The communal riots in Manipur and the brutalities that took place in connection with it are causing intense anger throughout the country. The incident where the Kuki women were exposed naked, gang-raped and the families who tried to stop them were killed is extremely horrific and pathetic. Indian womanhood has been insulted here. Such incidents of violation of human values are painful and alarming. Protests are raging across the country against this atrocity. Minority rights and freedom of religion are the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution, yet the silence of the administration in the face of mob attacks, and communal violence, which mercilessly rejects constitutional values, is appalling. Manipur is crying. Save Manipur.
Forgive us, dear sisters
This is the first event in the history of independent India. Women are being dragged in the streets, and Manipur is burning in riots. We are crying for you sisters. Our dear sisters who were stripped naked and thrown on the streets in the name of rioting, we understand that the pain and humiliation you have gone through is beyond our imagination. In a country where a tribal woman is the first citizen, it is pathetic that tribal women are dragged through the streets naked. Whether it is war, ethnic violence, or terrorism, it is women who suffer the most. Many thousands of women fought for India’s freedom. India’s freedom was won by them too. The news of this brutal crime that shocked the human conscience came to the outside world just days before India’s Independence Day celebrations. We must bow our heads in shame before the demonic violence against women. The incident that took place in Manipur was not just Kuki women or Meitei women, but the whole country’s women were humiliated. It is very sad that wherever there is a problem, it is women who are dragged into calamities.
India is a country built on the struggle of many brave and patriotic women. Manipur is a small and diverse state in the northeastern region of India. A land where different sections lived happily. Hardworking women are Manipur’s greatest asset. The women of Manipur are very strong. They have the ability, strength, and mind to lead their family. They are the ones who lead their own families. But what they endure and experience now is too much. The saddest thing is that they were demonically raped and paraded naked through the streets. Manipur has become a land of strife, clashes, and violence against women. How to save Manipur is the question.
What is the issue in Manipur?
When we inquire what is the reason for this problem in Manipur, we understand from the news that this series of violence started in connection with the granting of S T i.e. Scheduled Tribe status to a community in Manipur. So, a natural doubt that we may have is, what is the reason for so much violence in connection with giving ST status to a community? To understand it clearly, we have to understand the geography, demography, and also a bit of history of Manipur.
Few things about Manipur
Manipur is a state in the northeastern part of India. Manipur has a unique social life. Manipur has two main regions; one is the Imphal valley and the other is the hilly region which includes hills and forests. The Meitei sect lives in a relatively fertile valley. The Kuki people living in the hilly areas belong to the ST category and similarly, they were economically and socially backward compared to the Meitei people and a large proportion of them are Christians.
If we talk about the topography of Manipur, like any other state in the northeastern part of India, Manipur is mostly hilly. That is, ninety percent of Manipur’s land area is hilly and only ten percent is plain area. All the major towns including the capital city of Manipur are located in this plain area.
If we talk about the population there, sixty-five percent of the people of Manipur live in this plain area. It should be remembered that only ten percent of the total land area is plain area. And 35% of the population lives in the hilly areas of Manipur, which is 90% of the state. People belonging to different communities can be found in Manipur. Its dominant community is said to be the Meitei people.
According to the 2011 census, about fifty-three percent belong to this Meitei community. But this Meitei community is not a tribal community. Their specialty is that they speak the Meitei language, we call it Manipuri language. It is one of the scheduled languages listed in the Constitution of India. It is these Meitei people who live in the plain area which is only ten percent of the total land as mentioned earlier.
The remaining forty-seven percent of the people belong to the tribal community. In this tribal community, there are various large and small tribes, the most important of which are the Kuki tribal group and the Naga tribal group. These are the people who live in the hilly areas which make up 90% of the land area. Such inequality already exists there.
An extract from the History of Manipur
Now let’s check some history. Manipur was a princely state when India got independence in 1947. Many of the princely states of that time wanted to be an independent country and so was Manipur. But, like all other princely states, Manipur signed the Instrument of Accession and became a part of India. Manipur got full statehood in 1972. We have already understood that the majority of people in Manipur belong to the Meitei community, so when a democratic election is held there and a government comes to power, naturally the majority of leaders will be from this community. It will cause many problems for the people belonging to the tribal community. Anticipating this, the framers of the Constitution included Article 371C in the Indian Constitution. Thus, Manipur was given some special privileges. But now Manipur is groaning and Manipur is begging for peace.
There are 60 seats in the Manipur Legislative Assembly and most of these seats have been given to the Meitei category and tribal representatives have fewer seats. Although the power and government are in the hands of the Meitei, their authority cannot be exercised to a certain extent in the hilly area where the tribal people live. Article 371 c has granted many powers and rights to the tribes in the tribal area. The Meitei community cannot encroach, do business, or encroach on the rights of the tribal as the 371 C protects the area where the tribal live.
Our constitution itself provides special protection for tribal people to protect their characteristics. Therefore, there are many restrictions on land purchase, etc. in such areas. In 2016, the Commission appointed to implement the Uniform Civil Code took the stand that the Uniform Civil Code should not be considered. It was not considered on the grounds that such protection laws for tribal people would be lost. So, there are problems between these two communities from time to time. Manipur has often seen one community seeking to establish power over another. It is said that some insurgent groups and terrorist groups are exacerbating these problems between them.
As mentioned earlier, the terrain of Manipur is forest area and Imphal valleys. The Meitei tribe mostly lives in the valleys, while the Kuki tribe lives in the forest. There have been many problems between these two groups since ancient times. Following the riots, the Kuki people who came to the valley for education and employment were driven back into the forest. The Meitei who had gone to the forest for trade and employment were forced to flee. Already there were many issues. Manipur has many protected forests. They have recently made a law called the Forest Protection Act to evict the tribal living in these forests. There are many such examples. Now due to these problems, the Forest Protection Act proposed by the Central Government will be eased and thus the forest area where the tribal people live can be made a central administrative area.
The reason for the present problem in Manipur
Now the problem that has arisen there is that for some time the Meitei community, which is its dominant community, had put an important demand before the government. Their demand is this, they should get ST status. In connection with this, protests and cases were going on there. In a related case, the Manipur High Court issued a directive to the state government. The proposal is to take steps to declare the Meitei community as an ST community. The Meitei community has already the most power in the Manipur government. They have many advantages if they get ST status too. Therefore, the government went ahead with its measures.
One of the reasons given by the Meitei community for demanding ST status is that it is necessary to protect their language and culture. Because there is a lot of illegal immigration to Manipur and all these people are coming and joining the places where this Meitei community lives. Because of the existence of Article 371C, these illegal immigrants cannot go or occupy the place where the tribal people live. There are a lot of restrictions. Therefore, these people come to the plain area where the Meitei people live. They said that it causes a lot of problems for their culture. So, they claim that they are demanding ST status to protect their community and culture.
When such a proposal came from the High Court and the government went ahead with the implementation of this proposal, the tribal communities of Manipur strongly opposed it. What they claim is that the Meitei community is demanding ST status to oppress other tribal communities. When Meithei get ST status then they will not have any restrictions in the hilly area then they will have the power to come and live there, do business, and evict the people living there.
Not only that but now the ST community is getting many benefits in terms of education and work. At present only tribal people get this reservation in Manipur, then if the Meitei get this ST status too, there will be a situation where they will take away all the benefits that the tribal people are getting now. Already Meitei is using the power of the government to attack the tribal people. Once the Meithei get the ST status too, there will be no protection for the tribal. The tribal people argue that this Meitei community can oppress them. The Tribes also say it will affect their survival. Not only that, forest land with precious natural forest resources that can only be held by tribal groups can gradually be handed over to large corporations if the Meitei get the ST status.
When the Meitei group is included in the Scheduled Tribe, they will be able to buy land in the area of Kuki. For Kuki people, it is also difficult to get a job competing with Meitei who have a better standard of living. This problem has arisen in the context of the ongoing problem of dropping Kuki people from agricultural land. When this problem was added to it, a protest was formed by the Kuki people which led to riots.
Why is Manipur burning?
Manipur is a small and diverse state in the northeastern part of India and has been in the news for more than two months now. Major incidents of violence are taking place there. The army is mobilizing there, the internet is being cut, and shoot-at-sight orders are coming from the state government. We are panicking as we don’t know what is really going on there. But when we got to know some of the horrible accounts of the atrocities that happened there, we were shocked. For more than two months, the Indian state of Manipur has been rocked by ethnic violence between Kuki tribal groups and the majority Meitei community. We also have a duty to save Manipur.
Manipur- Lament of India
What is happening in Manipur? In Manipur, where there is no end to the riots, violence, and firing are still going on in various areas. Two and a half months have passed since the riots broke out. More than one hundred and fifty people were killed and more than sixty thousand had to flee. More than five thousand houses were set on fire. More than two hundred Christian churches were destroyed. More than two hundred villages were destroyed. Remember, we also have a duty to save Manipur.
Riots broke out in Manipur on May 3. Kuki women were publicly raped and stripped naked and the first arrest was made on the 77th day after the tragic incident. Every day more and more pieces of information are coming out about women being victims of harassment and assault. The police have confirmed that the eighteen-year-old Kuki girl was gang-raped.
Two other Kuki women were gang-raped and murdered on the same day when two Kuki women were stripped naked by Meitei activists. What we can know is that there have been more terrible incidents than this. All these are said by none other than those who are in positions of power. Terrible incidents are going on there. A man’s head is beheaded and impaled on a fence, people are burned alive, and houses and shops are looted and set on fire. Violence against children and women is unprecedented. Every day there are events that are more than human minds can bear. Many Kuki women have been tortured and killed since the riots started on May 3. In addition to this, women were beaten to death and burned alive. Some were shot dead.
The video that came out the last week from Manipur, where the communal riots continue, is scary and disturbing. The incident that took place two and a half months ago came to light a few days ago. What can be understood from this? A series of more brutal events have taken place there and are still taking place. Through this video, a clear picture of the terror faced by a minority section of people in Manipur has come out. Due to the control of communication systems, including the Internet, many atrocities have gone unnoticed by the outside world.
Is our country going backward?
There is no doubt that the current communal riots in Manipur will weaken India as a whole. The fact that women suffer the most and are victims of terrorism is holding the country back. Atrocities against women cannot be accepted in any way. The country is moving backward from the 21st century. We are witnessing the weakening of the strength and character of our country which is unity in diversity. Manipur was made bloody by the intervention of the ruling elite who was dividing the people for corporate interests. Manipur has become the pain and tears of the nation. It is worrying that the ripples of the Manipur riots are spreading to the neighboring region of Mizoram as well. Hundreds of Meithei people have started fleeing to safe places from Mizoram in fear of being attacked.
When will peace dawn in Manipur?
Culture is something that only humans can claim. Once humanity is lost, culture naturally also disappears. The same has happened in Manipur. Some people feel like they can do anything. It was the rulers who made them feel that way. Whatever they do, they are sure that there is someone to protect them. These people are spreading hatred and dividing people religiously and culturally and pushing each other into riots. Our rulers have become unable to save women. Such incidents should never happen again in our country. All the common and peace-loving people of Manipur are raising their voices against the riots.
What we have to do as human- beings is to unite with the people of Manipur. There is no Meitei, Kuki distinction in that. We need to loudly declare that we are against riots and communal violence. Remember, what happened in Manipur today can happen anywhere tomorrow. It is up to each of us to be vigilant. It is the responsibility of those who love the country to protect our country. Let us hope that the riots in Manipur will end soon. Let us pledge to protect India’s diversity, secularism, and unity, won by so many brave women. Don’t forget that we also have a duty to save Manipur.