Manipur assembly elections | IMFL stores will be reopened if BJP returns to power, says CM Biren Singh

A controversial statement is likely to draw a strong backlash from anti-alcohol organizations and insurgents.

A controversial statement is likely to draw a strong backlash from anti-alcohol organizations and insurgents.

Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh made another controversial statement, saying that if the BJP returns to power, the state government will reopen Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) stores.

Strong reactions are expected from the anti-alcohol and anti-drug organization Coalition Against Drugs and Alcohol (CADA) and nearly every insurgent group in the state.

Speaking at an election-related ceremony on February 24, Mr Singh said several people were dying after consuming toxic alcohol. In order to “save” the people, the BJP government would reopen IMFL stores.

The banned underground group People’s Revolutionary Front forced the closure of all foreign liquor stores beginning January 1, 1991. There were 63 liquor stores and three bonded warehouses for a small state with a population of less than 17 lakh at the time. The ubiquitous roadside kiosks were openly selling IMFL bottles.

Other insurgent groups have joined the campaign. Many repeat smugglers were given kneecaps, and habitual drunkards were beaten and forced to swim in freezing water. Women also joined the campaign. When the government made the silent decision to reopen liquor stores to earn big revenue, the insurgents said the campaign was still on.

“False Encounters”

In a joint statement, Babloo Loitongbam, executive director of Human Rights Alert and Renu Takhellambam, president of the Association of Extrajudicial Execution Victims Families Manipur (EEVFAM), urged politicians not to politicize the killing of 1,528 civilians in “fake encounters”.

The cases are pending before the Supreme Court.

Ms. Takhellambam said, “People expected the BJP government to cooperate to expedite the resolution of cases. By order of the Supreme Court, the CBI opened an investigation. There has not been much progress since the sanction of the prosecution has been refused for around thirty cases involving the central forces”.

In the run-up to the previous Manipur Assembly poll, the BJP used these alleged fake meetings to trash the Congress.

At election meetings for the upcoming Assembly ballot, Mr Singh said that during Congress rule, women could not sleep peacefully as they worried about their sons and husbands. They had to stay in mosquito-infested roadside sheds while waiting for male family members.

He added, “Today everyone can – and does – sleep peacefully as there is no false encounter under BJP rule.”

Ms. Takhellambam added, “The BJP came to power in 2017 in Manipur. But the fake encounters had ceased before the formation of the BJP-led coalition government in Manipur.

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