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In Manipur, in March 2023, several people were killed in protests by Naga-Kuki tribals upset over the grant of tribe status to the majority Meitei community by the Manipur High Court. The Kuki tribe came to Manipur as refugees from Myanmar (Burma) and has been settled in Chudachandrapur area of Manipur since 1700 AD. More new people are constantly coming as refugees from Myanmar. The Kuki and Naga tribes together constitute about 40% (25% and 15%) of the Manipuri population. Both are Christians and enjoy tribal status and economic reservation. The Meitei community is a little over 50% of the population and the majority are Hindu. 8% of Meitei population is Muslim which is called ‘Meitei Pangal’.
Why is Manipur burning
In 1993, a clash between the Naga-Kuki community also resulted in heavy violence in which the Nagas killed a Kuki. But both of them together oppose the Meitei society because the tribes believe that due to their living in the mountains, economic development does not reach them and all the benefits go to the Meitei living in the plains. Meiteis are just over 50% of the population, but 60% of the seats in the Legislative Assembly are also reserved for them. So when the Manipur High Court ordered the inclusion of the Meitei caste in the Scheduled Tribes, a fierce conflict broke out between these communities. Army had to be deployed in the state to stop the riots and shoot at sight orders were issued. But in May 2023, the gruesome and brutal incident of vandalism on the women of the Kuki tribe by the majority Meitei shook the country and the world. In May 2023 itself, the Supreme Court reprimanded the High Court for this disputed order and in June 2023 the Manipur High Court has started the process of ‘reviewing’ its order and the hearing has started in July.
Looking at the other side of this terrible problem, many people believe that the British brought the Kuki community from Burma and settled in Manipur. Christians opened their schools from place to place and started converting the Kuki society to Christianity. Made them stand against the Nagas because these Nagas used to kill the British. Gradually the culture of the native people there started getting destroyed. The sorrow of the Meitei society is also that they were originally tribals, but due to adopting Hindu religion years ago, they were kept in the ‘general’ category and they missed out on getting the reservation of the tribe. After the Mandal Commission, Meitei was placed in the category of ‘OBC’. But they still cannot buy hilly land whereas Kuki and Naga being their tribes can buy land both in hilly and plain land. It is also alleged that the Kuki and Naga tribes have become rich by taking advantage of the tribal reservation by occupying 90% of Manipur’s territory and the majority Meitei are left with only 10% of the territory. This has created economic inequality. Many people also allege that instead of giving their rights to the Meitei community even after the order of the High Court, they are being killed by the Kuki tribes with the help of Myanmar terrorists and modern Chinese weapons.
Women of Meitai tribe in Manipur (Photo: Agency)
If we talk about migrants of foreign origin, then the Gogoi caste has also come from Burma and settled in Assam. Many Bangladeshi refugees and infiltrators are present in the kind country of India especially in the North East region and also inside the country’s capital. Rohingya Muslims who have come from Burma are also filling the country. What action are we taking in this matter? The administration has to make a clear and strict policy of citizenship and reservation for the migrant population coming into the country. First we give shelter to an unknown clan by showing our kindness and then abuse him after seeing his prosperity or increase in power, both these things are not right. Hindus also go to Christian countries as migrants, settle down and sometimes they can also be in danger if there is a caste conflict. Then, when an Indian origin becomes the Prime Minister in Mauritius and England or an Indian origin becomes the Vice President in USA, then why does the wave of happiness and the enthusiasm of victory run in the country? Does the increasing stature and economic prosperity of people of foreign origin only cause ‘problem’ for us and not for others?
Whatever may be the reason for Manipur’s problem, it is the responsibility of the politicians to find a quick solution for it. There have always been conflicts between groups of humans and across international borders for the protection of their economic interest. In India, Meena and Gujjar groups have clashed in Rajasthan over reservation facilities for the tribe in the past. But the Manipur conflict is completely different. There are also issues of native versus migrant and Hindu versus Christian. What does economic reservation have to do with raising the dignity of women? The police also did not support the victim and left it in the hands of the majority. The reason for this seems to be something else. Here the victimized Kuki tribe follows Christianity and the invading Meiteis are mostly Hindus. The gruesome and brutal incident of vandalism is absolutely condemnable and no matter what logic, suggestion or explanation is given, it cannot be justified. This heinous crime demands very severe punishment at the earliest. This dastardly incident has put an end to India’s claim of being a ‘Vishwaguru’. In the ‘Gurukul’ where girls are treated like this, what kind of Guru is there? Let us be careful that the country which is respected as ‘Prem Guru’ from Krishna’s love-lilas may not win the medal of ‘Durachar Guru’ due to brutality on women. If such crimes are not stopped then India will once again move towards Mahabharata. Many powers of this universe are keeping a sharp eye on our country, which especially likes the ‘playground’ of the continent of Asia for its arms games.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own.
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