Manipur continues to burn


The visit of Union Home Minister Amit Shah to the troubled state of Manipur and his meeting with different communities there has hardly quelled the violence which continues unabated. The HM is not one who can understand the underlying and deeply entrenched ethnocentric pulls that define the present spate of violence. If politics was not the driving factor and if any other government, other than a BJP-led one was in place, President’s Rule would have been the most logical step for the central government to take. Manipur has been in the grip of central rule on ten occasions in the past. This speaks a lot about the political instability that is the hallmark of Manipur. At this point it would be fair to say that governance has completely failed because anyone can be shot at any time and armed gangs are moving around in army uniforms and are fully armed.
The interview given by Pramot Singh, leader of the Meetei Leepun a militant outfit that swears unabashed loyalty to Chief Minister Biren Singh, to Karan Thapar of The Wire, was a direct call to arms to all Meteis who he said would soon converge, overcoming all differences and that the Kuki-Chin tribes whom he termed as illegal migrants in Manipur would be dealt a ‘blow,’ much fiercer than the May 3 violence. In any other country with a rule of law, Pramot Singh would have been apprehended for directly and indirectly threatening to wipe out the Kuki-Chin- Zo tribe from their habitat. Singh even termed the Anglo-Kuki war of 1917-1919 where the Kukis staged an uprising against the British but finally lost the battle, as a myth. The spark for the May 3 violence was the torching of the memorial gate of the Anglo-Kuki war in Churachandpur. In this atmosphere of unending posturing by the leaders of Meetei outfits (known to have undergone arms training) on national television, any talk of peace seems sardonic. From reading the mind of Pramot Singh it would appear that the Meeteis are in readiness for a fight to the finish. The Meeteis are unwilling to see Manipur vivisected although what the Kuki-Chin-Zo MLAs are demanding is a separate administration that is not reliant on the Imphal valley-based government which is seen as partisan and anti-tribal.
It is true that the Kukis have been levelled as poppy growers with a vested interest in the drug trade which has afflicted the young across the North Eastern Region and the rest of India – heroin being the drug of choice at parties. This according to Intelligence Bureau sources is a Rs 50,000 crore annual trade. According to Manipur special anti-drugs unit, Narcotics and Affairs of Border (NAB) the Biren Singh Government has destroyed 18,664 acres of poppy cultivation from 2017 to 2023. Those benefiting from the trade would naturally resent the Government’s intrusion into what they consider their part of the territory. Perhaps a better handling of this situation taking the Kuki MLAs into confidence might have yielded better results with less acrimony and violence.