Violence in Manipur: Dozens dead, Unrest in the state!

2023 Manipur riots due to ethnic clashes.

A violent ethnic clash erupted on 3rd May 2023, in India’s North-Eastern state, Manipur, between the tribal Kuki people and the non-tribal Meiti People. This ethnic violence killed at least 60 people, injured 231 and burnt more than 1700 houses.

2023 violent ethnic clashes
2023 violent ethnic clashes

India’s Olympic champion Mary Kom in an official tweet on 4th May requested the central government to save her state from burning.

Demography Of Manipur

Manipur is the North-Eastern State of India. Its capital Imphal is located at the centre and covers 10% of the state’s land surrounded by the Hilly regions.

Manipur
Manipur

The Meiteis dominate Imphal and are home to 57% of the population of Manipur. Out of 60 legislative seats in Manipur, 40 belong to the Meitei community. On the contrary, the hill region covers 90% of the state’s land and is the home to 33 recognized tribes which are mainly Naga and Kuki, and 20 legislative seats belong to these tribes in the hilly region.

Special Constitutional Privileges to the Tribal People 

Article 371C provides special constitutional privileges to the tribes living in hilly areas. According to the Land Reforms Act. 1960, the Meitei Community needed help to buy land and settle in hilly regions.

A tribal fisherman
A tribal fisherman

However, there is no prohibition on hilly tribes from paying in the Imphal Valley, and this keeps giving rise to conflicts among the tribes from time to time.

Background Story Of War in Manipur

The fire of violence had been smouldering for months. Manipur CM Biren Singh said that the people of the tribal community are cultivating opium in protected forests by illegal encroachment, and the government is running a drive to remove similar encroachments on forest land under the Manipur Forest Rule 2021.

However, The tribal people claim that the land belonged to their ancestors, who have not infringed but have lived there for years. Therefore, the tribal people presented this drive of the government as a way to remove them from their Ancestral land, which they are furious about.

The government imposed section 144 in the state and banned protests. The result was the most prominent militant organisation of the Kuki community, Kuki Inpi, announced to take out an increased rally against the government. During this rally, there was a clash between the police and the crowd involved in the rally at a place named Kan Kopaki and five police officers and protestors were also injured.

Suspension of operation agreement 

Many organizations of the Kuki tribe were involved in the mutiny till 2005.

During Manmohan Singh’s time in 2008, to stop the actions of the central government against the militant organization’s Suspension of operation, i.e., an SOS agreement was signed between the central government and the insurgent organizations. Its purpose was to promote political talks, and then the tenure of this agreement was extended.

But on 10th March 2023, the Manipur government withdrew from the agreement with two organizations of the Kuki community. These two organizations are Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA) and Kuki National Army (KNA).

How Did the Spark of Violence Flare Up?

Conflict in Manipur
Conflict in Manipur

The Meitei Tribe Union had been demanding tribal status for the Meitei community for the last decade. In this regard, they had filed a petition in the Manipur High Court. Hearing this, the Manipur High Court had asked the State Government to submit the recommendation of the Union Minister of Tribal Affairs on 19th April.

In this recommendation, the Meitei community had been invited to be given tribal status. Meanwhile, the tribals of Manipur have become obstacles for them and are against it.   On 28th April, police and protesters clashed late at night. On 3rd May, the All Tribal Students Union of Manipur took out Adivasi Ekta March. It was to oppose giving ST status to the Meitei Community. However, the situation worsened so much that it became an ethnic conflict.

On one side, the people of the Meitei community and the other, the people of the Kuki and Naga communities. According to official data, 60 people have died in the violence.   Article 355  Meanwhile, Article 355 was implemented in Manipur. However, due to the violence, the central government has taken law and order from the state government by invoking Article 355. Article 355 is also a basis for applying Article 356 in any state. According to Article 355, if the state government fails, then the central government takes control in its possession.

Currently, the government claims that the situation in the state is under control, and violence-prone areas are being monitored through drones and helicopters.

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Paras
Paras
https://www.linkedin.com/in/paras-haji-b4436b244