Bharatiya Janata Party's national spokesperson, Shehzad Poonawalla, in a recent TV debate with national spokesperson for the Indian National Congress Supriya Shrinate claimed that the then prime minister of the UPA government, Manmohan Singh never visited or spoke about Assam or any other northeast state when violence erupted during his tenure.
"During the 8-year rule of the UPA government, 8,000 incidents occurred of which 2,000 people of the northeast region were killed. If one word had been uttered by Manmohan Singh then I will change my name," Poonawalla said.
"He (Singh) was chosen from Assam but he used to not go to Assam," the BJP spokesperson further added.
Opposition parties are criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for taking more than two months to react to the ethnic violence in Manipur after a video of two tribal women being paraded naked by a mob of men surfaced on the internet.
In response to the criticism from the opposition, ministers and party members of the BJP have resorted to comparing the intensity of the current violence to violent clashes during the UPA regime.
More than 160 people have been killed, and several injured since ethnic violence broke out in the state on May 3, 2023, The Hindu reported.
Fact-check: Did Manmohan Singh visit the North East region when violence broke out during his tenure?
The then-prime minister did visit Assam two weeks after clashes broke out in Kokrajhar, Chirang, Dhubri and Bongaigaon districts in July, 2012, as per an archived official website managed by the National Informatics Centre. Violence between Bodo tribes and Muslims in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts killed more than 100 people and left at least 3.5 lakh Muslims displaced.
During his visit to the relief camps in Kokrajhar, Singh said, "I am saddened to see what has happened. This should not have happened in the first place. It is a blot on our nation. Together we need to bring peace back.."
Moreover, the following month, Singh had addressed the Rajya Sabha during the discussion on violent clashes in Assam.
"I would like to say that whatever may have happened in Kokrajhar and other areas should not be used as an occasion to fan rumours to create an environment in other parts of our country that the people from the North-East feel insecure. What is at stake is the unity and integrity of our country; what is at stake is communal harmony; and, it is the solemn obligation of all of us, regardless of the party that we may belong to, to work together to create an atmosphere when this rumour mongering will come to an end, that the people of the North-Eastern States feel genuinely that any part of our country welcomes them. If there are any miscreants, if there are people who are fanning these rumours, I think they should be brought to book," Singh said.
Further, in February, 2014, Singh had issued another statement on the attack on Nido Taniam, a college student from Arunachal Pradesh who was killed in a South Delhi market.
Singh said, “The attack on Nido Taniam, the student from Arunachal Pradesh, is most condemnable. While the actual cause of Nido Taniam’s death will be known only after the autopsy report is received, the violence which preceded his demise is tragic and shameful. Our Government will make every possible effort to punish the guilty and to provide effective protection to students and citizens from other parts of the country, especially the North East, who visit or reside in Delhi."
Previously, amid the economic blockade by the United Naga Council in Manipur in 2011, Singh had issued a statement during his visit to the state on December 3, 2011.
"We are aware that the recent road blockades by some groups caused immense hardships to the common people of Manipur. While the Central government did extend all possible support to the State government for meeting the crisis and making essential commodities available to the people, the blockades were painful for the people of the State and harmful to its economy. Though the economic blockades have now ended, it is incumbent upon all of us to deliberate about the efficacy of such acts. To my mind, there are no winners in such disruptive activities, there are only losers. It is my hope that we will not see a repeat of such actions in the future," he said.
North-East Insurgency Statistics between 2004-2022
Between 2004 and 2022 (up to July 13, 2022), 14,606 insurgency incidents have been recorded in the North East region which includes Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura, Boom's analysis of data from the Home Ministry's annual reports show.
According to recorded official data, insurgency has reduced by 83% in the North East, from 1,234 incidents in 2004, to 209 in 2021. Data also shows a 93% drop in deaths of security personnel and a 94.4 decline in the deaths of civilians in the North-East region.
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