Manipur, an Indian State being in limelight many times due to its communal, land disputes since 1951 to present. Even before that Manipur had a lengthiest conflict history. Now-a-days Manipur have raised an internal crisis as many of us have seen it through the news. Turbulent behaviour of citizens over there have been hauled up to an extent where it cannot be tolerated anymore. The protests were started on May 3rd 2023. Manipur unrest is going on and no status of peace in the state.
KEYWORDS: Manipur, Meitei, Kuki, Naga, HC order, ST status, Article 371C of the Indian Constitution, Eviction of encroachment, Drug trade, Poppy cultivation, Myanmar.
Manipur, a North-Eastern state of India, Imphal being its capital, possess diverse culture, tradition tribes. Manipur had played the role of a Princely State as well as a Union Territory.
It had many disputes with its neighbour Burma (Myanmar), one of these clashes led to the so called seven years devastation in its history. Then king viz. Gambhir Singh, supported by the British to oust the Burmese from Manipur. Later on the British started to intervene in the administration of Manipur, which started the war between them.
Manipur forces were defeated and killed by the British on 23rd April which is commemorated as “Khongjom Day”, declaring a state holiday every year. On 13th August the British executed the general Thangal and captured the Kangla palace which is observed as “Patriots Day”.
Manipur had given its service in World War II and gained back it’s sovereign independent kingdom powers on August 15, 1947. Manipur Constitution Act, 1947 was enacted by the Maharaja of Manipur, forming a democratic form of government with an elected legislative Assembly and the Maharaja being the Executive head.
On 15th October 1949, Maharaja of Manipur had ended the era of Manipur’s independent kingdom through a merger agreement with the GOI and joined in Indian Union. Manipur became a Union Territory in 1956 (Territorial Councils Act, 1956) and achieved its statehood in the year 1972(North East area re-organization Act, 1971).
Due to many instances of violence even after achieving statehood, Manipur was under Disturbed Area Act from 1980-2004 and also an Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
Manipur crisis can be reasoned through 3 main issues:
1. Eviction drive to remove encroachment
2. Drug trade in Manipur
3. Manipur High Court order
By looking into this to the root level we have the prominent ethnic groups residing in Manipur viz. Meitei, Kuki and Naga. In which Meiteis are OBC & SC and Kuki & Naga comes under ST category.
Meitei community population who are estimated at 53% based on 2023 census, resides in modern day Manipurs 10% of land named Imphal i.e. valley region. Kuki & Naga tribes who are estimated at 40% resides in the major part i.e. hill area of Manipur. Article 371C gives the power on buying and acquiring the land to tribes anywhere in Manipur but not to the Meiteis.
Meiteis are advanced than compared to Kuki & Naga with all the infrastructure, hospitals, education facilities, political supremacy etc. In terms of polity, Kuki & Naga have only 20 legislators out of 60 member Legislative Assembly.
Chronologically the Meiteis ST pleas considered as a start of the most alarming internal security issue rated 7 on scale but before the HC order to the state government one more subject i.e. the eviction of encroachments, played a major role in the triggers to Kuki-Zomi tribes.
Tribal groups alleged that illegal immigration is an excuse under which the Meitei population wants to drive away the tribal population from their lands, when the state government in Manipur began to force out illegal immigrants from Myanmar from state-owned forest reserves and protected reserves in different parts of the state. Earlier this year, when this drive reached villages in Churachandpur on February 21, a stand-off resulted between the state authorities and the people.
But why is this driving away of illegal migrants triggered the Kuki-Zomi tribes?
To one of the conclusions of the Meitei community claiming that the only original inhabitants of Manipur are Meitei and Naga Communities. Kuki-Chin-Mizo are mostly the natives of Myanmar and other areas, which led the Meiteis to have a discussion regarding the eviction with the United Naga Council representing various Naga tribes in Manipur.
Second main conclusion to take a glance at, the evicted areas are the most involved ones in drug trade & Kuki-Chin poppy cultivation. Manipur becoming a part of the Southeast Asia’s golden Triangle(Myanmar, Thailand, Laos), where a huge drug market exists in the form of Opium and brown sugar. The Manipur government’s “war on drugs” campaign has destroyed thousands of acres of poppy farms in the state’s hill districts since 2017. Manipur is becoming a drug producer from drug receiver.
From 2013 Meitei community was making pleas on the basis of ST status to them to both the central and state government. Scheduled Tribes Demand Committee Manipur(STDCM) stood in the frontline to include Meitei in ST category and has pointed out in various representations before Central and state government that the demand is to safeguard the ancestral lands, culture, and identity of the Meitei people, which are constantly threatened by illegal immigrants from Myanmar and other parts of the country. But neither the centre nor the state answered their queries.
On March 27 the Manipur High Court passed an order stating that the State Government to 'consider' the pleas regarding Meiteis ST status after it dragged the subject for 10 years and it was given four months of time limit to send a recommendation to the Central Government. The order, once made public on April 19, even more triggered both the Naga & Kuki-Zomi tribes to the extent which led to the launch of a Tribal Solidarity March in Churachandpur on 3rd May 2023 and expanded to 10 districts out of 16 in Manipur.
The outrageous situations which we’ve read in the news were ignited from here.
Whenever a crisis develops in a state, three major rights of common man would be detached by the government. Same was done in Manipur, Right to move freely(Sec.144 CrPC), Right to Education, Right to Life & Internet.
The way I see it, no strict uniformity of laws in Manipur that can solve the problems raised. Central Governments silent treatment is not at all justifiable. Till now nothing from the Government can be heard as a resolution except for a statement of PM when a video of two girls paraded naked by a mob and raped went viral.
· According to Supreme Court, a Judicial order can never effect the list of STs. No need to have a trigger on it. But this declaration should have been given earlier.
· Government should provide an alternative to the hill farmers in place of poppy cultivation introducing some other cash crops which are safe and suitable to their lands.
· Manipur sharing 400 km of 1,643 km long India-Myanmar border. As we are protecting Kashmir where it shares border with Pakistan. In the same way Manipur should also be protected through political stability, law enforcement agencies, strict government control. Myanmar is considered as an Asia’s next failed state with a huge touch of Chinese influence too.
So, Manipur must be given special security.
· Peaceable discussions between all the North-eastern states as a separate council to eradicate the differences. Whether they are ethnic clashes, boarder issues, state disputes etc.
· Manipur being a state in which the President’s rule applied on a count of 10, seems no help. But if government want to produce a long term solution it should understand the problems to a deeper level and stop the circulation of this land based disputes.
· People have raised, ‘separation should be a solution', Kukis do not want to live with Meiteis after the events happened.
Thereof conflicts between these ethnic groups led to many heart wrenching tragedies. The News goes by- Over 60,000 displaced people staying in 349+ relief camps. 181 were killed as of 29th July 2023. More than 300 wounded. Vandalism(homes, 17 temples) 400+ churches were burned or destroyed, Rioting, Killings estimated at 113 Kukis and 62 Meiteis(lynching), Mutilation, Looting, Mass Rape.
On 31 July, the Supreme Court asked Manipur government to provide complete information regarding FIRs around 6000 related to the violence in the state. The court was upset with the police after learning that it took 14 days for them to register even a zero FIR in case of two women being paraded naked by a mob and were assaulted sexually in public. During the hearing on 1 August, the Supreme Court called the police investigations as “tardy”, and said that the state underwent “absolute breakdown of the constitutional machinery”.
These communities do have a healthy relations in times of national security and during the time of crisis, people of opposite communities aided each other. Hope they restore peace as fast as possible.