Manipur Government Refused Congress Permission for Public Rally in Imphal, Can only Flag Off Yatra
NEW DELHI, Jan 10: The BJP-led Manipur government has refused the Congress permission to hold a public rally before flagging off the proposed “Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra” to be led by the party’s former president Rahul Gandhi from its capital city of Imphal.
The party, which planned to launch the Yatra from Hatta Kangjeibung – a historic polo ground in Imphal East district – has been told it can only flag off the march with “limited participants.”
A formal notification from the Imphal East District Magistrate also pointed to a “state function… on the same day” to be attended by the Chief Minister, senior cabinet members, and high-ranking government officials, which will likely take priority in terms of deploying security resources. “Therefore… (will) allow only flagging off of the yatra with limited number of participants. The number and names of the participants may be taken in advance, and all necessary precautionary measures may be taken,” District Magistrate Dr Mayengbam Veto Singh wrote.
The Congress, though, appeared defiant when senior leader KC Venugopal spoke to the press. The Yatra from the north-east to the west of the country, the follow-up to last year’s Bharat Jodo Yatra from south to north, which was credited with the Congress’ Telangana election win, will be held “come what may”, the party said on Wednesday after the BJP government in the state refused it permission for a pre-launch public rally.
“We will do the yatra come what may and will not allow election preparations to be hampered. This is not political… we are seeking justice for the people of this country,” Mr Venugopal said. He pointed out the Congress’ state unit had requested police clearance “well in time,” but insisted the setback would not deter the party and the issue would not be politicised. “This is not a political rally. We are not interested in making a tamasha (scene) we will still do it, but in a new place.”
Confirming the development, Mr Venugopal said: “This morning, we have learnt that the Manipur Government has declined permission to start the Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra from the Palace Ground at Imphal. We are looking for an alternative site but we will start from Imphal itself.” Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee president Keisham Megachandra termed the state government’s decision as “unfortunate” and a “violation of people’s rights”.
Mr Megachandra said, “We met Chief Minister N Biren Singh and sought permission for the venue of ‘Bharat Jodo NyayaA Yatra’ at Hatta Kangjeibung in Imphal East district from where the rally is scheduled to be flagged off. However, the chief minister has declined to permit the same.” A Congress delegation met Mr Singh at the CM Secretariat.
Earlier in the day, Biren Singh’s administration turned down the request citing “reports from concerned agencies (on a) sensitive matter… in the context of the “law and order situation.” The refusal of permission also comes after violence in Moreh, where police and militants exchanged fire along the India-Myanmar border. That border has been in sharp focus these past weeks amid claims the ethnic violence in May, in which 175 people died, and more recent clashes with security forces, were triggered by militants taking advantage of a Free Movement Regime to cross over.
Prior to that Mr Singh had said the Congress’ request was “under the active consideration” of the government. “We are taking reports from various security agencies. After getting reports, we will take a decision,” he said.
The Congress’ new yatra is a 66-day journey covering 6,713 km – by bus and on foot – across 110 districts, 100 Lok Sabha seats, and 337 Assembly segments, culminating in Mumbai on March 20. The yatra has been pitched as the party’s attempt to rouse and unite voters ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election, which is expected in March/April.
The Congress had applied to launch the march from Hatta Kangjeibung in the Imphal East district. The yatra entails traversing through parts of Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat before concluding in Mumbai, Maharashtra. Congress national president Mallikarjun Kharge is scheduled to flag off the programme in the presence of Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled States and other party leaders.