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India’s Parliament Rocked by Protests for a Third Day Over Violence in Manipur State

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India’s Parliament Rocked by Protests for a Third Day Over Violence in Manipur State

Opposition parties are demanding a statement from the Prime Minister in Parliament. Until last Thursday Modi had refused to utter a word on the situation in the state.

India’s Parliament Rocked by Protests for a Third Day Over Violence in Manipur State

Leaders of the INDIA alliance parties stage a protest over ethnic violence in Manipur during the Monsoon session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Monday, July 24, 2023.

Credit: Twitter/Assam Congress

India’s Parliament was disrupted for a third day Monday by opposition protests over ethnic clashes in a remote northeastern state in which more than 130 people have been killed since May.

Opposition lawmakers carried placards and chanted slogans outside the Parliament building as they demanded a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the violence in Manipur state before a debate on the issue.

Last week, Modi broke more than two months of public silence over the ethnic clashes, telling reporters that mob assaults on two women who were paraded naked were unforgivable, but he did not refer directly to the larger violence.

His comments came after a video showing the assaults sparked widespread outrage on social media despite the internet being largely blocked and journalists being locked out in the state. It shows two naked women surrounded by scores of young men who grope their genitals and drag them to a field.

The video was emblematic of the near-civil war in Manipur, where mobs have rampaged through villages and torched houses. The conflict was sparked by an affirmative action controversy in which Christian Kukis protested a demand by mostly Hindu Meiteis for a special status that would let them buy land in the hills populated by Kukis and other tribal groups and get a share of government jobs.

Indian Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday said the government is ready to discuss the situation in Manipur. “I request the opposition to let a discussion take place on this issue. It is important that the country gets to know the truth on this sensitive matter,” he said in the lower house of Parliament.

Both houses of Parliament were adjourned various times as the opposition stopped proceedings with their demand for a statement from Modi. Sessions were also disrupted on Thursday and Friday.

The main opposition Congress party’s president, Mallikarjun Kharge, tweeted it was Modi’s “duty to make a comprehensive statement inside the Parliament on Manipur violence.”

Violence in Manipur and the harrowing video have triggered protests across the country. On Monday, scores of people gathered in Indian-controlled Kashmir and protesters carrying placards took to the streets of the eastern city of Kolkata.

Over the weekend, nearly 15,000 people held a sit-in protest in Manipur to press for the immediate arrest of anyone involved in the assault, which occurred in May. They also called for the firing of Biren Singh, the top elected official in the state who also belongs to Modi’s party.

The state government said last week that four suspects had been arrested and that police were carrying out raids to arrest other suspects.