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Centre open to talks with insurgents: Patil
Veiled threat to Manipur Govt
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 17
Stating that the Centre is willing to hold “unconditional” talks with “anybody who is willing to talk to us” to bring normalcy in Manipur, Home Minister Shivraj Patil today gave a breather for the Ibobi Singh-led government in the state, saying, “We are giving an opportunity to elected representatives to do their duty, but if they fail, the nation will do its duty”.

Admitting that the situation in Manipur is “difficult”, Mr Patil said, “Although we are concerned, we are not afraid of the situation... Let me assure you that we will not fail to protect the interest of the country.”

The Home Minister was replying to the clarifications sought by members in the Rajya Sabha after he made a one-page statement on the situation in Manipur.

To a clarification regarding the logic behind the state government’s decision to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Mr Patil said the Centre had advised the state government against this.

The Home Minister said the government would not like to let down the Chief Minister if he was trying to improve the situation, but if he was not acting in the interest of the nation, “we will not excuse the (Manipur) government.”

Mr Patil said: “If the situation becomes amenable to law and order, the Centre will not take any step.”

“We are not going to do anything immediately,” he said, apparently referring to a query whether the Centre was contemplating imposing President’s rule in the state.

The Manipur issue rocked both the houses of parliament.

Asserting that the government was keen on dialogue, Mr Patil said: “If the government is talking to militants in Jammu and Kashmir, insurgents in Nagaland and Naxalites in Andhra Pradesh, it finds no problem in talking to insurgents in Manipur.”

Earlier, Deputy Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj accused the government of remaining a mute spectator and adopting a “wait and watch” policy even when Manipur was “on fire”.

“What are you waiting for? Manipur is on fire, people are on roads, nude protests have taken place... till when will you wait?” she asked the Home Minister.

Regretting that only Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal had visited Manipur, even when the situation warranted the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Home Minister himself, Ms Swaraj demanded that the Prime Minister should immediately initiate a political dialogue at his level to defuse the situation.

In the Lok Sabha, Mr Jaiswal, who read out the statement on behalf of Mr Patil, said the Centre was watching the developments and would take appropriate action to meet the situation.

He said the state was facing insurgency and militancy since many years and the Centre had declared the state a disturbed area. “Some people of the state are agitating to see that the Armed Forces Special (Powers) Act is withdrawn,” he said.

The minister said the state government had withdrawn the Act from Imphal city on August 12 and allowed it to remain in force in the rest of the state against the advice given by the Central government. The Act, according to the state government, did not meet the expectations of the people of the state.

The agitation continued in a more forceful manner after the incident on July 11 in which Manorama Devi’s body was found in a field, with bullet injuries. It was alleged that she was raped and killed by Assam Rifles personnel.

The agitators are also demanding that Assam Rifles should be withdrawn from the area.

The armed forces had started proceedings against those allegedly responsible for the incident. The state government had also instituted a judicial inquiry into the matter, he said.

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