Decades after India’s independence, barely anything has been done to build an understanding between various cultures and traditions practiced by different ethnic groups. The state of Manipur, also referred to as the “Land of Jewels,” is made up of a valley that is surrounded by mountains and is home to 39 ethnic communities that practice a number of different religions, including Sanamahi, Islam, and Christianity.
Hundreds of people have been killed in riots raging in the Manipur state for two months, yet the Modi administration continues to stay silent.
The Meitei and Kuki tribes have primarily been at war with one another since May 3 in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur. The violence, which has been going on for two months, has resulted in hundreds of deaths, 100,000 people being displaced, and more than 1,700 buildings, including places of worship and other infrastructure, being set on fire. In response, military curfews have been imposed, internet services have been suspended, and more than 17,000 soldiers and paramilitary groups have been deployed with the authority to shoot anybody on sight in “extreme cases.”
The conflict started only after the partition of India when the Meitei tribe, who are religiously Hindu, wanted a separate and independent existence. At the same time, the Kuki, following Christianity and Judaism, wanted to establish their separate administration. People have been at war with one another for religious, regional, and ideological differences. In addition, there are military groups, armed entities, and other militias stationed there, and the local populace is suffering due to the conflict.
The conflict was enraged by a court decision in March that gave the majority Meitei “scheduled tribal status,” making them eligible for the same financial advantages and employment quotas in the government and education as the Kuki minority. Furthermore, it made it possible for Meiteis to purchase property in the Kuki-dominated mountain regions, further aggravating Kuki’s concerns that their residences, livelihoods, and opportunities would soon be removed.
Most of the earliest attacks on the Kuki villages and populations were carried out by Meitei armed gangs, villages were burned down, and more than 250 churches were destroyed as the conflict intensified.
Meitei gangs started attacking Kuki residences in Imphal, the state capital. Kuki people who tried to leave the capital for the hills, where they own most of the land, were brutally attacked. Meitei militias, numbering in the hundreds or even thousands, additionally demolished Kuki villages.
The Meitei clan is currently oppressing the Kuki clan in every possible way, which is nothing new considering how Hindu superior castes treat minorities across the country. While hundreds of churches have been destroyed and homes are being burned, the Modi administration and Indian Home Minister Amit Shah continue to act as if nothing is wrong. Kuki factions have committed to fighting until they are granted a separate state, claiming that “the violence has shown they can no longer live safely under the constraints of a Meitei-dominant state.” Since the crisis started, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has remained silent in public for several months and has not yet visited Manipur. After a long silence and criticism, during his Independence Day address, Modi mentioned that the whole country stands with Manipur but did not practically disclose the BJP government’s plans to resolve the deadly conflict.
Anusuiya Uikey, governor of Manipur and a prominent member of the BJP, issued the orders permitting district magistrates to kill protesters as soldiers patrolled the streets and enforced a curfew. Bloodshed in Manipur is only one recent instance of widespread ethnic tensions. Still, since the BJP government assumed power in India, they have been working hard to wipe out minorities from India. What happens in Manipur is a brief reflection of the BJP-sponsored Hindutva ideology.
This episode in Manipur is a vivid example of how ethnic tensions have been consciously heightened by political forces in opposition to the acceptance of religious pluralism.
The struggle serves as a cover for those who favor the eradication of all other religions. International concern about the Manipur violence has also been muted so far. However, the European Union’s Parliament issued a resolution on July 13 requesting the Indian government to investigate the matter “to take all necessary measures and make the utmost effort to halt the ongoing ethnic and religious violence promptly”. But as a usual practice, Indian authorities have rejected the European Union’s intervention and responded that “such interference in India’s internal affairs is unacceptable, and reflects a colonial mindset.”
A thorough analysis of the recent incidents of the ongoing ethnic conflict in Manipur highlights the bias of the Modi government towards minority communities. By imposing curfews, restricting internet services, and deploying armed forces in Manipur, the BJP Hindutva government is trying to turn Manipur into another Kashmir. While the Modi government itself is not willing to take any responsible measures to stop the violence and does not allow a third party to intervene, international human rights watchdogs should consider the matter seriously by taking active notice of the situation and protect Indian minorities from facing BJP’s fascist ethnic cleansing propaganda.
The author is a distinguished academic with an MS in International Relations from Comsats University and stands as a beacon of knowledge and insight in global affairs. Currently, She is a lecturer at Islamic University.