Violence in Manipur leads to displacement of over 5600 people
Ethnic violence in Manipur led over 3,375 people to take shelter in six Mizoram districts, with another 2,300 in government camps in southern Assam. Approximately 600 individuals have gone back to their residences in Manipur. The sheltered individuals, mostly tribals, were distributed across various Mizoram districts, with the highest number 1,214 in the Saitual district, followed by 1,142 in the Kolasib district, 934 in the Aizawl district, 68 in Champhai district, 12 in Khawzawl district, and four in Serchhip district.
Various organizations and NGOs have called on the Manipur and Central governments to control the ethnic violence involving all stakeholders.The ruling Mizo National Front MP, C. Lalrosanga, has urged General Manoj Pande, the Indian Army Chief, to gain the trust and confidence of people, particularly tribal communities, to manage the ethnic conflict in Manipur.
The North East Students’ Organization (NESO) condemned the Manipur government’s action of evicting indigenous settlers and the resulting violence. They argued these communities are indigenous to the Northeast and have inhabited these lands for ages.
The Manipur government was accused by the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) of seizing the land of ethnic Zo tribals and forcibly evicting them. The MZP claims the origin of the problem is the Manipur government’s attempts to declare tribal lands as reserved forests, protected forests, wildlife sanctuaries, and wetlands. On May 3, a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ organised by the All Tribal Students’ Union of Manipur (ATSUM) to oppose the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribe category resulted in violent clashes, firing, and arson throughout Manipur.
Factors fueling the ongoing violence in Manipur
The violence in Manipur has been fueled by various factors. The immediate provocation appears to be the demand for the Meitei community, which accounts for 53% of Manipur’s population and primarily inhabits the Manipur Valley, to be included in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list. However, the underlying anger, simmering for a long time, has other reasons. These are linked not just to the government’s clampdown on reserved and protected forests in the state’s hill districts, which has severely impacted the livelihoods of the tribal population, but also to the complex ethnic, linguistic, and cultural fault lines in Manipur.
In a move that was seen as being distinctly over the top, district magistrates were authorized by the Manipur government to issue shoot-at-sight orders. This has further escalated tensions in the region, with many locals and authorities fearing that the presence of illegal migrants from Myanmar could escalate the ongoing violence in the state.
As of now, some 5,000 people have been shifted to safe homes or shelters in Churachandpur, another 2,000 in Imphal Valley, and 2,000 people in the border town of Moreh in Tengnoupal district.
Causes of Manipur violence due to flawed government responses:
– The High Court order asking for a government recommendation to grant ST status to Meiteis is being seen as provocative given the existing tensions in the State.
– Even among the Meiteis, there is opposition to granting ST status as their history asserts to them being a settled agricultural community for over 2,000 years.
– Invoking Article 355 in the State also seems a rather extreme response, and points to other motivations for the Centre to keep the tension simmering in Manipur.
– The excessive build-up of security forces in the State, purportedly in response to the violence, might be indicative of a larger game plan that is more likely related to Manipur’s status as a border State.
However, There are signs of normalcy returning, but it remains to be seen how well the BJP-ruled Centre and State succeed in bringing in a long-lasting agreement that is acceptable to all.