The state of Manipur in north-eastern India has been plagued by recurring inter-ethnic clashes, primarily involving the Meitei and Kuki communities. These violent confrontations have led to a staggering death toll of over 90 people, the burning of more than 1,700 buildings (including homes and religious sites), and displacement of more than 40,000 people. As the conflict continues, these numbers may rise even further.
NO-CONFIDENCE LOOMS AS VIOLENCE PERSISTS IN MANIPUR
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to face a vote of no-confidence in parliament after the main opposition party, Congress, regarding the continuous violence in Manipur, introduced a motion. The speaker accepted this and a further date would be decided for the discussion. However, criticism was directed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not adequately addressing the crisis in Manipur and instead focusing solely on a viral video depicting atrocities against women. The government’s heavy legislative schedule, including the passing of the forest conservation (amendment Bill), also raises concerns. This shift in focus is seen as a way to divert attention from the broader orchestrated violence in the state.
ROOT CAUSES OF THE CONFLICT
The violence in Manipur is not an isolated incident but rather a manifestation of deeper historical issues prevalent in India’s northeast. Ethnic identities in the region have been exploited by powerful entities to serve their own interests. The lack of efforts to foster understanding and reconciliation among different communities regarding their histories, cultures, and traditions has contributed to the perpetuation of tension and hostility.
RECENT TRIGGER FOR VIOLENCE
The recent surge in violence can be traced back to a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ held in the 10 hill districts of Manipur on May 3. The march was organized to protest against the demand by the Meitei community for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. This demand, which has been brewing for over a decade, intensified after a Manipur High Court order directed the state government to recommend an ST tag for the Meitei community to the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry.
UNEQUAL REPRESENTATION AND LAND ISSUES
A major underlying factor in the conflict is the perceived domination of plainsmen Meiteis in Manipur’s government, while tribal communities, such as the Nagas and Kukis, feel underrepresented. The government’s actions, particularly regarding Indigenous land rights, have been viewed with suspicion by these communities. Efforts to survey reserved forests and curb poppy cultivation have led to evictions in Kuki villages, causing discontent and alarm.
INFLUX OF REFUGEES
The influx of refugees from Myanmar, particularly those with ties to the Kuki community, has further contributed to the sense of insecurity among the Meitei community. Vulnerable populations, particularly women and children, most acutely feel the conflict’s impact.
The region’s long-standing grievances are also exacerbated by the imposition of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which has generated past incidents of protest and tragedy, gaining national attention.
MANIPUR’S RICH RESOURCES
The hills of Manipur are abundant in natural and forest resources, leading to concerns about exploitation by political forces and corporate interests, adding another layer of complexity to the conflict.
The ethnic clashes in Manipur between the Meitei and Kuki communities are deeply rooted in historical grievances, unequal representation, and concerns over land and resources. The recent demand for Scheduled Tribe status for the Meitei community acted as a catalyst, reigniting tensions and violence. To address the conflict and foster lasting peace, efforts must be made to engage in dialogue, promote understanding, and address the underlying socio-political and economic issues that have long fuelled the violence in India’s Northeastern region.