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Unrest in Manipur: The role of politics and religion can’t be completely disregarded

The Kuki community attempted to play the victim card of the Christian minority identity,  aiming to garner support from fellow Christian communities by portraying themselves as victims, writes Meetei

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By S.J. Meetei  

Numerous individuals might have assumed that the turmoil in Manipur was set ablaze on May  3, 2023. Nonetheless, the reality is that this has been an extensive and meticulous scheme carried out by a specialist. Similar to volcanoes, the outburst was primed to occur at the most advantageous juncture. It has been ongoing for many days and was publicly documented starting from May 3rd, 2023. This date marked the revelation of a concealed agenda that had been kept hidden for numerous years by those who were encroaching upon the situation.  Even looking back, the efforts to eradicate the Meitei presence from Kuki-dominated areas had commenced long ago. In recent times, before the 3rd May unfortunate incident, a  significant incident occurred on August 18, 2015, in Moreh, where a multitude of Meitei homes and businesses were deliberately damaged and pillaged by Kuki individuals during broad daylight, all while both central and state security forces were present.  

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While it might be challenging to provide a concrete example, there is evidence through remote sensing that suggests the role of politics and religion can’t be completely disregarded in the current scenario.  

The Religion Play  

The Kuki community attempted to play the victim card of the Christian minority identity,  aiming to garner support from fellow Christian communities by portraying themselves as victims. In the initial stages of the turmoil starting from May 3rd, there was widespread news coverage of the destruction of around 200 churches. This act was met with condemnation from Christians across the country. Christian organizations rallied together to support the affected Kuki Christian communities, showcasing the generosity inherent in these Christian groups. However, it wasn’t until later that our Christian communities realized that Kuki  Christians were also targeting fellow Christians within the Meitei community.  

Meanwhile, the broader nation, including our Christian communities, seemed unaware of the fact that Kuki communities had previously burned and destroyed Meitei places of worship before the events of May 3rd, 2023. The national media frequently discusses the tally of burned churches, often overlooking the profound sentiments associated with each temple within the Meitei community. In contrast to our Christian counterparts, Hindu Meiteis typically share a single temple among a large population. However, this isn’t the case for our  Christian brethren of Kuki, as they tend to have many churches constructed within their neighbourhoods. Upon closer examination, these churches cater to smaller units within the village, even though other churches might be present in the same village.  

Moreover, each Meitei household designates a distinct space for worship within their homes.  The underlying point I’m trying to convey is that rather than fixating on enumerating the physical quantity of worship sites – be it churches or temples, one should focus on the emotional significance attached to these places of worship. It’s not just about the number of these physical places, but the large population of the depth of emotional connection they hold.  To put it concisely, the number of Meiteis affected in terms of places of worship far surpasses 

the number of affected Christian Kuki, considering their respective populations. This is without accounting for the exclusive physical worship spaces, accessible to a select elite group, which is backed by many who view them as future prospects.  

The Political Sense  

I find it difficult to comprehend how the formidable Indian Forces, often considered among the world’s finest military, struggled to quell the situation. Conversely, state police forces are being branded as collaborators with Meitei communities and the state administration,  seemingly overlooking the fact that there is a significant Kuki presence within the state police ranks. It would be accurate to note that a considerable portion of the top hierarchy in the state police forces stems from Kuki communities.  

Additionally, Assam Rifles has been perceived as favouring the Kuki communities, enough evidence has been circulated on many social media platforms from Meitei communities. This perception is also influenced by the proximity of some Kuki SoO insurgency camps to Assam  Rifles camps. The division of the buffer zone is another example of jeopardizing state machinery.  

National media highlights instances of Meitei looting weaponry from the state police, but it often fails to report that arms and ammunition were already pilfered in Churachandpur from police stations and ammunition shops by Kuki individuals before the Meitei looting began. It’s important to note that Meiteis looted guns for self-defence, as some Meitei youths even carried their identity cards like Aadhaar cards during these initial phases of looting.  

Therefore, all these facts require meticulous scrutiny, particularly to identify the instigator who triggered the unfortunate events on May 3rd, 2023. The so-called peaceful rally on that day in Churachandpur was characterized by the presence of highly advanced weaponry. Even during the recent Independence Day celebration in Churachandpur, there was a conspicuous display of arms and ammunition by members of the Kuki community. In a distressing incident,  our national flag was lowered to an encroachment. It perplexes me why the media has remained silent on these matters. The showcased weaponry is to create fear among the  Meitei civilians.  

The drug crisis in Manipur has escalated to its highest point, affecting nearly 20% of its population. As per the data of the Manipur Narcotics and Affairs of Border (NAB), a total of  *15496.8 acres of land were used for poppy cultivation from 2017 to 2023. Out of this total area, *13121.8 acres of land, which is 84.67 % area, falls within regions primarily inhabited by the Kuki-Chin community. This issue is poised to spread rapidly, flooding every corner of the region and casting its impact on citizens across the nation. It is imperative that as a team,  we now vocally address the challenges posed by Narco Terrorism and the inflow of illegal immigrants. As a resilient nation, yielding to narco-terrorism, which prioritizes monetary gains over the lives of our young generation, would be a grave mistake. The decision between becoming a drug-affected nation or a nation that is drug-free rests within our grasp. Every countryman should contribute to our collective battle against narco-terrorism.  

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the NEA.

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