In an intellectual discussion with a group at a friend’s function, the conversation stirred toward the ongoing Manipur conflict, and a few Christians in that group in their lack of understanding of the Meitei and Kuki conflict or the undercurrents in Manipur decided to blame Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his silence over the issue and leaders of the BJP-led government at the state and centre for spreading its communal overtures in the Christian dominated Northeast India.
In fact, a few weeks into the conflict and after a video went viral of two Kuki women being paraded naked by a Meitei mob of over 1000 people, a senior Catholic Church leader in Goa gave a Member of Parliament and me a mouthful of criticism over the Manipur conflict when we paid him a courtesy visit. He even refused to take a picture with us. I urged him to look at the conflict dispassionately and consider the facts on the ground from both sides, not only from feedback within the Christian community. Post my visit from Manipur, I have shared my research and investigations with his office but have not got any response.
The Bible has profound advice for Christians. Do not throw pearls in front of a swine. So normally, I do not attempt to educate people who already have preconceived opinions about a conflict, especially when they have not gone to ground zero. However, it is important to share my personal experience on the Manipur conflict because I have been on ground zero seen the conflict with my own eyes, and spoke to people directly.
I did not agree with the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Manipur conflict for eighty days. I too, was extremely disappointed by his silence. But, while that is an answer that the people of India will continue to ponder and expect answer – in particular the people of Manipur – the conflict in the state cannot now become a toolkit to spread hate among the Christians towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Unfortunately, it is becoming one such toolkit among Christians across India.
Narendra Modi did speak on the Manipur conflict after much heartburn among the people who hoped more from such an inspiring leader who never fails to raise his voice against the evils of terrorism and violence against women in international conflicts. The damage however, at least in Manipur amongst both the Meitei and Kuki community and mostly in the Christian community was already done. People were disappointed with Narendra Modi. Union Home Minister Amit Shah spoke on Manipur in the Parliament and beautifully outlined the entire effort of the Indian government and the work it had done with the Manipur state government to bring the violence and conflict under some control, but it was too late. The media present on April 29th in Churachandpur before the violence erupted used the reportage on the violence along with the noise of the George Soros-led international lobby to paint the entire conflict as Hindus attacking Christians. It was turned into a religious conflict when it was clearly not.
Having visited Manipur twice and having met with Meitei and Kuki – the two warring communities – I know that the propaganda about Hindus attacking Christians is untrue. Meitei is not attacking the Kuki because they are Christians but because they are Kuki and because they believe that they are entrenched in the growing narcotics trade in the state. The Kuki, on the other hand, are not attacking the Meitei because they are Hindus, they claim that they are being victimized by the Meitei community who want to usurp their land through the Schedule Tribe (ST) Reservation and therefore have resorted to fight violence with violence. More so, the Kuki have been fighting the Meitei because they are being branded as illegal immigrants and narco-terrorists, which they claim they are not and that it is the Meitei political class in the government that is linked to the burgeoning narcotics trade in Manipur. But, there is no denying that some extremists from the Hindu community and some extremists from the Christian community wanted to fuel the Hindu-Christian narrative of hate but they were not from Manipur, in fact, most of them were sitting out of Manipur in other parts of India and internationally too.
The violence that erupted in Manipur in May this year was a dormant ethnic strife between the people of the valley and the people of the hill that was fuelled with the intent to create massive turmoil in Manipur and the rest of the Northeast. The ethnic violence was a camouflage to cover the real intent of the players in the narcotics trade which is to take control of the land in the hills. More importantly, most people across India were blindsided in this conflict by the influence of terror groups trained in Myanmar by the PLA Army and funded by China to wage a proxy war with India.
The failure of the state government of Manipur was evident in its inability to control the conflict, which unfortunately still continues. But the failure of the state government even though at first it appears to be grave, when you observe it closely, it is clear that the conflict would have been difficult for any government, let alone the BJP government to bring under control soon because the intent went beyond a state level ethnic strife between two communities. It was a proxy war waged by China on India using the terror groups from Myanmar indulging in the narcotic trade. So whether it was N Biren Singh or any other Manipur leader, it would have been difficult to calm the nerves of both the Meitei and Kuki because once the violence erupted their cordial nature turned to violent hate for each other. With each passing day due to the continuation of the violence, the hate spread and it created a separation of the people who once lived together peacefully.
Both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah failed to curb the rise of violence during the conflict because they put their unwavering faith in the Chief Minister of Manipur N Biren Singh. Some leaders in the strategic affairs over Manipur felt that the violence and conflict in Manipur were akin to two children fighting and that the parent should not directly interfere but be a passive observer because the conflict would resolve itself automatically when one of the children gets tired. So the Centre allowed the Manipur conflict to play out because they believed that at a local level it would resolve itself. Internal and external intelligence agencies failed to bring to their notice that this was not an ethnic conflict alone; but in reality, it was a transnational conspiracy against India waged by terror groups in Myanmar and Bangladesh under the guidance of China.
While there is no doubt that N Biren is the Chief Minister of Manipur, at the height of the conflict when he ought to have maintained neutrality, he sometimes acted more like the Chief Minister of the Meitei community and not Manipur, which is also home to Kuki, Nagas, Gorkhas, and Pangals. Some people within the political intelligentsia opine that he was not the water that was needed to put out the fire, but instead he was the alcohol that further spread the fire because of some of his rash and insensitive statements attributing the entire blame of the Manipur conflict on the Kuki community.
The moot points of N Biren Singh’s failure to deal with the Manipur conflict are debatable. Yet, it would have been suicidal for the Centre to replace him at that point in time. Such a move would have enraged the Meitei community, as he is seen as a popular Meitei leader. N Biren Singh, to his credit, cracked down on the narcotics trade in Manipur, replacing him because of a debatable failure to deal with a transnational conspiracy against India would have been harsh and uninspiring to other BJP leaders across the different BJP-ruled states. More so it would have been a cherished victory for the players in the narcotics trade because the enforcer of the war on drugs would not be in power. So while many wanted the head of N Biren Singh after the failure to control the violence and the conflict, and some are even now lobbying in the corridors of power in New Delhi to remove him, the Centre in its wisdom, in particular Prime Minister Modi has decided to maintain a status quo on the leadership issue in Manipur while the Centre intensifies its support to the state government to deal with the transnational conspiracy against India.
Two days ago, the Vatican’s Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue extended greetings to the people of India on the occasion of Deepavali and urged Christians and Hindus to work together to build peace. While the message was beautiful in its intent, it also touched subtly on its inherent belief in the concerns it has with the Narendra Modi-led government in India when it pointed out: Sadly, this is also the current situation with its many instances of contempt for human dignity; the denial or curtailment of the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens, including their religious rights; and of intolerance and hatred, injustice and discrimination, violence and aggression directed towards those who are ethnically, culturally, economically, linguistically and religiously diverse, or against the more vulnerable members of society.
The message of the Vatican on Deepavali to the people of India focuses on Christians and Hindus working together to build peace. It is ironic that the Vatican focuses on Christians and Hindus working together while ignoring the different other religious communities so essential to the peaceful social fabric of India. It further eulogizes over fundamental rights and freedom of citizens and interestingly violence and aggression directed towards those who are ethnically and culturally diverse. The subtlety of the message is clearly focused on the propagated agenda that Christians in India are in danger and now with the Manipur conflict some leaders in the Catholic Church who are not in favor of Prime Minister Narendra Modi attempt to use Manipur as they used Godhra to create fear and hate for Narendra Modi and the BJP in the run-up to Lok Sabha 2014. In fact, Archbishop Dominic Lumon of Imphal Archdiocese will be the axis around which the claimed atrocities on Christians in Manipur will be amplified in Chrisitan-dominated states like Goa, even though most within the Catholic Church know that they were attacked because they were Kuki and not because they were Christians.
The Manipur conflict will be the fulcrum to unite Christians against Narendra Modi and BJP. Zoramthanga, Chief Minister of Mizoram, belonging to the Mizoram National Front – an ally of the NDA – refused to share a dias with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Zoramthanga, in an interview with BBC News last month, stated: The people of Mizoram are all Christians. When the people of Manipur (Meities) burned hundreds of churches in Manipur, they (Mizos) were totally against that kind of idea. To have sympathy with the BJP at this time will be a big minus point from my point of view for my party. He further expressed: It will be better if the Prime Minister comes alone and he shares the platform by himself, and I take the stage separately by myself.
The November edition of the Catholic Sabha – the mouthpiece of the Thrissur Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar Church, came down heavily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP for their apathy in handling the Manipur riots. In the article – ‘Will not forget Manipur’ – the archdiocese, which is an influential religious body in Kerala, said the people who believe in democracy can understand the meaning of the Prime Minister’s silence on the Manipur issue. The article begins: As the Lok Sabha elections are nearing, there is an effort to hide the Manipur issue. The political party, which aspires to come to power at the Centre once again, is taking efforts for this. The article further stated: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who runs to other parts of the country when some disasters happen, ignored the Manipur riots totally. He did not even utter a word for maintaining peace there. The Prime Minister, who intervened multiple times when a temple was attacked in Australia, continued his silence even when 300-odd Christian churches were burnt in 48 hours in Manipur. The Opposition had to bring out a no-confidence motion to break his silence.
In August this year, in an article in the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman’s pastoral bulletin, Renovacao, author Noronha F.E. Noronha stated: The state government’s talk of ‘destroying traces of Portuguese culture’ is a warning that Goa could witness clashes similar to those in Manipur, says an article in the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman’s pastoral bulletin, Renovacao. There is no doubt that some nefarious people want to ferment trouble on religious and caste grounds in Goa but the religious community and Goa government must work together to stop the hate and not spread the hate.
Everyone is looking to blame someone in a conflict but not see the truth. The truth is bitter and does not give wind to propaganda therefore no one wants to acknowledge it. Manipur is a society conflicted by its own perverse hate between communities that linger for decades and all it required was a trigger to ignite that hate. Someone with a political agenda against Manipur and against India triggered that hate and tried to turn it into a religious conflict when it was not. But the geopolitical players of the game will not stop until they use the Manipur conflict to spread more hate between Hindus and Christians; and ensure Christians do not vote for Prime Minister Modi. The truth is that not all Meitei are terrorists and not all Kuki are terrorists but terrorists have infiltrated their militant groups. Also, another truth is that there is a danger lurking of illegal immigrants from Myanmar in Manipur and Mizoram, it needs to be dealt with firmly and soon before it becomes a national security issue.