Manipur Violence: Roots of today lies in the past

By Vinit Naik 


India’s north eastern state Manipur has been in news for the last two months since the ethnic violence broke out. A narrative of communal angle posing Hindus vs Christians is being propagated without telling the world that it’s not communal, but ethnic violence.

Manipur has turned into a tinder box for the last many years. Who is responsible, and how have we reached this situation?

In my view, today’s Manipur Violence is a grievous outcome of Nehruvian folly of outsourcing North-east to Missionaries! A beautiful State is brought on the verge of collapse by historical sins!!

Not only Manipur, but the entire North-east has been a victim of Verrier Elwin’s conspiracy to keep the region into “isolation,” to allow missionaries to harvest conversions. Those who didn’t relent, were forcibly uprooted and pushed away from the national mainstream. Biggest victims of this conspiracy in Manipur are Meiteis, who are largely Hindu Vaishnavites. Changed demography proves it difficult to survive for remaining Hindus in the North-east.

Meiteis were 65% of Total population in 1951 which came down to 48 in 2001, 44 in 2011, and 41.39 % currently, forcing them to face the prospect of becoming minorities in their own State. Meiteis, under Manipur’s Land Reform Act passed by erstwhile Congress governments, aren’t allowed to settle in hill areas, which consists 90 percent of state’s territory. But, tribal Nagas and Kukis, who are mainly Christians, reside in 90% territory and can settle freely into the remaining 10% Meiteis’ territory.

The biggest resentment of Meiteis is that Naga-Kukis have mostly converted to Christianity, whereas Meiteis are mainly Hindu Vaishnavites. Kukis also include illegal Muslim migrants from Myanmar.

So called experts on the subjects does not realize the plight of Meiteis who are original residents of Manipur, and still made live in a restricted area in the state, while no reservation benefits are extended to them as they are removed out of ST Category by Congress, while other two communities with 29 Sub-castes given full freedom to enter all arenas including government Jobs.

Manipuris were also offended by the formation of Nagaland carved out of Manipur. They were ancient kingdoms but had to be satisfied with a Union territory status. Demand for greater Nagalim further aggravated the problem in Manipur. Even today, both states are not on comfortable terms. These historical blunders have pushed Manipur to this tipping point today.

Now, let’s come to the present from the past to proceed on Present Demographic Composition of Manipur.

Manipur is home to Meiteis who’re original residents of the state. They are mainly concentrated in Imphal Valley and represent the real ethnic culture of Manipur, according to me.

Second most Influential group in the state is “Kukis,” who actually belong to the Kuki-Chin-Zo ethnic group that inhabits hill districts of Manipur, neighboring Mizoram and also from Sagaing and Chin provinces of Myanmar. Many times it is alleged that many of them are illegal migrants in India. Currently, Kukis form 30% of Manipur ’s population. The third Influential group is “Nagas” who are around 15% of the population. They’re originally from Nagaland.

In the historical demographic details, Meiteis and Nagas are original residents of Manipur but majority but not all of Kukis are illegal migrants having deep connections with Myanmar and Rohingyas. The Meitei community has been fiercely protesting illegal migration of Kukis for decades. The fact is that due to illegal immigration from Myanmar, the Kukis Population is rapidly increasing. Growth among Kukis is a the rate of whopping 39.54% as compared to 15.72% in Meiteis, which is changing demographic composition rapidly.

Meiteis who are in other backward castes (OBC) category have been demanding ST status for a long time. Kukis and Nagas have consistently opposed this demand as it will affect their dominance in government Jobs.

But there is more to the story than what meets the eyes.

Hindu Meitei were listed as a tribe of Manipur before it was merged with India in 1949, but later they were included in OBC category to deliberately give advantage to Cristian Majority Kukis and Nagas which sowed seeds of constant conflict among all these Tribes. And who was responsible for these deliberate maneuverings? As usual, it was Congress.

Meiteis are also demanding eviction of Kukis from reserved forest areas where they carry illegal Poppy Cultivation which ultimately helps in cross-border drugs trade. Meiteis want to promote fruits and vegetable farming instead.

So there were already fault lines among these communities and occasional disturbances between these communities. Volcano was ready to burst!

What put the final ignition to fire?

On April 19, the high court in Manipur suggested to the state government to “consider case of Meitei petitioners for inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe list”.

This order gave fuel to Anti-India forces to plan the burning of Manipur. Immediately after HC order, “Tribal Solidarity March” was called on May 3 by All-Tribal Students’ Union of Manipur (ATSUM) – an student arm of a Kuki militant outfit in the guise of students union. During this march, violent clashes broke out at many places in Manipur. The worst riots followed when illegal migrant Kukis from Myanmar attacked Meiteis. Majority of those Kukis who had joined militant groups were now openly brandishing high-tech weapons to target the peaceful Meitei community.

Now the question is where are Kukis getting these high-tech weapons and funding?

Answer is: from the drug mafia.

Manipur is badly Infiltrated by the drug mafia which runs a parallel economy in the state for decades. Incumbent BJP government in the state had attacked the drug syndicate by confiscating and destroying drugs worth Rs1888 crores recently.

Overall, the Modi government in India has destroyed drugs worth Rs3.50 lakh crores since June 2014 to March 2023 in north-eastern states. This has rattled the drug trade which takes places through the porous borders of Myanmar. It has also destroyed the economy of “Kuki-Chin” farmers who grow poppy in around 2600 acre area in the state to help produce drugs.

The riots got worse this time, as Meiteis also retaliated and aggressively defended themselves against riots Kukis had imposed on them. Mind you, this is the 5th riot instigated by the Kuki-Chin community since 1992. They have always been aggressors, but are getting back confrontation for the first time.

The agenda in Manipur was carefully narrated as “hindus targeting indigenous tribes” to set the narratives to malign India’s image when it is hosting G-20 summit meetings. And, this can’t be a coincidence that it has happened without involvement of a foreign hand, said Ex Army General Mukund Narvane.

Vinit Naik is a Professor in Finance by profession and analyst of national and geo-politics by passion. Twitter: @MumbaichaDon


Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times 

Images courtesy of Deccan Herald and Provided

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