Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 25 February rally in Imphal, Manipur has been shifted away from the historic Kangla Fort after activist Irom Sharmila's Peoples Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) party raised objections about the venue.
According to a report in India Today, the Kangla fort, located on the banks of the Imphal river, is regarded as a holy site by people of Manipur. "According to Manipuri mythology, Lord Pakhangba is believed to be residing under the 'Kangla' palace from where he rules the Kingdom of Manipur and the entire universe," the report said.
Modi was due to address a rally in Imphal on Saturday, to launch the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) poll campaign in the Northeastern state, which will have Assembly election on 4 March. After the PRJA's protest, the party has decided to shift the venue and it will now take place near the CRPF Grounds at Lamsing.
As per a report in DNA, however, the BJP has denied that the change of venue was necessitated by the complaint lodged by PRJA. "There are only two gates at Kangla Fort. It would become difficult for large crowds to enter. Besides, there was apprehension that traffic jams would take place in the area," said Prahlad Singh Patel, BJP's Manipur state unit in-charge.
However, the BJP state secretary gave a third reason altogether to explain the change of venue. The India Today report quoted BJP state general secretary N Nimbus as saying, "This has nothing to do with them (PRJA). The Kangla Fort Board has not granted permission to use the venue, citing that no political events can be held there. So we have relocated it to the Langjing Achouba ground."
Explaining the issue further, The Wire mentioned the Kangla Fort has over 300 places of worship. As per the Election Commission's model code of conduct, no place of worship can be used by a political party as a forum for propaganda.
"The Kangla is a sacred site for us the Manipuris, particularly the Meiteis. We will not tolerate a political slugfest inside the premises of the sacred Kangla. We are outraged as Manipuris that the BJP will even plan something so insulting to us," said Erendro Leichombam, convener of the PRJA party, as per The Wire report.
It further added that the PRJA had earlier lodged another complaint to the EC against the BJP. "It was against the party's posters put in Imphal and other places with the face of the prime minister promising the state an economic package of Rs 12,000 crores. As per the model code of conduct, no such promise can be made by a ruling party," said a functionary from PRJA's media team. "Though the EC responded to that complaint within 48 hours, it has not responded to the latest complaint."
The Kangla fort holds not just historic but also political importance in Manipur. The report in DNA mentioned the bloodshed that has taken place at this venue over the years. In 2004, after 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama was raped and murdered, allegedly by Assam Rifles cadre in the middle of the night, 12 women stripped off their clothes and stood outside Kangla Fort screaming out to army officials standing outside, "Indian Army, rape us!"
Updated Date: Feb 22, 2017 16:27 PM