On May 3rd 2023, ethno-religious violence erupted between tribal groups in Manipur, specifically the Kuki tribes and the Meitei people. As of July, nearly 142 people have been killed in the crossfire, 300 injured, and 55,000 displaced from their homes. The violence began in the Imphal Valley, after the Manpur High Court order had asked for the Manipur State Government’s opinion on the status of the Meitei Tribe. That is, the status of whether Meitei should be considered a Scheduled Tribe, a group of tribes that are extremely socio-economically disadvantaged, and well beyond the lower classifications of hierarchical systems in Indian society.
The All Tribal Students Union Manipur (ATSUM) was very publicly against this decision, and held a protest through solidarity marches across all districts in opposition to the court order. The violence has continued to escalate, especially regarding the Kuki tribe. The army, the RAF, the Assam Rifles, and the police force are now involved in the matter to try to prevent this case of internal disturbance. Shops, homes, and districts had been gutted and vandalized. The matter remains in the hands of the government, for which we must ask, what have they done?
The Chief Minister N. Biren Singh has issued a plea for calm under the name of the BJP government. He suggested that the violence was the result of a misunderstanding, but such claims have been futile. The CM continued saying that the government was taking necessary measures to maintain order, including requiring additional parliamentary forces. Central and State forces have been directed to take strong action against individuals inciting violence. Indefinite curfew has been imposed, and shelter homes have been opened to the public.
However, the level of violence seems to be no match for the sanctions that have been placed in response. While BJP has placed some minor responses for the Manipur incident, the casualties and destruction have not seen any decline since their imposition. The government has done the bare minimum, while watching the tribes respond to their Schedule Tribe definition in what seems to be a violent attempt at a democratic retaliation. While BJP’s motto might be to ensure “integral humanism.” they have failed to address the real issues at hand while maintaining a semblance of amicable rebuke.
The incidents in Manipur are obviously not solely caused by the government's High Court Order. Rather, the pressure from Myanmar immigrants, the encroachment of tribal forest and hill areas, the blatant referral to the Kuki as drug lords, and more have resulted in this violence. The anger has been pressed down, building over several unignorable incidents as the people of Manipur fight for their land and rights in their own home.
Perhaps if BJP was willing to address the real problem at hand, instead of adapting to the consequences, may Manipur see justice. Perhaps if I.N.D.I.A were to address the issue by their supposed claim to India’s truth, “Satyamev Jayate”, might we see mitigation instead of inaction. By learning the people’s truth instead of policy for the sake of repression, might the situation in Manipur improve.