivity, and trust-building among various stakeholders. The formation of a peace committee and the commitment of both Meitei and Kuki groups to engage in dialogue signify a positive step towards resolving conflicts.

However, challenges remain, particularly in addressing the concerns and grievances of all communities involved. Sustaining peace requires a comprehensive approach that takes into account the socioeconomic development of Manipur, alongside dialogue and conflict resolution.

It is crucial for all parties involved to maintain a commitment to peaceful negotiations, cease acts of violence, and create an atmosphere where open communication can flourish. Only through genuine dialogue, inclusivity, and a focus on socioeconomic upliftment can Manipur achieve lasting peace, stability, and prosperity for all its residents.

The visit of Chief Minister Sarma can be seen as a catalyst for renewed efforts towards peace-building in Manipur. It is a testament to the commitment of the North-Eastern states and the central government in working together to address conflicts and foster harmonious coexistence in the region.

As the situation evolves, it is essential for all stakeholders to continue engaging in constructive dialogue, exploring avenues for reconciliation, and prioritizing the well-being of the people of Manipur. Only by doing so can the aspirations and dreams of all communities in Manipur be realized, and the region can move towards a peaceful and prosperous future.