Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing a no-confidence motion in parliament over his handling of the ethnic violence in Manipur, a state in northeastern India that has been rocked by clashes between two communities since early May.
The motion was moved by the opposition Congress party, led by Rahul Gandhi, who visited Manipur on Monday and met with the victims of the violence. Gandhi accused Modi of failing to protect the people of Manipur and of being indifferent to their plight.
“Modi has not uttered a single word on the violence in Manipur. He has not visited the state or spoken to the chief minister. He has abandoned the people of Manipur to their fate,” Gandhi said at a press conference in Imphal, the state capital.
The violence in Manipur began after a rally by indigenous communities against moves to grant tribal status to the main ethnic group in the state, the Meiteis, who are mostly Hindu. The rally was opposed by the Kukis, who are mostly Christian and claim to be the original inhabitants of the state.
The rally turned violent when some Meitei protesters attacked Kuki villages, burning houses, churches and vehicles. The Kukis retaliated by setting fire to Meitei properties and buses. The clashes have resulted in the deaths of around 130 people and the displacement of more than 60,000.
The situation remains volatile, despite the deployment of army and paramilitary forces to quell the disorder. The state government, led by the BJP, has imposed curfew and internet shutdowns in several areas. The authorities have also issued shoot-at-sight orders for extreme cases.
Modi has not commented publicly on the violence in Manipur, but his office said he was closely monitoring the situation and had instructed the home minister to ensure peace and security in the state.
The no-confidence motion is likely to be taken up for debate and voting in parliament on Wednesday. The BJP has a majority in the lower house, but faces a challenge from a united opposition in the upper house.
The motion is seen as a test of Modi’s popularity and leadership ahead of the general elections due next year. Modi has been criticized for his handling of several issues, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the farmers’ protests and the border standoff with China.