One year has come to a pass since the fire was lit in Manipur, on May 3rd, 2023. On this day, an unprecedented ethnic-religious violence erupted between the Meiteis and Kuki-Zo people. Over 200 lives were lost, thousands of people displaced and property, including places of worship, vandalised. 

Although the violence eventually came to a difficult end, peace, law and order have yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s everything you need to know about the horrendous Manipur crisis. 

The Starting Point:

The Northeastern state of India, Manipur is home to a myriad of communities – the Meiteis, Nagas and Kukis. The Meitei community, mainly Hindus, makes up the major chunk of the population pie that lives in the Imphal Valley while the Kukis, predominantly Christians, reside in the hills. 

As the Meiteis make up 53% of the population they might seem to appear to have the upper hand enjoying immense social, political and economic advantages. However, despite being the majority, they occupy only 10% of Manipur’s land while the Kukis, along with 33 other minority tribes, are geographically more spread out in the poorer hilly areas. 

Another major reason for the clash is the difference in ethnicities.

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The Kukis are recognised as the ‘Scheduled Tribe’ under Indian law. This assures its members access to state-run educational institutions, government jobs, and exclusive rights such as the right to buy and own land in the State’s recognised tribal areas.

However, the Meiteis are also classified under the “socially and economically backward class” and enjoy certain benefits on account of this categorisation; but the community has been demanding tribal status so as to “save (its) ancestral land, tradition, culture and language”. This is what the Kukis are against. They believe that if the Meitei, who already enjoy a vast population strength in the region, get to access the benefits of this status then gradually they will even corner the reserved jobs and start acquiring land in the hills, thus displacing the Kukis.

This is how the clash started. The Manipur High Court accepted this long-standing demand of the Meiteis. The Kuki community started protests, only to meet the Meiteis’ counter-protests; and the clash then turned severely violent with news of rapes, deaths and destruction making the headlines.

From May Last Year To May This Year:

The unprecedented violence in Manipur has deepened the fault lines between the adversarial communities. The contrasting demands, that is, with the Kuki-Zo advocating for a separate administration and the Meiteis pitching for action against the alleged ‘narco-terrorism’ of the former caused immense bloodshed in the past year.

This deadly combination of apathy and partisanship only aggravated the situation in Manipur with the passage of time. A dangerous vacuum has been created that is now occupied by radical forces.

Although the scale of violence has diminished, its aftereffect still lingers. The youth in Manipur, primarily in their late 20s and early 30s, have taken up arms in the strife-torn state, to protect villages. They have been trained in basic combat tactics and can be seen wearing uniforms and patrolling with weapons. 

Every day in shifts, a group of armed youngsters patrol roads around Manipur’s villages to keep residents safe from the warring factions of Meitei and Kuki. They said that the authorities “could not do enough to protect us”

For peace to return, immediate aims to democratic channels of inter-community dialogue facilitated by political stakeholders and civil society need to be opened. 

The United Nations has also commented on the ongoing situation, saying, “We are appalled by the reports and images of gender-based violence targeting hundreds of women and girls of all ages, and predominantly of the Kuki ethnic minority. The alleged violence includes gang rape, parading women naked in the street, severe beatings causing death, and burning them alive or dead.”

We have serious concerns about the apparent slow and inadequate response by the Government of India, including law enforcement, to stem physical and sexual violence and hate speech in Manipur,” the experts added. 

A simultaneous address of Manipur’s historical fault lines such as colonial, archaic land regulations that have contributed to ethno-spatial segregation has to take place.

Bringing forth a solution-oriented approach is the need of the hour, given the strategic location of Manipur, that is, along India’s border with neighbouring Myanmar. Therefore, normalcy has to return to Manipur real quickly.

Image Credits: Google Images

Feature image designed by Saudamini Seth

Sources: The Wire, The Telegraph, The Economic Times 

Find the blogger: Unusha Ahmad

This post is tagged under: Manipur, Kuki-Zo, Meiteis, India, politics, UN, United Nations, ethnic, violence, war, clash

Disclaimer: We do not hold any right, or copyright over any of the images used, these have been taken from Google. In case of credits or removal, the owner may kindly mail us.

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