Manipur is a state in northeastern India, bordered by Nagaland to the north, Mizoram to the south, and Assam to the west. It is known for its beautiful landscape, rich culture, and vibrant history. However, the state has also been marred by decades of ethnic conflict and insurgency.
Manipur has a diverse population, with several ethnic groups living in different parts of the state. The Meiteis, who are mostly concentrated in the Imphal Valley, are the largest ethnic group. They account for about 53% of the state’s population. The Nagas and Kukis are the other major ethnic groups, living in the hills surrounding the valley. The hills are also home to several smaller ethnic groups.
The Meiteis have traditionally been the dominant group in Manipur. They have held political power for most of the state’s history. The other ethnic groups feel marginalised and excluded from the political process. The Meitei-dominated government has been accused of favouring its own community and neglecting the needs of the other ethnic groups.
Violence In Manipur
The recent violence in Manipur was sparked by a move to grant the Meiteis Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. Scheduled Tribes are communities recognized by the Indian government as being historically disadvantaged and entitled to certain benefits and protections. The Meiteis have been demanding ST status for several years. They have argued that they are also an indigenous community. Therefore, they deserve the same rights and benefits as the other ST communities in the state.
However, this move was opposed by the other ethnic groups, who saw it as a threat to their own ST status. The Nagas and Kukis have been enjoying ST status since Independence. Granting ST status to the Meiteis would dilute their own privileges and benefits.
The opposition to the Meitei demand for ST status led to protests and demonstrations by the other ethnic groups. The All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM) organised a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ on May 4 to protest the move. However, the march turned violent, leading to clashes between the different ethnic groups and causing widespread damage and displacement.
The Nagas and Kuki tribes arranged a protest march due to the Manipur High Court’s order for the state government to forward a proposal to the Center concerning the Meitei community’s request for ST status. Nonetheless, the outbreak of violence in the state, also known as the northeast’s gem, caught everyone off guard, resulting in numerous casualties, injuries, and mass evacuations. As a result, the central government dispatched the Army, Assam Rifles, and central police forces to control the situation.
The Manipur government responded to the violence by issuing a shoot-at-sight order in extreme cases. The Chief Minister, Nongthombam Biren Singh, admitted that “some precious lives were lost” but did not confirm the exact number of casualties. More than 9,000 people were displaced by the violence.
The violence in Manipur is not an isolated incident but is part of a larger pattern of ethnic conflict and insurgency in the region. The Northeast of India has been plagued by separatist movements and ethnic tensions for decades. The various ethnic groups in the region have long felt marginalised by the Indian state and have been fighting for greater autonomy and recognition of their rights.
The situation in Manipur highlights the need for a more inclusive and equitable approach to governance and development in the Northeast of India. The Indian government needs to address the legitimate concerns and grievances of the various ethnic groups in the region and work towards a peaceful and sustainable resolution of the ongoing conflicts.