Repealing AFSPA from state will take time: CM

KOLKATA, 6th Oct: Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh Saturday said the Manipur People Protection Bill, 2018 will not stop anyone from settling down in the state, and it is not similar to the National Register of Citizens (NRC). He also said that the situation of Manipur is not that of Kashmir. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has been withdrawn from municipal areas but lifting it from rural areas will take a "little more time" as "national integration and unity of India" are important, Biren said, adding that the situation in the state has become relatively peaceful now.

"Unlike the situation in Kashmir, which has to deal with infiltration from Pakistan, identifying aggressors in Manipur is difficult since everything happens internally," he said. With regard to the Manipur People Protection Bill, 2018, he explained that it was passed unanimously by the Manipur assembly on July 23 and aims to grant the status of "natives" to Meiteis, Pangal Muslims, scheduled tribes and others who moved to the state before 1951. Meiteis and Pangal Muslims are ethnic groups of Manipur.

The rest, categorised as "Non-Manipuris", will have to register themselves within one month of the notification of the law. "NRC has nothing to do with Manipur.... NRC is purely for Assam. The People Protection bill is a regulatory bill (that will) not deny anyone (the right) to settle." he said while speaking at the India Today Conclave East.

The only similarity between the NRC and the Manipur People Protection Bill is that both seek to identify people who are not Indians, but the People Protection Bill will not bar anybody from buying property or settling down, Biren said. He also expressed confidence that the Naga Accord, which is yet to come into effect, will not lead to any unrest in Manipur. "PM Narendra Modi has said that the territorial integrity of Manipur will not be impacted by the Naga Accord coming into effect and we trust him," Biren said.

He admitted that initially there were apprehensions that Manipur might lose some land due to the Naga Accord. "But after the assurance given by the PM, the main issues I think have gone." While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cadres may be heard calling individually for a ban on beef-eating in the country, Biren says that the party doesn't interfere with the eating habits of people.

During his interaction, he said that the party leadership never asked him to impose a ban on beef in Manipur alongwith asserting that he did not subscribe to the idea of putting a ban on beef-eating saying it was "never" on his agenda. Among the other Northeast states, cow slaughter is not banned in Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura. Assam, however, regulates it under "fit for slaughter" certificate.

When asked if Biren, like Hemanta Biswa Sarma, was displeased with Rahul Gandhi and if it was the reason for his exit from Congress, Biren initially sidestepped the question, but later admitted that he was unhappy with Gandhi's failure to heed his requests.

"I met him (Rahul Gandhi) two-three times. And I tried to convince him that some changes (are) badly needed in the party...otherwise Manipur is going to be broken. I repeatedly went and requested him. He listened, but he did not act," Biren said.

He also suggested that various Congress governments at the Centre had not done enough for the development of the Northeast. "You see, even after 70 years of Independence, Manipur did not have a direct flight from Delhi to Imphal," the CM said. He said this has changed under the Narendra Modi-led NDA government. "PM Modi took care of the Northeast," he said.

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