Manipur's Struggle for Peace: A Quiet Election Season Amidst Turmoil
Manipur's Struggle for Peace: A Quiet Election Season Amidst Turmoil

In Manipur, where violence has disrupted daily life, the usual hustle and bustle of election campaigning is notably absent. With Lok Sabha elections looming just around the corner, there are no grand rallies or political posters adorning the streets. Instead, the only sign of the impending elections comes from modest hoardings urging citizens to cast their votes.

Unlike in previous years, prominent political figures have refrained from visiting Manipur to seek votes or make promises. While the BJP boasts names like Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah as their star campaigners, and the Congress lineup includes Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, none of these leaders have made an appearance in Manipur.

Despite the Election Commission's assurance that there are no official restrictions on campaigning, parties are exercising caution to avoid worsening the delicate situation in the state. Candidates have opted for unconventional methods, such as holding small meetings at their residences or party offices, and conducting door-to-door campaigns with the help of volunteers.

"We would prefer large public meetings, but given the circumstances, we're keeping things low-key," says Maheshwar Thounaojam, a candidate supported by the Republican Party of India.

Basanta Kumar Singh, the incumbent Education and Law Minister, is engaging in similar low-key campaigning, while Angomcha Bimol Akoijam, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, mainly meets voters at his residence.

Both the BJP and Congress acknowledge the importance of elections but recognize the need to tread carefully. "We can't celebrate loudly when people are suffering," says BJP Manipur President A Sharda Devi.

This cautious approach is also reflected in the lack of election activity in regions like Moreh and Churachandpur, where some communities have even called for a boycott of the polls.

Amidst the ongoing ethnic strife and displacement, special polling stations will be set up at relief camps to ensure that displaced people can vote. However, the candidates have yet to visit these camps, where residents long for peace and resolution.

In the midst of these challenges, Manipur's subdued election climate underscores the region's yearning for stability and peace.

As the Lok Sabha elections in Manipur draw nearer, the region's struggles with violence and displacement cast a shadow over the electoral process. At least 219 lives have been lost in the ethnic conflict since May 3 last year, stemming from protests against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

With over 50,000 internally displaced persons residing in relief centers across eight districts, including five valley districts and three hill districts, the focus is not only on campaigning but also on ensuring that these displaced individuals have the opportunity to exercise their democratic right.

Scheduled to be held in two phases on April 19 and 26, the elections have garnered attention for the unique voting arrangements being made for those living in relief camps. However, the absence of candidates visiting these camps speaks volumes about the challenges facing Manipur's displaced population and their desire for resolution and peace.

In regions like Moreh and Churachandpur, where the Kuki communities are prevalent, there is a palpable sense of disillusionment with the electoral process, with some factions and societal groups even calling for a boycott of the polls.

While signs of normalcy may be emerging in the Meitei-inhabited Imphal Valley, symbolized by the reopening of businesses and institutions, the pervasive presence of security forces underscores the persistent tensions and uncertainties that linger.

As Manipur navigates through these turbulent times, the subdued election climate reflects not only the region's challenges but also its resilient spirit as it strives for stability and a brighter future.

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