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Imphal, October 4, 2023 – Meitei MLA Rajkumar Imo Singh’s recent letter to the Union Home Minister has stirred controversy and criticism from various quarters. In the letter, the legislator applauded what he called “positive steps” taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs in dealing with the ongoing Manipur crisis. However, his comments have drawn sharp reactions for their potential impact on ongoing investigations and the presumption of guilt.
Rajkumar Imo Singh, who is also the son-in-law of the incumbent Meitei Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, expressed his appreciation for the arrests made by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with the cases they are currently investigating. He specifically mentioned an individual from the Zo community who was arrested by the NIA, claiming that this person was involved in terror activities and had ties to “foreign militant groups from Myanmar.” Singh urged the authorities to ensure that maximum punishment is meted out to insurgent groups involved in the ongoing violence.
Handed over this letter to Home Ministry under Shri @AmitShah and also mailed a copy to initiate action regarding the foreign terror links with Manipur based Organisations abroad in Canada and other countries. Urged him to have this investigated thoroughly and bring out all… pic.twitter.com/pu2YaCPKcP— Rajkumar Imo Singh (@imosingh) October 4, 2023
While Singh’s letter to the Home Minister conveyed his support for these arrests, it also raised concerns about his comments. Critics argue that Singh’s statements could potentially prejudice ongoing cases by commenting on a defendant before a fair trial has taken place. It’s a departure from the principle of considering an accused person innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
The controversy surrounding Singh’s letter is heightened by his familial and political ties. His father-in-law, Meitei Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, had also taken to social media to express his belief in the guilt of the person arrested by the NIA. These statements by elected officials are considered unbecoming and irresponsible, as they disregard the legal principle of presumption of innocence.
Critics further contend that Singh’s letter is a political move aimed at regaining lost support among Meitei voters. Meanwhile, Zo tribal leaders and civil society organizations have decried the selective nature of the investigations, alleging that many cases of violence against the Zo community by Meitei mobs have been ignored. They argue that the focus on cases where Meitei individuals are alleged victims overlooks the broader context of violence in the region.
Another contentious point in Singh’s letter is his use of the term “terrorist.” Critics argue that none of the armed groups from the Zo community have been designated as terrorists, while several major Meitei armed groups have received such designations from the Indian government. These critics believe that the Meitei terrorists, associated with groups like the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and People’s Liberation Army (PLA), are infiltrating the region and pose a significant threat.
They emphasize that sealing and securing the borders from which Meitei terrorists enter Indian territory should be a priority to achieve lasting peace. They assert that the focus should shift from labeling other communities as terrorists to addressing the violence perpetrated by certain Meitei factions.
Singh’s letter has further fueled tensions and debates in the already complex and sensitive situation in Manipur. It remains to be seen how the Home Ministry and other authorities will respond to these comments and whether they will have any impact on the ongoing investigations and peace efforts in the region.
Source: ZSF’s Fieldnotes