Imphal: As ethnic clashes continued in rife-stricken Manipur on Tuesday, several Opposition parties including the Congress came together to accuse the Prime Minister for remaining a mute spectator in the issue.
Leaders of 10 opposition parties accused PM Narendra Modi of ignoring the feelings of the people of Manipur by not according an audience to them and wondered if the BJP governments at the Centre and in the northeastern state had any hidden agenda in not showing the resolve to restore peace in the violence-hit state.
The leaders wanted to meet Modi, but had to hand over a memorandum to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) as they failed to meet the prime minister before he left for the US on a state visit.
Former Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, who held the post for 15 years, told a press conference that the leaders from the 10 parties camping in Delhi are not begging for anything, but seeking restoration of peace for which they have sought an audience with the prime minister.
Addressing a joint press conference at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters here, the leaders, led by Congress's Ajoy Kumar, Singh and those from the JD(U), CPI(M) and other parties, said they were disappointed as Modi "ignored" them and not even spared even 10 minutes for them before leaving for the United States.
Singh said it was the failure of Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh as he himself has admitted that "it was an intelligence and administrative failure".
"If the state and central governments want, the situation can be normalised within two-three days or at the most, a week," he said, adding that while Union Home Minister Amit Shah visited Manipur 26 days after ethnic clashes were reported from the state and stayed there for three days, it did not help restore peace.
Singh said they are not concerned about who visits the state but are only bothered about restoration of peace in Manipur, which has been burning for the last month and a half.
"Why are they neglecting Manipur? Is there any hidden agenda? Why is Manipur still burning?" he asked.
The leaders also released copies of the memorandum addressed to the prime minister.
The memorandum said more than 150 innocent lives were lost, over 1,000 people injured, more than 5,000 houses burnt down and more than 60,000 people displaced in Manipur. Hundreds of churches and temples have also been burnt down.
Alleging that it was the "BJP's politics of divide and rule" that had led to the present crisis, the memorandum referred to a demand of 10 MLAs, including two state ministers, belonging to the Kuki tribe for a "separate administration" for Kukis.
The memorandum warned against any such move to divide Manipur.
Holding the chief minister responsible for the violence, the memorandum alleged that he was "the architect of the present ethnic violence because of his arbitrary actions".
The signatories to the memorandum included leaders from the Congress, JD(U), CPI, CPI(M), TMC, AAP, Forward Bloc, Nationalist Congress Party, Shiv Sena and RSP.
Intermittent firing was reported from Thangjing in Manipur East around 11.45pm on Tuesday.
According to officials, 15-20 rounds of automatic weapon fire was heard before it fell silent.
"The firing was heard around 2km north of Sugnu," an official said.
Intermittent firing was also reported from Geljang & Singda, both falling in Kangchup area.
"Between 8pm and 9:30 pm, 4-5 rounds were fired from Geljan & Singda areas. It's speculative fire and not at each other. Distance between the two places is 2 km," an official added.
Assam Rifles personnel went to both the locations to find out if there were any injuries or casualties.
Four suspected UNLF militants held
Four suspected cadres of the proscribed militant outfit United National Liberation Front (UNLF) were arrested in Thoubal district of ethnic violence affected Manipur, the Army said on Tuesday.
A 51 mm mortar, an anti-personnel bomb, was recovered from the four cadres.
Acting on intelligence inputs, a Mobile Vehicle Check Post was established near Police Station Lilong on the night of June 19. Four suspected cadres in two separate vehicles were apprehended with one 51 mm mortar, the Army said in a tweet.
The four were handed over to the police and have been charged under Section 34 IPC and 25(1-C) Arms Act (Unauthorised possession of arms), the force said.
The UNLF is one of the oldest insurgent groups of Manipur.
What happened so far?
More than 100 people have lost their lives in the violence between Meitei and Kuki communities in Manipur that broke out over a month ago.
Clashes first broke out in Manipur on May 3 after a 'Tribal Solidarity March' was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur's population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley. Tribals - Nagas and Kukis - constitute another 40 per cent of the population and reside in the hill districts.
To provide emotional support and reassurance to those affected by riots, the Assam Rifles distributed essential items to over 1,000 displaced people sheltered in the relief camps in Dawn School and Churachandpur Govt College on Monday.
(With PTI inputs.)