On Thursday, the Manipur government issued a statement saying, “Internet services suspended in Manipur for five days amid incidents of fighting among youths and volunteers of different communities as a rally was organized by All Tribals Students Union (ATSU), Manipur, in protest against the demand for inclusion of Meitei/Meetei in the ST category”.
But while the government is hinting at mere ‘incidents of violence’, the situation has gotten much worse in the north eastern state of Manipur. The eruption of large-scale violence in the state is not abrupt as the situation has been tense there for a few months now, following the demand of the Meitei community to be included in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category. The Meitei people form the majority of the state of Manipur and they differ culturally from the surrounding hill tribes because the Meitei people follow Hindu customs.
The majority Meitei want to be included in the ST category to protect their culture and customs from the illegal infiltration from the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and Myanmar, which is destroying the demographic pattern in the state.
This demand of the Meitei people being included in the ST category did not go down well with the tribal communities residing in the state, and in order to oppose the demand, thousands of tribals assembled together on Wednesday, for the ‘Tribal Solidarity March’, organized by the All Tribals Students Union (ATSU), in all the 10 districts of the state. Enraged by this large-scale protest against their demand, the Meitei people burned down the posters and banners used by the opposing tribals, and incidents of violence were then witnessed in several districts.
As a result, since Wednesday night, the violence in the state reached uncontrollable levels and mobs are fighting each other, and the worst and the scariest part for the innocent people of Manipur, scared for their lives, stuck amidst gory violence is that this issue wherein their state is literally burning, is not being highlighted at a level that it should be, and the mainstream media is not picking this up, and discussions and debates regarding the situation in Manipur are negligible as compared to cases wherein violence erupts in other mainland states of India.
This fight between the tribals and the non-Tribal Meitei people has taken a communal turn wherein both the ethnic groups are clashing with each other and incidents have been reported wherein people from the Kuki tribe could be seen burning down houses. And while the demand of the Meitei people is being opposed, the imposition of NRC in the state is also not being accepted.
Taking a stock of the situation on ground-zero, GoaChronicle has found out that many tribal outfits based in Manipur have gotten involved in these clashes, who even have dangerous arms like AK-47s. It is also noteworthy at this juncture that even a Mandir was targeted and destroyed in the state, using grenades. This comes as a response to the demolition of a church in Checkon, Imphal, just a few days back. But is crucial to note that the church, revered by the Kuki people, was standing on government land and was demolished on the order of the Supreme Court.
Images from Manipur (Source: Mary Kom on Twitter)
This is the first time that such major communal tension between two communities has erupted in Manipur, wherein people are being burnt alive inside cars, houses are being torched, grenades are being thrown on a Mandir, and the livelihood of people is being destroyed with burning down small shops.
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