Violence in Manipur is state-sponsored, says fact-finding team
A fact-finding team from the National Federation of Indian Women said at a press conference in Delhi that the Manipur government was propagating violence in the state
A fact-finding team has found that what is currently occurring in Manipur is not communal violence, but state-sponsored violence. It is not merely a fight between two communities, but a question of land, resources exacerbated by the presence of fanatics and militants.
The violence that broke out on 3 May 2023 did not occur by itself, without incitement. Many incidents took place in the months of March and April 2023 which clearly indicated the possibility of violent clashes. But the government chose to ignore it, allowing the violence to happen.
The fact-finding team from the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) said, at a press conference in Delhi, that the Manipur government, instead of taking steps to safeguard the lives of the people in the state, has continued its provocative actions which have furthered the rift between two major communities –Meiteis and Kukis. The team visited seven relief camps, six of which were Meitei camps and one of the Kukis. The camps were based in Imphal East, Imphal West, Bishnupur and Churachandpur districts.
The clashes in Manipur between the Meitei and Kuki ethnic groups began on May 3 and have continued for 48 days without any signs of abating. All Kukis have been expelled from Imphal, and no Meitei can be seen in Churachandpur (a Kuki stronghold) or other Kuki-dominated hill districts such as Chandel, Kangpokpi, Tengnoupal and Senapati districts of Manipur. The Meiteis predominantly live in the Imphal valley and the Kuki tribes live in the hill regions of the state.
“This is not a religious fight, but a political fight. The Chief Minister has pursued a hidden agenda and the police have remained a mute spectator when violence erupted,” said Annie Raja, NFIW general secretary.
The affirmative action in the state has ensured that many Kukis were able to educate themselves, write competitive exams and get government jobs, said Raja, while stating that several Meiteis they met were upset about this too.
The government had demolished three churches in Imphal’s New Chekon on the pretext of being built on encroached land. Moreover, several Kuki villagers have been evicted from Kangpopki and Tengoupal areas and their homes demolished in the name of forest preservation and wildlife protection.
“It has been alleged by the Kukis that Meiteis were angry with the peace march, therefore, they tried burning the sacred Indo-Kuki War Memorial. Meiteis had come in large numbers to Churachandpur. They had also marked the houses of Meiteis and Kukis in advance,” said Raja.
Deeksha Dwivedi, a lawyer who was part of the fact-finding team, highlighted that it was not clear what the state was doing to ensure justice to the people affected by the violence. “None of the people we met have any clue of FIRs that have been filed and no police has come to record statements of victims,” said Dwivedi.
In addition to ensuring peace in the state, the government should rehabilitate people who have been affected by the violence, said Dwivedi. She added that none of the families they met have received the compensation that was promised by the Biren Singh government in the aftermath of the violence.
The Centre and the Manipur state government on 30 May 2023 had announced Rs 10 lakh to those who lost their lives in the recent ethnic clashes in the state. One member of the deceased’s family would also be provided with a job. The compensation amount was to be equally borne by the centre and the state.
The fact-finding team has urged the government to set up buffer zones on both sides, ensure continuity of education of students and setting up of a high-powered Supreme Court-monitored committee for inquiry to ensure justice.
On 4 June 2023, the union government had appointed a three-member Commission of Inquiry headed by former Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court Ajai Lamba to probe the ethnic violence that had broken out in the state. However, both the communities have stated that they will not be part of this committee.
The other members of the committee are Himanshu Shekhar Das, a retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer from the 1982 batch of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre, and Aloka Prabhakar, a 1986 batch retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of the Telangana cadre.
A notification issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) stated that the “Commission shall submit its report to the Central Government as soon as possible but not later than six months from the date of its first sitting."