[26th June 2024] The Hindu Op-ed: Agony still in Manipur, a year later

PYQ Relevance: 

Q What are the two major legal initiatives by the state since Independence, addressing discrimination against Scheduled Tribes (ST)? (UPSC IAS/2017)
Q Why are the tribals in India referred to as ‘the Scheduled Tribes’? Indicate the major provisions enshrined in the Constitution of India for their upliftment. (UPSC IAS/2016)

Mentors’ comment: The Meiteis and Kuki-Zos are the two major ethnic communities in Manipur engaged in a violent conflict since May 2022. The Meiteis, the dominant group in the Imphal valley, have demanded Scheduled Tribe status, which the Kuki-Zos in the hills oppose fearing loss of land and jobs. The conflict has led to over 220 deaths, thousands injured, and tens of thousands displaced, creating a humanitarian crisis.

Let’s learn!

Why in the news?

The absence of Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh was notable at the high-level security meeting on Manipur convened by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi on June 17, 2024.

Background issue:

  • Communities Involved: The primary conflict is between two major ethnic communities in Manipur: the Meitei and the Kuki-Zo tribes.
  • Violence and Casualties: The clashes have resulted in significant violence, including attacks on civilians and property. The conflict has led to a considerable loss of life, with casualties reported on both sides.
  • Displacement: The violence has caused widespread displacement within Manipur. Both Meiteis and Kuki-Zos have been forced to flee their homes, contributing to a humanitarian crisis in the region.
  • Reason: The roots of the conflict are deep-seated and include historical grievances and disputes over land, resources, and political representation.

Issues related to High-Level Security Meeting:

  • Exclusion from High-Level Meetings: Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh was conspicuously excluded from a high-level security meeting convened by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi on June 17, 2024.
  • Centralized Control: Speculations arose about an undeclared President’s Rule in Manipur, indicating that the State government’s authority in handling the ethnic clashes between Meitei and Kuki-Zo tribes has been significantly diminished.
  • Appointment of Officials: The Director General of Police and Security Adviser for Manipur were appointed from outside the State following the outbreak of violence, highlighting a shift in administrative control away from local authorities.

Recent challenges:

  • Misguided Separation Strategy: An attempt to create a buffer zone between the warring communities by dividing responsibilities between central forces and state police backfired.
  • Lack of Resolution Efforts: While violence temporarily subsided, underlying causes of discord between Meiteis and Kuki-Zos were not addressed, allowing tensions to persist and escalate unpredictably.
  • Presence of Security Forces: Despite a large deployment of around 70,000 personnel, the strategy has focused on managing rather than resolving the conflict, leading to sustained distrust and communal tensions.

Impact on Meiteis and Kuki-Zos communities:

  • Casualties and Displacement: Official figures report 225 deaths, with significant displacement and mutual ethnic cleansing affecting both Meiteis and Kuki-Zos communities.
  • Blurred Victim-Perpetrator Lines: Over time, the distinction between victims and perpetrators has become less clear, complicating reconciliation efforts and deepening communal divisions.
  • Humanitarian Impact: The conflict has exacted a heavy toll on lives and properties, necessitating empathy and shared acknowledgement of suffering as a basis for reconciliation and eventual peace-building.

Way forward: 

  • Inclusion of Local Leadership: Ensure the meaningful participation of Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh and local community leaders in high-level security meetings and decision-making processes. This can help in fostering trust and ownership of initiatives aimed at resolving the conflict.
  • Address Root Causes: Conduct a comprehensive assessment to identify and address the underlying causes of ethnic tensions, such as historical grievances, competition over resources, and political representation. Develop policies and initiatives that aim at long-term reconciliation rather than short-term management of conflict.


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