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British Indian MP, 21 others urge UK to halt FTA talks over Manipur violence

Indian-origin British MP Nadia Whittome has tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons calling the UK to halt its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks with India in the wake of the ethnic violence in Manipur.

The motion, signed by 21 other MPs, also urged the government to raise the issue of human rights violations in Manipur with the Indian government.

“While the Tories are negotiating a free trade agreement with India, minorities face persecution under BJP rule. I tabled a motion highlighting the campaign of violence against the Kuki-Zo people in Manipur,” Whittome wrote on X (formerly Twitter) recently.

“FTA talks must be halted while this continues,” the Labour MP for Nottingham East added.

The motion tabled earlier this month notes “the ongoing, grave human rights violations in Manipur, India, including acts of sexual violence, extrajudicial killings, home destruction, forced displacement, torture and ill-treatment, predominantly targeting the Kuki-Zo people, a tribal community who are largely Christian”.

Highlighting that UN experts have raised serious concerns about the slow and inadequate response by India, the motion stated that it “recognises that these human rights violations occur as part of wider attacks on religious and ethnic minorities across India, many of which public officials have been accused of aiding and abetting”.

Early day motions are submitted for debate in the House of Commons for which no day is fixed, due to which very few are debated.

However, many attract a great deal of public interest and media coverage.

Whittome’s Punjabi Sikh father emigrated to the UK from Banga, Punjab at the age of 21. Her mother is an Anglo-Indian Catholic solicitor and former member of the Labour Party.

On Tuesday, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said efforts are on to ensure there is adequate law-and-order enforcement in Manipur and find a way by which a sense of normalcy returns to the northeastern state.

“…I think one part of the problem in Manipur has been the destabilising impact of migrants who have come,” Jaishankar said in response to a question raised on the situation in Manipur at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

“But there are also tensions which obviously have a long history which precede that. And today, I think the effort is on the part of the state government and the Union government to find a way by which a sense of normalcy returns, that arms which were seized during that period are recovered, that there is an adequate law-and-order enforcement out there so that incidents of violence don’t happen,” he said.

Beginning this week, fresh protests erupted in the state after two students, who had gone missing in July were found murdered, with mobile internet services in the state snapped once again.

A team of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials is reportedly reaching Imphal today to investigate the “kidnapping and killing” of two students.

At least 175 people have been killed, 1,108 injured and 32 remain unaccounted for since the ethnic violence erupted in Manipur on May 3.

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