Violence had gripped the state of Manipur since May 3, as unrest between ethnic groups saw buildings set ablaze and charred vehicles strewn across roads, leaving many dead and tens of thousands homeless. The violence and breakage of law and order in the state was after thousands of people from the Naga and Kuki tribes took part in a rally against the majority Meitei ethnic group being afforded special status under India’s “Scheduled Tribe” grouping.
Notably, the Meitei community, an ethnic group who account for about 50% of the state’s population, have for years campaigned to be recognised as a scheduled tribe, which would give them access to wider benefits including health, education and government jobs. Ethnic violence engulfed Manipur, along with arson, curfews enforced by army and paramilitary, food scarcity, suspension of internet, resulting in more than 70 being murdered and 30,000 forced to flee. Reports of police complicity and attacks on Christian churches have also come in.
The Media and IT Cell of Zomi Students’ Federation has released a report titled ‘The Inevitable Split,’ which documents the state-sponsored ethnic cleansing in Manipur, 2023. The report, which is divided into six parts, contains a detailed account of the events leading up to the dehumanizing ethnic cleansing pogrom. The main objective behind releasing the said report is to “disclose the ground realities of the said pogrom to the public, to ensure that the real voices of the tribal people reach them.”
Aside from highlighting the nature of the crimes against humanity committed by armed civilians and local militias (Arambai Tenggol) with the assistance of state police forces, particularly the State Commandos, the document also highlights how this recent attack is an outbreak of a historical systematic exploitation of tribals in Manipur.
The document additionally explores how the ground realities of the pogrom were manipulated by a surge of fake news, and how dehumanizing crimes were rationalized through false propaganda and narratives, a pattern that has been followed since the 2020 North-east Delhi riots. The final chapter emphasizes the tribals’ long-drawn aspirations, which can be summarized as “Separation Only Solution (SOS)”. It contends that because there is already an emotional, and now physical and geographical, vertical divide between hill and valley dwellers, a separate administration is unavoidable.
Complexities in Manipur
Ironically, the Kuki groups (here the Zomi hill council that today blames chief minister, Biren Singh for being communal had willingly signed up with the same Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to put up a candidate from 2019 onwards as part of their ongoing negotiations; today they say their faith in the regime has been lost. As far as Meitis go at a micro level, are classified as SCs, even OBCs. Reportedly, in Burma/Myanmar Meitei are classified as tribe. Colonial governance has played a role in this segregation and map making but today there can be no doubt with the callous disregard towards the people of Manipur being displayed by the state government (BJP and union government (BJP), the absence of any efforts and dialogic breakthrough is stark. Even as the overall discourse is obscured by the riot template invoked by the regime
The said report can be viewed here: