Manipur Violence: Amid harrowing communal clashes between two communities in Manipur, Union Home Minister Amit Shah landed in Imphal on Monday, where he held a series of meetings with Chief Minister N Biren Singh and top officials. The main intention of Shah's visit, which came nearly after more than 80 people were killed and more than 45,000 tribals were displaced, was to endorse a peace formula that could end a decade-long clash in the valley. But, what leads to the clash in the northeastern region, which is often dubbed as "The Jewel of India"? Let's decode the ethnic clash.
Manipur, which is bounded by Nagaland to the north, Mizoram to the south and Assam to the west, also shares a boundary with coup-controlled Myanmar. The state demography is divided into two parts-- 10% planes + 90% hills (Reserved forest). The region has two communities-- Meitei, a largely Hindu majority that lives in the Imphal Valley (planes), and Kuki and Nagas-- a Christian-dominated tribe-- that resides mainly in the surrounding hills.
According to the state government data, Meiteis account for 53% of the population but are restricted to planes. Whereas Kuki and Nagas comprise 40% of the population who resides in the 90 per cent of the hilly region. According to the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, of 1960, Maities are prohibited from settling in the hilly regions of the state.
What leads to the recent clash?
The clash between two different communities in the valley is not new. It witnessed similar violent clashes in 1993, when Hindu Meiteis clashed with Pangals (Muslims) in violence that also affected the tribal Nagas and Kukis. However, this time, the violence erupted after the state government announced encroachment of the reserved forest region followed by a survey. The government argued that a large number of the population has infiltrated the neighbouring nation, especially Myanmar. Besides, the hilly region is also considered a "safe haven" for poppy cultivation.
The government underscored that the survey would solve all issues. However, the move was dubbed "anti-tribal" by the Kuki people.
According to local media reports, Nagas and Kukis considered the eviction move "an orchestrated move" by "politically dominated" Meiteis in order to acquire reserved forest land. The anger was fuelled further when the Manipur High Court gave the green signal to the decade-old demand to include Meiteis in the Scheduled Tribe (ST). This triggered anger among the tribal people as they believe the high court's move would allow the Hindu majority to acquire land in the hilly regions. Since the court's order, a few clashes were reported in the region but those were mostly silent, besides the burning of two churches in March.
On April 28, Chief Minister Singh was scheduled to visit Churachandpur-- a Meitei-dominated region-- to inaugurate an open gym. However, the tribal groups called for a 12-hour total shutdown in protest against the state government's survey on reserved forests. The open gym was then set on fire. The violent clash erupted on May 3 when thousands turned up for the "Tribal Solidarity March" called by the All Tribal Students Union of Manipur (ATSUM). The protest was organised against the inclusion of Meiteis in the ST category. During the protest, more than 11 civilians were reportedly injured, while two others died from bullet wounds in Saikul, Kangpokpi district.
Later, a large number of Meiteis and tribals turned up on the streets, resulting in the government calling for state security forces. Besides, prohibitory orders were imposed in eight districts. Later, on May 4, the government issued a shoot-at-sight order in "extreme cases whereby forms of persuasion, warning, reasonable force have been exhausted and the situation can not be controlled." The centre also deployed more than 20,000 army personnel to maintain law and order.
Challenges in Manipur have not disappeared: CDS
The situation was tense until the government announced a relaxation on May 10. Since then no major clashes were reported but Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Chauhan on Tuesday said challenges in Manipur have not disappeared. He expressed hope that things will settle down in some time while noting the situation in the northeastern state now is not related to insurgency.
According to officials, the death toll from clashes since ethnic rioting began on May 3 in Manipur has gone up to 80. "The situation now in Manipur is "not related to insurgency. It is a clash between two ethnicities and a situation of law and order," he said.
"We are helping the state government with the problem," the CDS said.
Shah's peace formula
After holding consultations with stakeholders which started with a breakfast meeting with a group of women leaders, the central and Manipur state government decided to provide a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to those who died during the ethnic conflict in Manipur.
Besides, members of the family of those who died in the rioting will also be provided a job. The home minister also held a meeting with delegations of civil society organisations as part of his outreach."Held a meeting with a group of women leaders (Meira Paibi) in Manipur. Reiterated the significance of the role of women in the society of Manipur. Together, we are committed to ensuring peace and prosperity in the state," Shah tweeted.