NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s opposition accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of choosing silence while a northeastern state governed by his party convulsed in ethnic violence as Parliament began debate Tuesday on a no-confidence motion against his government that’s certain to be defeated.
“If Manipur is burning, India is burning. If Manipur is divided, India is divided,” Congress party lawmaker Gaurav Gogoi said as he opened debate on the motion.
For three months, Modi has been largely silent on the bloodshed in the remote state, which teeters on the brink of a civil war, and the opposition moved the no-confidence motion to force Modi to address the Manipur conflict from the floor of Parliament.
He is expected to speak Thursday when the motion will be put to a vote. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled government holds a clear majority in Parliament, meaning the motion is certain to be defeated.
Gogoi said the no-confidence motion was never about numbers, but about seeking justice for Manipur. He said Modi’s silence showed the failure of his party on a state and federal level, and said Modi “has not uttered a word of condolence” or even appealed for peace in Manipur since the violence began in early May.
Top opposition leader Rahul Gandhi is also expected to speak on Tuesday, a day after his parliamentary seat was restored. A fiery critic of Modi and his main challenger in the 2024 polls, Gandhi was expelled from Parliament in March after a court convicted him for defamation over mocking the prime minister’s surname.
He was reinstated as a member of Parliament on Monday after India’s Supreme Court temporarily halted his conviction last week. The move is likely to strengthen a struggling opposition and their new alliance, which will take on Modi’s BJP in next year’s general election.
India’s Parliament has been locked in an intense impasse for weeks over the crisis in Manipur. Sessions nearly every day have been adjourned over protests and sloganeering from the opposition. They have also called for the firing of Biren Singh, Manipur’s top elected official and a BJP member, and to impose a rule that would bring the state under direct federal control.
More than 150 deaths have occurred in Manipur and over 50,000 people have fled in fear as clashes continue to erupt.
The conflict was triggered by an affirmative action controversy in which Christian Kukis protested a demand by mostly Hindu Meiteis for a special status that would let them buy land in the hills populated by Kukis and other tribal groups and get a share of government jobs.
Critics say the government has shared very little publicly on the situation in Manipur and their plans to resolve it. Last month, a video surfaced showing an assault on two women being paraded naked and groped in Manipur. Modi condemned the incident, even as he refrained from addressing the overall conflict.
Home Minister Amit Shah visited the state in May and held talks with community leaders and groups, but the violence has persisted despite these efforts and a heavy army presence.