Written By Darshan M (Grade 10)
“My state is burning.” This is what Boxer Mary Kom had to say about Manipur. People are afraid of the communal tensions in Manipur. The situation is so serious that the Indian government has used Article 355 to take over Manipur’s security. And it has issued a shoot-at-sight order. The curfew has been imposed, the internet is off, and the army has been called. But we need to know what’s taking place in Manipur. More importantly, why’s it taking place?
Manipur is predominantly two regions – hills and plains. 90% of the land is in the hill regions. And these areas are home to the Naga and Kuki tribes of Manipur. And the population of these tribes, which occupy 90% of the land, is 35%. And these tribes are mostly Christian. The Naga and Kuki are not just two tribes. There are many tribes in these groups. Some are recognized, and some are unrecognized. The other 65% of the population is Meiteis. It includes Hindus and Muslims. And this 65% of Meiteis live on 10% of the land of Manipur. So on one side are the hill tribes, like the Kuki and Naga tribes. And on the other side are the valley tribes, the Meiteis. And this is one reason why these groups have so many problems.
These groups want different things for themselves. The government’s rules and acts add complications to this. The result of this tension is violence in Manipur. But there are two main reasons behind this violence. Manipur’s Chief Minister N. Biren Singh from the BJP in February this year decided to protect the Forests of Manipur. So he had to evacuate some villagers from their homes. These were the residents of the K. Songjon village in the Churachandpur district. The villagers said they were evacuated without any warning. The Kuki People Alliance, the alliance partner of the BJP government, also criticized this decision. These villagers were from the Kuki ethnic group. They said that the BJP government’s decision is against their entire tribe. That’s why in March, many tribals protested peacefully against the government’s decision. But the government of Manipur said that this protest is unconstitutional. The government said that it was not at fault. It conducted a land survey of a protected forest region in Manipur. The village was also included.
The government of Manipur said that many villagers are using the forest land for their drug business. The land survey included three districts. One of them was the Churachandpur district. After this, some tribal leaders announced an 8-hour shutdown, in the Churachandpur district. Before the shutdown, the chief minister, Biren Singh, was going to inaugurate a gym and address a rally. But many protesters broke the gym and threw chairs in the venue of the rally. Despite this, Biren Singh didn’t stop his rally. Then, the protesters tried to enter the venue of the rally where many VIPs were sitting. Thereafter, the police and protesters clashed. After this, the government imposed a curfew on the entire district and shut down mobile services for 5 days.
Apart from this, there was another issue. The All Tribal Students Union Manipur appealed to the people for a Tribal Solidarity March. They were opposing an order by the Manipur High Court which said that the Manipur government ask the central government, to give the Meiteis the status of a Scheduled Tribe. The people of Hill, the Naga and Kuki Tribes, don’t want the Meiteis to get the Scheduled Tribe status. The Meiteis believe that their community needs the Scheduled Tribe status to protect their land and culture. They say that illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar are harming the identity and culture of the Meiteis, their population has fallen from 59% to 44%. He says that they’ve become outsiders in their ancestral land. While the tribal can buy their lands, they can’t buy the lands of the tribal. They said that they want the government to give them the Scheduled Tribe Status. The tribes of the Hill region say that they don’t need Scheduled Tribe Status when they have their domination in the state.
The tribes of the hill say that the Meiteis are powerful, well-educated, and connected.
If they get the Scheduled Tribe status, the political and economic power of the people of the hill will be diminished in Manipur. The tribes of the hill claim that the Legislative Assembly of Manipur has around two-thirds seats of Meiteis. If they have such political power, why do they need the Scheduled Tribes status? They also claim that some sections of the Meitei community have the Scheduled Caste and OBC status. So they get protection from there as well. The tribes of Hill also claim that if the Meiteis get the Scheduled Tribes status, they’ll have to fight for the remaining jobs. These are the two issues that are responsible for the recent violence. This is why a few days ago, violence broke out in the tribal protest rally when the rumor spread that the Meiteis had attacked a tribal woman. The rally started with this rumor and then the violence spread throughout the state. This is why the Indian Army was called to the state.
The most important thing is if all these videos are true then in the bordering areas how do weapons like AK-47 reach these people? Are weapons being smuggled from Myanmar? Or is an insurgency in the North East re-emerging? We need to keep a strict vigil on these possibilities. In the end, all I want to say is, that we are not only endangered by China and Pakistan but from within India too there is danger. We will have to assure that our internal conflicts, don’t take a violent form. It is important that we keep our differences aside from other communities, and protect each other. To maintain stability in one area, we need to sensibly handle sensitive issues. Because this country is ours. It means that all the problems of this country are ours, and the responsibility to solve them is also ours.
Featured Image Courtesy – Swarajya