Manipur violence the recent communal violence has pushed the small state of Manipur, India, into a dire situation, with many people considering it a state of domestic war. The conflict involves the two major ethnic groups, the majority Meitei and the minority Kuki, fighting for land and influence.
A shocking video emerged this week in May, showing Kuki men parading two naked Kuki women after immediately ransacking their village following an attack. This represents the latest use of terror against women in the region.
Where is Manipur located, and who resides there?
Manipur is a hilly state in northeastern India, bordering Bangladesh to the east and Myanmar to the south. It is home to an estimated population of 3.3 million people.
The majority of the population is Meitei, while around 43% consists of Kuki and Naga tribes, which are the main minority ethnic groups.
Manipur violence : What is happening?
In May, the violence erupted, resulting in at least 130 fatalities and 400 injuries. The conflict has forced over 60,000 people to leave their homes due to the struggle involving the military, paramilitary forces, and the police.
There have been incidents of looting of police arsenals, the destruction of hundreds of churches, and the complete devastation of villages.
Why Manipur violence happened?
Tensions escalated when the Kukis opposed the demand for an official tribal status for the Meiteis, arguing that it would strengthen the government’s grip on them, potentially allowing them to purchase land or settle predominantly in Kuki territories.
However, there are numerous underlying reasons. The Kukis claim that the Meitei-led government instigated a war against their communities by pushing addictive drugs into their territories.
Illegal immigration from Myanmar has also contributed to increased tensions. The pressure on land usage due to rising population has led to unemployment, pushing young people towards various militias.
Who is fighting whom?
For decades, Meitei, Kuki, and Naga militias have been at odds with each other over territorial claims and religious differences. They have all been clashing with India’s security forces. However, the recent escalation is mainly between Meiteis and Kukis.
According to Dhiren A. Sadokpam, the editor of The Frontier Manipur, “This time, the conflict is entirely rooted in ethnicity, not religion.”
Who are the Kukis and Meiteis?
The Meiteis have their roots in Manipur, Myanmar, and surrounding areas. They are primarily Hindu, although some follow Sanamahism, an indigenous religion. On the other hand, the Kukis are mainly Christians and are spread throughout the northeastern parts of India, with many of them also found in Myanmar.
The Meiteis mostly reside in the Imphal Valley, while the Kukis live in the surrounding hills and beyond.
Why are women being targeted and humiliated?
According to Geeta Pandey, a BBC correspondent in Delhi, the video of the May attack is the latest example of rape and sexual violence being used as a tool of violence during the conflict, often replacing firearms in attacks.
Local media reports suggest that the May attack occurred in response to false reports of a Kuki militia group raping a Meitei woman. The Print states that this has “set off a new, dangerous cycle of violence against Kuki tribal women by Meitei mobs.”
What is the central government doing?
Until the video of the May attack emerged, Prime Minister Narendra Modi remained silent on the violence in Manipur. Afterward, he stated that the incident had “shamed India” and that “no guilty person will be spared… What happened to the daughters of Manipur can never be forgiven.”
The Indian government has deployed 40,000 soldiers, paramilitary forces, and police to try to halt the latest wave of violence. However, it has also rejected the demand from tribal leaders to implement direct rule in the region.
The violence continues to escalate, and more and more rural communities are being forced to leave their homes. The situation in Manipur remains complex and challenging to resolve.