Manipur is burning with ethno-communal fire and there is great and immediate need to douse the flames in the state and bring back the state on the track of peace and normalcy .The issue of communal and ethnic violence should not be politicized and all the political parties should cooperate with the powers to bring the state to normalcy.
There is the feeling among the people of the state that they have been abandoned and left in lurch by the centre as well as the state government and this notion and feeling should be removed from the people .This is no time for pointing fingers and blame game and instead the efforts should be made to normalize the situation as the violence has damaged the plural ethos and hundreds of the innocent people have been killed and properties destroyed and torched .
The violence is not in the interest of anyone and needs to be curbed for the interest of the people .The ethnic violence in Manipur has no place in a democracy and it is very unfortunate because ethnic violence cannot be accepted and the BJP government and all the political parties and the centre government should take required steps to normalize the situation so that the lives and property of the people of Manipur are protected and the minority community there will feel safe and secure .
An ethnic clash erupted on 3 May in India’s north –eastern state of Manipur between the Meitie people ,a majority that lives in the Imphal valley ,and the tribal community from surrounding hills ,including the Kuki and Zo people .There have been violent communal clashes in Manipur due to the verdict of high court to give ST reservation to Meitie people .As on 21st June more than 100 people have been killed in the violence and more than 300 others left wounded .
The dispute has to do with a long –standing demand by the Meithi people for a scheduled tribe status under the constitution ,which would give them privileges comparable to the tribal communities .But the tribal community opposes the genuine demand of Meitie people .Thus the trouble spread to various parts of Manipur and it does not die down and has damaged the diverse cultural heritage of the state and the need is to curb the ethnic violence so that people will live in peace and mutual brotherhood .
In April 2023 Manipur high court verdict directed the state government to make a decision on the issue preferably within four weeks .The tribal communities protested the Meithi demand .The All India Tribal Students Association of Manipur –ATS UM conducted a solidarity march in all hill districts on 3 May .By the end of march , clashes broke out between the Meithi and Kuki populations in and around the Churachandpur district bordering the Imphal valley .
The Indian army flew in close to 10,000 troops and paramilitary forces to restore law and order .Internet services in the state were suspended for a period of five days and section 144 of the IPC was invoked .The Indian troops were given ‘’shoot on sight’ ’order to enforce the curfew in extreme cases .A penal was constituted under a retired chief justice to investigate the violence ,while a peace committee was formed under the governor and security advisor Kuldeep Singh along with members of civil society to bring peace between the communities and for their cordial relations .
The CBI will probe six cases related to conspiracy in the violence ,ensuring a neutral investigation to uncover the root causes .The chief minister of Manipur N.Biren Singh stated that the riots were investigated by prevailing misunderstanding between two communities and appealed for restoration of normalcy .Shashi Tharoor ,a member of parliament called for presidents rule and blamed the BJP –led government saying it has failed to govern the state .Peter Machado ,the Metropolitan Archbishop of Bangalore expressed concern that the Christian community is being made to feel insecure adding that the seventeen churches were either vandalized ,desecrated or defiled .
Olympic medalist Mary Kom ,a native of Manipur tweeted an appeal seeking help for her home state .The union minister of Home Affairs Amit Shah had cancelled his campaign program for Karnataka election and held meetings with Biren Singh monitoring the situation in Manipur .A BJP MLA ,Dinganglung Gangmei ,petitioned the supreme court against the high court’s recommendation to the state government to add Meitie people to ST list .On 12th May 223,all the ten MLA’s including eight from BJP issued a statement demanding a separate body to be created to administer their community under the constitution of India in the wake of the violent ethnic clashes .
They alleged that the violence had been tacitly supported by the BJP run government and that living under a Meitie majority administration after violence would be as good as death for their community .Five organizations of the tribal students of Manipur in Delhi also demanded a probe into the alleged involvement of two radical Mietie groups Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun in the violence .There should be no selectivity in the condemnation of the violence including rape on the women in the country and the political parties should not single out Manipur only .
There should be no politicking on rape and violence in different states and the atrocities against women should stop as it has no place in a democracy and civilized world. The UNHCHR human rights Volker Turk said in a statement that violence in Manipur revealed the underlying tensions between different ethnic and indigenous groups .He urged the authorities to respond to the situation quickly including by investigating and addressing root causes of the violence in line with their international human rights organizations .
On May 20th hundreds of women from kuki ,Mizo,and Zomi tribes staged a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi demanding the intervention of the centre government to end communal violence and communal tensions in Manipur .The women waved national flags and held posters declaring themselves as Indians ,not immigrants ,while criticizing the state government stirring tensions by evicting of Kuki villagers from reserved forest land .On May 30th eleven international and national award –winning sportspersons from the state said that they will return their awards if the territorial integrity of the state is compromised .
If the government does not meet our demands ,the sportspersons said that they will not represent India and will not help in training new talent .Violent ethnic clashes in northeast India have a long history but the effects could reverberate across south Asia and it is a big and serious concern .It is very unfortunate that blood –curdling visuals have emerged from which shows three women being paraded naked and being dragged by dozens of the people .
The three women belonged to Mietie population and it is very bad and shameful .There is outrage in India over video of Manipur women paraded naked and raped .This is a savage act and those involved in this shameful act should be arrested and given stringent punishment so that such heinous crimes will not take place in future .This shameful incident took place on May 4,a day after deadly riots broke out between the Meitei and Kuki –Zo tribes in the remote Indian state .
The video emerged after more than two months due to internet ban in Manipur since May 3-a move that has been widely criticized by rights activists and non –BJP opposition .Breaking his two month silence on the Manipur violence PM Modi said the incident had filled his heart with grief and anger .’’Any civil society should be ashamed by it’ ’,he said ahead of a parliament session where the opposition members demanded a statement from Modi on Manipur .
India’s supreme court said it was deeply disturbed by the viral video and asked the state and federal governments to inform the top court of the steps taken to catch the perpetrators. ’’In a constitutional democracy ,it is unacceptable ,’’CJ of India DY Chandrachud said. .Therefore the communal and ethnic violence in the state should end for a lasting peace and normalcy .Manipur has witnessed repeated inter-ethnic clashes primarily between two local ethnic communities, the Meitei and kuki .The violence has resulted in over 75 deaths and burning of 1700 buildings .It is unfortunate that more than 35,000 people are currently displaced as well ,with many now living in one of the 315 relief camps .As the fighting continues these numbers will also swell .
While the violence in Manipur is some of the worst witnessed in the state in decades ,it is not an unfamiliar occurrence in India’s Northeast where the identities of different ethnic communities have repeatedly been demonized to serve the interests of a powerful few. The BJP should shun its policy of divide and rule with the people of Manipur who have the talent of fighting injustice. .Manipur has a long history of insurgency and currently many insurgent groups back several Naga groups and and nearly thirty Kuki armed insurgent organizations .
Recently an all party meeting was chaired by the home minister Amit Shah to discuss the ways and means to find an amicable and all acceptable solution of the ethnic and communal violence so the normalcy will fast return and the burning of Manipur with recurrent and continuous clashes will be extinguished in the interest of the people of the state.
(The author is a columnist, social and KP activist)