Manipur is the land of rich valleys surrounded by beautiful hills and lakes, a land of gentle people full of laughter and joy. Many legends tell us the origin of Manipur. One of the legends is that Krishna requested Shiva to keep a watch while he danced the Ras with Radha and Gopis. Parvati on seeing Shiva protecting a particular spot was curious to see what Shiva was protecting. On her insistence, Shiva permitted her to see the Ras. She was so enamored by Krishna’s dance that she decided to perform the Ras with Shiva. Shiva searched for a place high and low for a beautiful and a secluded place for dancing the Ras with Parvati. He saw Manipur surrounded by mountains; its beautiful valleys covered by a sheet of water. With his trident, he stuck the mountain ranges making a path for the water to flow out. The valley of Manipur emerged and Shiva and Parvati danced on it.
Manipur means the ‘land of gems’. This north-eastern state was described as the land of gold or ‘Suvarnabhu’. Manipur was a princely state under the British rule in 1891. A democratic form of government with Maharaja as the executive head was established in 1947, under the Manipur Constitution act. This ruling family gave them a long peaceful era in which they developed their arts and crafts undisturbed. The territory became a full-fledged state with the integration on 21st January 1972.
The original inhabitants of Manipur belong to Meitei community which lives prominently in the valleys. Their language is Maiyitilon which is also known as the Manipuri language. Meitei community is a prominent community of Manipur and it has a history of prosperous heritage. This community has ruled Manipur for about 2000 years, from 33AD to 1949. This dynasty is the one with the longest duration of rule in the whole world. Meitei community worships Krishna. The philosophical tradition of Chaitanya Gaudiya encompasses the Meitei perception. They breathe the Sanatana continuity. The history of the Meitei society, their customs, traditions, religious beliefs, art, culture and rich literature are laid down in their old manuscripts like ‘Leithak Leikharol’.
In 1901, 96% of the Manipuri people followed Hinduism and predominantly majority of them were Meiteis. In the coming decades which followed influx of Kuki-Chin people from erstwhile Burma and continuous conversions sponsored by churches reduced their numbers to 41.39% in 2011. The Kuki-Chin people relate their traces from erstwhile Burma and were brought by the Britishers to fight Nagas in the region. 41.29% of people identified themselves as Christians in 2011 majorly Nagas and Kukis. Whereas, a small no. of Meiteis also follow Christianity and Islam. Meitei Muslims trace their origin with the confluence of Mughal soldiers and Meitei women. Meiteis were recognized tribe before the merger of Manipur with the Indian federation in 1949, their status was dropped as they were not included in the ST list prepared according to the article 342 of the Indian constitution.
Moreover, Meiteis face discrimination in terms of land resources as 90% of the land is reserved for the Kuki-Naga tribes. Naga-Kukis predominantly live in the mountainous regions and do opium farming. The current Manipur government’s crackdown on the opium farming and their networks to Myanmar has resulted in widespread resentment. According to government reports the most number of criminals arrested in drug cases are Kukis followed by Muslims. The government has destroyed drugs worth Rs 1888 crore since 2017. In addition, the mountainous region is conserved under the clause 371© of the Indian constitution and private property is strictly banned. But with the passage of time the Kuki-Nagas had occupied these protected lands by installing huts and the missionaries had made hut roofed churches. The current government’s stiff action of occupying the government lands again and demolishing these illegal structures added to the case. Violence triggered with the Kuki community attacking Meitei establishments in Churachandpur during the Tribal Solidarity March took by the Naga-Kukis to protest against the inclusion of Meiteis as tribes. This led to the cabinet withdraw the SOo agreement with the Kuki National Army and the Zomi Revolutionary Army. In a series of events the Kukis killed dozens of Meiteis in Churachandpur which led to the evacuation of Meiteis from the region. The violence spread to other areas of Manipur as well, armed Kuki militants killed many innocent Meiteis. Due to some stiff opposition in the Meitei dominated areas some Kukis were killed too.
We have already seen such a struggle in Mizoram. Around 50000 ‘Bru-Riyang’ Hindus were driven off in a fortnight by Mizo churches, Christians and criminals. They are still living a migrant life in Tripura. It has come to the notice that the current violence is being triggered and financed by the insurgents in Myanmar and west sponsored churches. The primary motive of the violence is to wipe out the beautiful culture of north east, the great tribal customs of the Meiteis on the lines of how the churches wiped the ancient culture of Nagas in the north east. The Kuki-Chin militants on the lines of their masters have now started demanding separate statehood for Kukis by dividing Manipur which has also been condemned by many Naga groups in Manipur. There is a popular estimate that if 1961 is set as the base year for identification of illegal immigrants then atleast 80% of the Kukis must be deported back to Myanmar, this is the reason why NRC was being protested by the same Kukis. The main perpetrators behind the violence are Kuki National Army (KNA), the Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA) and insurgents from Myanmar who are the main beneficiaries in the opium trade.
All in all, violence should not act as the medium to demonstrate the demands of any community. Any inhuman activity should be condemned in all the circles and the government should ensure strict punishments to the ones who advocate militancy and hate crimes. The constitution of India calls for equal rights and say for every community in decision making and provides support to the impoverished ones. The Meitei community has faced oppression in Manipur being the original residents of Manipur is a fact. The violence must stop immediately and the civil society should sit on the tables with the state government and ensure that both the communities agree to the government’s attempt to bring peace in Manipur.
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