August , 2023
Not just Manipur: entire north-east needs a well-knit programme for peace and prosperity
17:38 pm

Buroshiva Dasgupta

On the west it is Kashmir, and now in the east it is Manipur. These are glaring examples of centre’s mishandling of the states over an extended period of time and there seems to be no clue towards a resolution of the troubles. Already, IMF has predicted a fall in India’s GDP growth in the coming year, and it might worsen if the government doesn’t act fast to bring back normalcy. The entire country is shocked and agitated over what is happening in Manipur.

The criminality that has been perpetrated on Kuki women in Manipur was the result of ‘fake’ news that similar things had been done on Meiteis. This was an act of revenge. There are at least 35 different tribes living in Manipur alone and neither the state administration nor the centre cared to understand their lifestyles, their aspirations, similarities and differences. The long neglect has led to frequent separation movements in Manipur and in other adjoining north eastern states. We have heard of separatists’ movements in Assam, in Mizoram, in Nagaland and even a separate ‘kukiland’ in Manipur too. The entire north east is getting more and more fragmented because of administrative neglect.

What is worse, instead of empathizing with tribal communities and trying to disarm them with reason, the administration continues with the age old policy of ‘divide and rule’. The state chief minister is accused of siding with a particular tribe to teach a rival tribe a lesson. But nobody tries to find out why such a rivalry. Many of the members of the tribal communities now live in refugee camps, displaced from their homes. The rivalries are so bitter that some of the interviews reveal that the people in the camps seek weapons, instead of food and other amenities. In Manipur, the Kukis generally live in the hills while the Meiteis live in the plains. A BBC documentary reveals  check posts in the villages guarded by different tribal communities  armed with rifles , keeping a close watch on the movements of their ‘rivals’.

Such enmities did not grow overnight. The Muslim insurgents in Kashmir are accused of being backed by neighbouring Pakistan; here in Manipur, the Kukis in the hills are accused of being backed by neighbouring Myanmar and now by China. The small village rivalries between two tribes have now blown up into a civil war, having international ramifications.

A common Indian will today ask what were the police intelligence doing? One of the victims in an interview said that the police had handed them over to the mob when they had sought their help! Enough is enough. It is not just Manipur. The entire north east now needs a well-knit programme for peace and prosperity. It’s not just the border issues with China and Myanmar. It was there and will be there. It has to be tackled militarily, as it is done in the western India. There are other vested interests working within the country itself. The present day local politicians to hold on to power continue with the British divide and rule policy. The extra funds allotted by the centre especially for the upliftment of the northeast are misused. Corruption is rampant. There are theories to suggest that corporate houses back the Meiteis to grab the mineral rich hills occupied by the Kukis. So the Meitei-Kuki conflict is not that simple. The communities are being misused to serve larger purposes, usually to the detriment of their well-being.

The conflicts are now spreading – from Manipur to Mizoram to Nagaland. These tribally dominated states need different kind of handling. Unless something is done to restore internal peace, India’s dream of leading the world as an economic power house will be dashed to pieces. Already a  slide in GDP growth has been predicted.

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