- By Cherylann Mollan
- BBC News, Mumbai
Indian opposition leader and Congress MP Rahul Gandhi’s tour of the violence-hit Manipur state has been stopped abruptly by the police, the party said.
Mr Gandhi is in the north-eastern state on a two-day visit to meet people displaced by the violence and leaders of civil society groups.
For the past two months, Manipur has been convulsed by clashes between the majority Meitei and Kuki communities.
More than 100 people have died and over 400 have been wounded so far.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held a meeting with top government officials to review the situation in Manipur but he has been criticised for not visiting the state or commenting on the situation there.
Almost a month after violence began, Home Minister Amit Shah visited the state to put in place a plan to restore normalcy, but fresh incidents of violence continue to be reported almost daily.
After arriving in capital Imphal on Thursday morning, Mr Gandhi had shared a Facebook post saying that “restoration of peace is the top priority. Manipur needs healing, and only together we can bring harmony”.
But soon, senior Congress leader KC Venugopal told reporters that Mr Gandhi’s convoy had been stopped by police near Bishnupur district while he was on his way to Churachandpur town to visit relief camps.
“Police say that they are not in a position to allow us. People are standing on both sides of the road to wave to Rahul Gandhi. We are not able to understand why have they stopped us?” Mr Venugopal said.
A police officer told Times of India newspaper that the convoy had been stopped for Mr Gandhi’s security. “We fear repetition of such [violent] events and hence as a precaution, requested the convoy to halt at Bishnupur.”
Congress leaders have reacted sharply to the incident.
Party president Mallikarjun Kharge accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of “using autocratic methods to stall a compassionate outreach” by Mr Gandhi.
“This is totally unacceptable and shatters all Constitutional and Democratic norms. Manipur needs peace, not confrontation,” he tweeted.
Congress MP Jairam Ramesh said Mr Gandhi’s two-day visit to the state was in the spirit of his Bharat Jodo Yatra – a five-month long unity march across the country.
“The Prime Minister may choose to remain silent or be inactive but why stop Rahul Gandhi’s efforts to listen to all sections of the Manipuri society and provide a healing touch?” he said.
Nearly 60,000 people have been displaced due to violence in Manipur and are taking shelter in some 350 camps.
Congress leaders have criticised Mr Singh for not being able to “restore peace and normalcy” in the state and have asked for federal rule to be imposed.
Mr Venugopal tweeted about Mr Gandhi’s visit on Tuesday, and said that the state had been “burning for nearly two months” and “desperately needs a healing touch so that society can move from conflict to peace”.
Since the clashes began early in May, many homes, churches and temples have been destroyed by mobs while the homes of some state ministers and legislators have been attacked and set on fire.
Close to 40,000 security forces have been deployed to quell the violence.
But the situation continues to remain tense. Normal life has been thrown completely out of gear for the locals who are facing curfews, internet shutdowns and sporadic killings and arson.
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