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Thursday, June 13, 2024

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Modi: Speak to the people of Manipur they need hope

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On August 6, 2021, I had the privilege of meeting you Prime Minister Modi.

The experience was a defining moment in my life. I had never imagined I would meet the Prime Minister of India and more importantly you Mr Modi.

You have been someone I have always had an admiration for because of your immense determination and dedication to rise up from your humble beginnings to lead first Gujarat and then India towards its new global position of respect. You have always been an inspiration to me.

When we met along with my co-author Amit Bagaria of the book ‘Modi Stole My Mask’, I was even more touched by your simplicity, humility, and humane approach to life and politics, which I learned about you in our conversation that lasted for 25 minutes.

I was even more touched when you called me ‘Your Friend from Goa’ and hugged me, and asked your colleague to request your photographer to take a picture of the three of us. I fondly remember, how you pulled our leg, saying ‘You both have already told the world that ‘Modi Stole My Mask’, so please remove the masks and take a picture’. That wittiness was spontaneous and caught me off-guard because I expected you to be someone of a serious nature.

I still affectionately remember our entire conversation. And both Amit and I left the room with immense gratitude to meet a political leader that our nation will remember for decades to come.

It is believing in the bond of that friendship that I write to you with all humility on Friendship Day because, behind the astuteness of being one the world’s most powerful and respected global leaders, you are also a good human being.

I am sitting at my table in a small guest house in a village in Manipur writing this open letter to my friend because I am so deeply depressed listening to the plight of the people in Manipur. Over the last 48-hrs, I have interacted with people across communities – Meities, Kukis, Nagas, and Gorkhas, and even people from UP and Bihar who have made Manipur their home. I have also visited several relief camps for the displaced people of Manipur who have become the victims of a conflict that has turned violent and the violence continues unabated since May 3rd, 2023.

Manipur is at the tipping point of a civil war and I feel that the current spate of violence will not cease because the hate that prevails is blinding both communities. They cannot see beyond their pain, plight, and need to survive. They want to live and live in peace and harmony. They also want a Manipur without the evils of conflict and the violence that often comes with it. Most of the people are mere pawns in a larger game of control over the Rs 70,000 crore growing narcotics business. The perpetrators trying to control the business and those who vying to get a foothold in the business know that the need for a hold over the land is vital to control the business. Around this harsh truth are the territorial, political, and communal games being played. No one is a saint here and that is a fact known to most people in Manipur but they prefer to remain silent or toe the line of their community.

I never thought in New India, I would see young men with sophisticated weapons patrolling their territory who were not belonging to the armed forces or local police but a group of militants. Or women of different ages block the highways at different nodal points to stop people from going to places where the population of rival communities is more. If a Meitei were to be caught in a Kuki territory, they would be butchered or if a Kuki is caught in a Meitei territory they would be slaughtered. Churches were burnt down, temples were burnt down (to demolish a temple in the Kuki territory reportedly a JCB was used). Kukis in the valley had to flee to the hills. Meitei in the hills had to flee to the valley. Houses burned down and everything was looted. And more horrifically, some reports reveal that there are at least one known cases where inter-community married couples were killed and women raped.

In a conflict, at most times, the first casualty is innocence. The violence, brutal rapes, and murders committed in Manipur are a reflection that innocence has been lost in a state whose people have been known to be hospitable and down-to-earth.

I had no words of hope to give to a Meitei mother who lost her 40-year-old son, who was brutally killed, while he was sleeping unarmed at home. And I did not have words to give hope to his wife and three young kids that lost a husband and a father in the most horrific way. They showed me the photographs and I saw tears in the eyes of the three young children – two girls and one boy.

I also had no words of hope to give a Kuki grandmother who lost her 26-year-old grandson in an act of brutal violence. He was attacked, injured, and died due to his injuries. His grandmother in an act that made me feel so low and meaningless, bent down to touch my feet, pleading to me as a journalist in her own language to help stop this madness and bloodshed.

The report of rapes are a shocking reality but many young women do not want to report cases because of social stigma. A rape for rape, shockingly was the reasoning given to me by women of a community. If they rape our women, there is nothing wrong if our men rape their women. I was horrified by this vicious thinking. A rape for rape will drape Manipur and India with shame.

The disappointment at you Mr Modi, is so high across the conflicting communities. This disappointment is coming out of a sense of hopelessness. Many of the women I spoke to on the road across Manipur and at relief camps housing people of the Meitei and Kuki communities, wanted to know why is it that Mr. Modi is not talking to us. Some were also angry and hurt thinking that you do not care about the people of Manipur, especially the women. Some even went to the extent to tell me that they are extremely shocked at your silence and are in a state of despair as they see no resolution to their pain and strife. I listened to them because sometimes it is important to let people vent their anger and frustrations.

The people I spoke to felt orphaned because of your silence over Manipur. Their anguish comes from the hope they have in you as a leader. They are clinging to that hope, believing that if there is someone who can inspire confidence and rescue them from this time of conflict and violence it is you.

I do not know the reason for your silence, but I am sure that they would be compelling because I know you Mr. Modi will find a solution to the conflict in Manipur. But they do not know you personally, they see you as a leader who can ease their pain and horrific sufferings. They want hope to live on and to fight on, and that hope can come only from you because you are the Prime Minister of India and more importantly because you care for every Indian.

Speak to and for the people of Manipur, they want to hear you. You have the power to stop the insanity currently prevalent in the state. While I have no doubt in my mind that Manipur is in your mind and you are working to resolve the conflict, sometimes people in pain need a kind word of assurance and someone holding their hands telling them, ‘Don’t worry, I am there. We shall overcome.’

I do not care about the politics around Manipur or the intent of the international lobby that wants to bring you down, I know people are using the conflict in Manipur to damage your reputation and that of India. You will prevail and continue to lead India because you are a leader India needs.

I care about the people of Manipur and I care about the fact that you are a good human being at heart and also that I know you are pained about the conflict in Manipur and you will help bring about conflict resolution.

Forgive me, if I have overstepped my boundary as a friend. But just like the people of Manipur, I believe that you as the Prime Minister of India can bring peace and harmony to the state as it badly is in need of it.

Happy Friendship Day Mr Modi! You are a friend, I truly cherish!

3 COMMENTS

  1. DIL KI BAAT. TO MANN KI. BAAT

    TRUTHFUL, TRANSPERANT, OPENNESS

    VERY RARE TO SEE SUCH DARE ENOUGH TO WRITE OUR PM MODIJI- COURAGEOUS

    TRUE FRIENDSHIP WILL HAVE ACTION

  2. Well said, Savio.
    I am sure that Modi also must be troubled seeing the violence in this part of the country and must be working hard to find a solution.
    As you and I both know, peace can only come from one true peace giver – Jesus Christ.
    Nevertheless and that said, we must pray for our leaders that they have wisdom from above to deal with such situations and even more to find the right solutions.
    All of us want peace in Manipur so lives can be protected and that life has victory over enmity. Eye for an eye is no solution but will only lead to more hatred.
    Let’s pray and hope that God Almighty intervenes and a amicable solution be found which lasts.

  3. Very moving yet the true reporting we were missing…to read in newspapers and watch on channels..,.. good that you are there and we could get an unbiased report. The reason why PM’s voice everyone wants to hear is because of his habit of commenting on each and everything….,. otherwise surely he must have been taking decisions….we may not be aware of…. after all it’s his reputation as everything stops at his door.
    Loved the way you wrote as a friend which also brings to light a compassionate, lovable and strong character of the reporter who also happens to have a stake nonthles.

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