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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightEditorialchevron_rightManipur strife should...

Manipur strife should be stemmed

Manipur strife should be stemmed

Even after almost a month, neither the state government nor the Centre has been able to put out the fire in the northeastern border state of Manipur. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who arrived in Imphal on Monday for a four-day visit, has announced that he will have talks with various groups, but there is no certainty that this will bring an end to the communal riots that have been raging for almost a month. The Biren Singh-led BJP government was unable to contain the armed conflict between the Meiteis, a Hindu-majority group inhabiting the valley, and the Kukis, a Christian-majority tribal group in the hills. The other day the Chief Minister announced that the police in charge of law and order had killed 40 persons who were Kuki terrorists, and clarified that the government will not show any mercy towards the armed terrorism of Kukis. Even after that there was a new conflict which took the lives of five people. Along with this, the demand for self-governance, albeit limited, has become stronger in the hilly areas populated by the tribal majority. The Chief Minister is also determined that no attempt to violate the integrity of the state will be allowed.

There is already an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and intolerance between the Meiteis, who make up 53 percent of the state's population, and a have settled in the plains centred on Imphal, the capital, and the Kukis, who make up 25 percent of the population, who own 90 percent of Manipur's land. Earlier, the Meiteis and the Kukis were not seeing eye to eye on the grouse that the people of the plains were snatching all the benefits with the support of the administration controlled by the Meiteis. The Meities too had a grudge charging that the Kukis who occupied most of the land were coming to the cities and oppressing them, and they were benefiting from the provision barring outsiders from buying land in the hill areas on the basis of the Scheduled Tribe title. It is towards this platform that the BJP is taking power under the leadership of Biren Singh by blowing up Meitei nationalism similar to Hindutva intensifying identity politics. The BJP government has branded the Kuki people who settled in the hills of Manipur before colonial rule as intruders and refugees and announced the decision to implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) there. Young militant groups like Arambai Thenggol and Meitei Leepun were born and they became the exponents of hate politics. This is how the conflict has evolved into an unprecedented ethnic riot, with religious institutions including 250 churches, and religious education institutions being the targets.

The figures of allocation in state budgets are such as to establish that hill areas of tribal communities are outside the purview of the state. While the government pours trillions into the valleys centred on Imphal, only a few billions go to the tribal areas. Out of 60 assembly seats in the state, 40 are in Meitei region. There are only 20 seats on the hills. In the budget for the year 2020-21, Rs 6951 crore has been allocated for the valleys as against a mere Rs 41 crore for the hill area. The result of this discrimination leaves the Kukis with absolute poverty in terms of employment, infrastructure development and healthcare facilities. It is amid such negligence and denial of benefits to the hill areas that the BJP government made a move to grant tribal status to the Meitei group. The court was asking the government's stand about lagging on the decision of the Centre to implement the decision to grant Scheduled Tribe status to Meiteis. Prompted by this, the state government came forward to submit the decision, which was in cold storage, to the Centre. With that, the Kukis got upset. For with this step, the Meiteis would get the right of land transaction in their territory. The Kukis also saw that they would be further marginalized with the addition of elite Meities who enjoy all the benefits of power in the current reservation. The current bloodshed started when the Meiteis launched a counter-strike against the agitation held by the Kukis on May 3.

The chief minister's position was that when the force was called, the state police would do everything. Finally, despite the withdrawal of the central forces, the rebellion became irrepressible. Moreover, the Kukis, who have lost faith in the government, have now turned their agitation for hill area with limited autonomy. About 10 MLAs, including those with the BJP, have now raised this demand. The BJP government has pushed the issue to an unmanageable level, which could have been ironed out if it had been resolved in time. Both the sides in the conflict are saying that just because the Home Minister has arrived from the Centre - which has been quiet so far and now decided to wake up - it will not be possible to douse the current fire or stop the rising of new smoke. They need solutions to the problems that underlie the crisis. The outcome of the gory game in Manipur depends on whether the BJP governments at the state and the Centre recognise this.

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TAGS:Manipur issueMeiteis and KukisCM Birendra SinghAmit ShahValley and hillside
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