The ethnic clashes that broke out in Manipur in May 2023 were ostensibly due to Kuki opposition to the demand by the dominant Meiteis for Scheduled Tribe status. Kukis, and other tribal groups, claim that this would eat into their meagre entitlements. In turn, the Kukis as a group have been branded ‘illegal immigrants’, blamed for the proliferation of poppy cultivation, and accused of ‘narcoterrorism’.
Conflicts between ethnic groups are not new in Manipur. But the violence in 2023, which killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands, was shocking for the sheer viciousness on display. Any effort to find explanations to this conflict only throws up more questions. Why is there such anger in the people of the state? Is this a religious or an ethnic conflict? Why were the police and paramilitary forces—of which huge numbers are deployed in Manipur—unable to stop the violence? What role did chauvinist Meitei organizations like Arambai Tenggol play in the violence? Why did it take several months for India’s national leadership to break their silence on the issue? Is there really a problem of illegal immigration into Manipur from Myanmar? Who are the KukiZo people? Are they to blame for the drug menace in the state, as claimed by the Meiteis? What have the state and central governments done to prevent drug trafficking in the region? Does anyone benefit from what is happening?
In this urgent book, Nandita Haksar explores with clarity and insight, and also courage, a complex geopolitical problem, exposing the hypocrisy of identity politics in Manipur, never losing sight of those that have suffered—and continue to suffer—the most in this conflict.
|Shooting The Sun: Why Manipur Was Engulfed By Violence And The Government Remained Silent
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|5 January 2024