Tribes in News

Ethnic Tensions in Manipur: Restoring Peace and Rebuilding Trust


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Tribes in news, related provisions and Demand for a separate administration in Manipur

Mains level: Ethnic tensions, causes , historical background, government effrots and way ahead


Central Idea

  • The simmering conflict between the Meiteis and the Kukis has escalated due to mutual suspicion and recent events, such as the Manipur High Court’s order to recommend Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to Meiteis and the eviction drive of tribal villages from reserved forests. The failure to address these issues has resulted in the resurgence of ethnic violence, posing a threat to peace and stability in the region

Community Dynamics in Manipur and Tensions

  • Ethnic Clashes: Manipur has a history of ethnic clashes between communities, particularly between the Meiteis and the Kukis. These clashes often arise due to competition for resources, land disputes, and historical grievances. Mutual suspicion and territorial claims have fueled tensions between various ethnic groups.
  • Land Ownership: Land is a significant source of contention among communities in Manipur. The Meiteis, who primarily inhabit the Imphal valley, face challenges in relocating to the hill areas due to their non-inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) category. This has led to a sense of deprivation and competition for land ownership between the Meiteis and the hill communities, especially the Nagas and Kukis.
  • Political Representation: The issue of political representation has also contributed to tensions among communities. Different ethnic groups in Manipur strive for adequate representation in governance and decision-making processes. Disparities in political clout and access to resources have fueled grievances and conflicts.
  • Cultural Differences: Manipur is home to diverse communities with distinct cultural practices, traditions, and languages. While this cultural diversity can be a source of richness, it can also lead to misunderstandings and tensions. Differences in religious beliefs, customs, and language can sometimes create divisions and conflicts among communities.
  • Historical Grievances: Historical grievances and conflicts have left lasting scars on community dynamics in Manipur. Past struggles, violence, and insurgent movements have deepened mistrust and created fragmented social landscapes. Lingering resentments from these historical events continue to impact relationships between communities.
  • Socio-economic Disparities: Socio-economic disparities exist among different communities in Manipur. Disparities in access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities can contribute to tensions and grievances. Economic imbalances and perceived inequalities can strain community relationships.

Historical Background 

  • Pre-Integration Period: The Meiteis, the majority community in Manipur, had their own distinct socio-political system and cultural practices. They sought to project a pan-Mongoloid identity and had a chequered history of violence and struggles before integration with India.
  • Insurgent Movements: Before integration, Manipur witnessed the emergence of various insurgent groups, such as the People’s Liberation Army, which operated from bases in Bangladesh and Myanmar. These groups sought to address the political aspirations and grievances of certain communities in Manipur, leading to tensions and conflicts with the government and agencies representing the government.
  • Religious and Identity Issues: The Meiteis, who primarily follow Vaishnav Hinduism, had also expressed dissatisfaction with their Hindu identity, as they believed it brought them no political and economic benefits. They had previously attempted to revive an old Meitei religion called Sanamahism and had protested against the presence of Mayangs, or outsiders, including Manipur Muslims called Pangals.
  • Integration with India: Manipur became a part of India in 1949, and efforts were made to integrate the state with the mainstream Indian governance system. Over the years, steps such as protracted military operations, peace talks, political negotiations, improved means of communication, and development were undertaken to facilitate integration and stability in the region.

Facts for prelims

Merger of Manipur with the Union of India:

  • Pre-1947: Manipur was a princely state under British colonial rule. The Maharaja of Manipur, Bodhachandra Singh, was the ruler of the state.
  • August 1947: The Maharaja of Manipur signed the Instrument of Accession, agreeing to accede to the Indian Union.
  • 1972: Manipur, along with Meghalaya and Tripura, became a full-fledged state under the North Eastern Region (Reorganisation) Act, 1971

Who are the Meiteis?

  • Largest community: The Meiteis are the largest community in Manipur.
  • Community’s Language: They speak the Meitei language (officially called Manipuri), one of the 22 official languages of India and the sole official language of Manipur State.
  • Geographical Distribution: Manipur is geographically divided into the Imphal Valley and the surrounding hills. The Imphal Valley is dominated by the Meitei community, which accounts for more than 64% of the population. The hills, which comprise 90% of Manipur’s geographical area, are inhabited by more than 35% recognized tribes, which are largely Christians.
  • Major Festivals: festivals of meiteis are Lai Haraoba, Cheiraoba, Yaosang among others. Also, The Manipuri martial art Thang-ta had its origin in the Meitei knights during the king’s rule.

Government’s efforts to restore peace in Manipur

  • Deployment of Security Forces: The Indian Army, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), and Indian Air Force have been deployed to address the ongoing violence and maintain law and order in the region.
  • High-Level Government Involvement: The union Home minister has personally visited Manipur and presided over the peace process. The government has appointed a former Director-General of the CRPF as a security adviser and may appoint an officer from the Tripura cadre as the Director-General of Manipur.
  • Military Operations and Combing Operations: The government has initiated military and combing operations to control the intensity and spread of violence. These operations aim to apprehend perpetrators and restore peace.
  • Relief and Rehabilitation: Relief camps have been set up to provide shelter, food, and support to those affected by the violence. Efforts are being made to rehabilitate displaced individuals and help them return to their homes.
  • Strict Action Against Perpetrators: The government has emphasized taking strict action against those involved in violence. Perpetrators are facing consequences for their actions.
  • Confidence-Building Measures: The presence of security forces and high-level government officials aims to restore confidence among affected communities. The government’s commitment to maintaining law and order and addressing the security situation is intended to instill a sense of security.

Way ahead: Restoring Peace and Rebuilding Trust

  • Dialogue and Reconciliation: Facilitate open and inclusive dialogue among different communities, encouraging representatives from various ethnic groups to come together and discuss their concerns, grievances, and aspirations. This dialogue should aim to foster understanding, empathy, and reconciliation, creating a platform for finding common ground and building trust.
  • Addressing Land Issues: Develop a fair and transparent mechanism to address land disputes and ensure equitable land ownership rights for all communities. This can involve comprehensive land reforms, effective implementation of land laws, and creating avenues for resolving land-related conflicts through legal means or mediation.
  • Inclusive Governance and Representation: Ensure equitable political representation and participation of all communities in decision-making processes. This can be achieved by promoting inclusive policies, ensuring diverse community representation in legislative bodies, and providing opportunities for marginalized communities to have a voice in governance.
  • Economic Development and Employment Opportunities: Focus on promoting inclusive economic development in Manipur, with a particular emphasis on marginalized communities. Encourage investments in sectors that can generate employment and economic opportunities, ensuring that benefits reach all sections of society. This can help address socio-economic disparities and reduce tensions arising from perceived inequalities.
  • Promoting Cultural Understanding and Diversity: Foster an environment of cultural understanding, respect, and appreciation among different communities. Promote cultural exchanges, festivals, and events that showcase the richness and diversity of Manipuri cultures. Educational initiatives can also play a vital role in promoting intercultural understanding and tolerance.
  • Strengthening Law and Order: Enhance security measures and maintain the rule of law to curb violence and maintain peace. Ensure swift and fair justice for those involved in communal clashes, while also promoting community policing initiatives that foster trust and cooperation between law enforcement agencies and local communities.
  • Rehabilitation and Reconciliation Efforts: Provide rehabilitation and support to those affected by violence and displacement, irrespective of their community background. Implement initiatives that promote reconciliation and healing among affected communities, such as community dialogues, peace-building workshops, and counseling services.
  • Media and Communication: Encourage responsible and unbiased reporting by the media, which can play a crucial role in bridging communities and fostering understanding. Promote media initiatives that highlight stories of cooperation, cultural exchange, and positive community engagements


  • Manipur’s ethnic tensions require urgent attention to prevent further escalation of violence and to foster lasting peace. By addressing the underlying causes of conflict, implementing effective governance, and ensuring equitable representation and resource distribution, the state can work towards restoring trust and unity among its diverse communities. Only through comprehensive and inclusive approaches can Manipur integrate fully with mainstream India and realize its potential contributions to the nation’s development.

Must read:

Manipur: The Demand for Separate Administration and the Challenges Ahead


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