Manipur is on the boil again with the communal riots, raging for nearly a week, claiming lives and displacing peoples. The unabated violence reflects not just the failure of the law and order machinery but also exposes the ethnic fault lines in a region which has witnessed contested history. The latest conflict was triggered by a tribal solidarity rally against the Meitei’s demand for Scheduled Tribe status. The Meiteis, mostly Hindus, are estimated to be over 60% of the population and inhabit the Imphal Valley. The hill tribes – mostly Nagas and Kukis – are predominantly Christian and are designated as ST. Relations between the valley and the hills have always been fraught with the hill population accusing the Meiteis of political domination whereas the latter fear loss of assets such as land and cultural marginalisation.
Manipur, like most of north-eastern India, is an amalgamation of multiple cultures, faiths and ethnicities, many with a history of mistrust and violence. The urgent need is to enforce peace and crack down on the violent mobs without fear or favor. It is a mammoth task, given the delicate nature of the conflict and the ethnic, religious and geographic divides that have roiled the state for decades.
After pulling off a deft political move in forming the Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA), the BJP has been claiming that it has largely succeeded in containing violence. However, the region continues to be restive. The centre and the state have a tough task on hand to work together with all the stakeholders in finding an amicable settlement.