The recent violence in Manipur stems from disputes over land and special privileges, which have created divisions between religious and ethnic communities in the state. The protests by tribals against the Meitei community have resulted in 54 deaths, including a mob killing of an Indian Revenue Services officer and the shooting of a police commando in his village.
Even an MLA from the ruling BJP, who belonged to the Kuki tribal community, was attacked by the protestors. The army had to intervene and enforce shoot-at-sight orders to control the riots.
Manipur Violence: Key Points
- Although there were several recent factors that triggered the protests, they ultimately arose from the deep-seated divisions within the society, where different groups compete for benefits and rights.
- The ‘Tribal Solidarity March’, which was held by the All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM), resulted in violence in the Torbung area of Churachandpur district.
- The march was organized by various tribes, including Nagas and Kukis, in response to the demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status by the Meitei community, which the Manipur High Court had instructed the state government to recommend to the Centre within four weeks.
- During the march, an armed mob allegedly attacked Meitei community members, sparking retaliatory attacks in the valley districts, which then spread the violence throughout the state.
- The government’s eviction of Kuki villages, which were encroaching on a protected forest area, was another factor that contributed to the already tense situation, and it provided further fuel to the growing animosity against the Meitei community.
Understanding the Conflict in Manipur
Manipur, much like the rest of the northeastern region, consists of a variety of communities that have a history of mistrust towards one another. The Meiteis make up slightly over half of the population, while the tribal communities, consisting of Kukis and Nagas, make up nearly 40%, with Kukis making up 25% and Nagas 15%. Meiteis mostly reside in the Imphal valley, whereas the tribal communities live in the hilly districts.
Although Meiteis are predominantly Hindu, they also follow their ancient animist beliefs and practices, and there are Meitei Pangals who make up 8% of the Meitei population and practice Islam. In 1993, there were conflicts between Meitei Hindus and Muslims in the state. Meiteis are more educated and hold greater representation in business and politics in the state compared to the Kukis and Nagas.
A Look at the Meitei-Kuki Tensions
- The majority of Kukis and Nagas follow the Christian faith. Kukis are dispersed throughout the northeast region of India and Myanmar.
- In Manipur, many Kukis migrated from Myanmar several centuries ago and were initially settled by Meitei rulers in the hills to serve as a barrier between the Meiteis in the Imphal valley and the Nagas who frequently attacked the valley.
- Later, during the insurgency in Nagaland, Naga rebels argued that Kukis were residing in areas that should be part of the separate Naga state they were demanding.
- In 1993, there was intense violence between Nagas and Kukis in Manipur, resulting in the deaths of over a hundred Kukis at the hands of Nagas.
Although Nagas and Kukis have historically been at odds with each other, they are in agreement in their opposition to Meiteis.
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Manipur: Important Takeaways For All Competitive Exams
- Capital of Manipur: Imphal
- Chief Minister of Manipur: Nongthombam Biren Singh
- Manipur Border Sharing: Nagaland to the north, Mizoram to the south, and Assam to the west.
- Ethnic groups of Manipur: Meitei, Naga, Kuki, and Pangal
- traditional dance forms of Manipur: Ras Lila, Lai Haraoba, and Nupa Pala
- Martial arts of Manipur: Thang-ta and Sarit Sarak
- Manipur has a unicameral legislature and is headed by a Chief Minister.
- Manipur is the second-largest producer of bamboo in India after Assam.
- Manipur has a literacy rate of 79.85% (as per 2011 census).
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