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West shouldn’t lecture ‘secular’ India on religion – Manipur head to RT

N. Biren Singh, the leader of India’s violence-torn state, has slammed Western critics over allegations of religious persecution

Western countries’ comments on ethnic conflict in Manipur are uninformed, according to Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, who governs the state in northeastern India. He particularly slammed attempts to link the situation with religious persecution. In an exclusive interview with RT, Singh blamed the situation on several causes, including illegal migration from neighboring Myanmar.  

Ethnic clashes between the region’s Meitei majority, living in the valley, and the Kuki tribes, who live in the surrounding hills, have left more than 200 dead and tens of thousands displaced since May 2023. Western countries, including the US and the UK, have repeatedly alleged the existence of religious rights infringements in the Indian state. 

Last month, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron, said London should continue to press the issue of “religious freedom” in India. Days later, the US State Department, in its Human Rights report for 2023 claimed that significant abuses had occurred in the state throughout the year.

Singh suggested that the West, particularly the US, “as a developed country and as a superpower,” should look at humanitarian issues rather than probe religious ones. “Whatever is happening in Manipur today, is not related to Christianity or Hinduism,” he argued.  “Hearing and collecting one-sided information and criticising India as a big secular country and big democracy is very, very unfortunate,” he said. 

The chief minister claimed that conditions in his state were created by waves of illegal immigrants from neighboring Myanmar dating back to 1960s. According to Singh, it is “clearly shown by the data.”

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Earlier this year, after months of fighting in Manipur, India ended its Free Movement Regime (FMR) with Myanmar. It allowed tribes residing along the border to venture up to 16km into the neighboring country without a visa. Meanwhile, New Delhi is planning to spend nearly $3.7 billion to build a fence along its 1,610km porous border with Myanmar within about a decade, Reuters reported last month.

Citing former US President Donald Trump’s push against illegal immigration and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s latest drive to deport undocumented migrants, Singh questioned whether Western leaders should disparage India for having its own policies towards illegal migration. He said he was “surprised” that they were criticizing the situation in Manipur “unnecessarily.”


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According to Singh, it will take time for peace and normalcy to be restored to the state, which is plagued by a “chronic disease that cannot be cured within days.” Things have been improving slowly in the last five to six months due to the federal government’s support, he said. He has sought more support from New Delhi “in terms of security measures and financial assistance” for a “speedy recovery and resettlement” of the displaced persons.

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May 06, 2024 at 08:27PM
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