The tranquil hills and picturesque landscapes of Manipur can no longer veil the tumult brewing beneath. The recent ethnic tensions and political crises that have gripped the state warrant not just national, but global attention. But it’s not just the tensions that are alarming; it’s the silence and the lack of urgency in addressing them. The undercurrents of tension have intensified over the past few months, challenging not just the state’s socio-political fabric but also questioning the effectiveness of India’s governance in resolving regional frictions.
Central to this turmoil is the burgeoning discord between the Maite and Kuki communities. Both factions, mired in accusations and counter-accusations, are tracing their discontent back to historical narratives, which, when left unchecked, threaten to spiral out of control. But the blame for this drawn-out strife cannot rest solely on these communities; rather, it brings to the fore the lapses in both state and central leadership.
Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, though a pivotal figure, has been criticized for what many perceive as indecisiveness or even bias. His approach, or the lack thereof, towards the situation has undoubtedly allowed the conflict to fester, eroding public trust and eliciting calls for his ouster. Yet, the narrative is complex, and to lay the responsibility entirely at his doorstep would be oversimplifying the issue.
The Central Government, often regarded as the guardian of India’s diverse states, has been notably reticent. Statements from the Centre, especially those of Home Minister Amit Shah, seem to have inadvertently deepened the schism, fueling further discontent. The palpable silence from Prime Minister Modi further exacerbates sentiments, reminiscent of historical instances where the Northeast felt neglected by central leadership.
But as Manipur grapples with its internal strife, the broader dynamics of the region are impossible to ignore. The potential ramifications of the escalating Naga-Kuki conflict loom large. Recent provocations and shifting alliances threaten to reshape the state’s delicate ethnic balance, possibly igniting a larger confrontation.
It’s also crucial to recognize that this isn’t merely about major communities. The Meitei Pangals, for instance, feels increasingly marginalized, with their concerns often overshadowed by the larger narrative. Allegations of security forces targeting minority establishments further complicate matters, suggesting a deeper racial undertone to the tensions. This shift in perception, from religious to racial, threatens the inclusive ethos of the nation.
Amidst the cacophony of clashing narratives, smaller tribes and communities in Manipur find themselves caught in a quagmire. Their voices, often drowned amidst the louder discourses, underscore the pressing need for a resolution.
As the situation reaches a critical juncture, the call for intervention from New Delhi grows louder. A passive stance is no longer tenable. The Centre, in its role as the unifying force of India’s diverse tapestry, needs to take assertive steps towards dialogue and reconciliation. This isn’t merely about restoring tranquillity in Manipur; it’s about upholding the cherished ideals of unity in diversity, the cornerstone of our great nation.
The Democratic Debacle in Manipur
Manipur’s recent 48-minute Assembly session, adjourned with little discussion and missing 10 Kuki-Zo MLAs, made a mockery of its democratic obligation. While technically meeting the mandate of Article 174(1), it sharply contrasts with the spirit of the Constitution. The Governor’s inexplicable delay in session notification and the Chief Minister’s unheeded security assurances further depict a governance breakdown.
The Assembly’s history of party defections and its lack of commitment to address burgeoning ethnic tensions highlight an alarming leadership void. With a pressing need for genuine engagement and collaborative solutions, Manipur’s governance requires a shift from superficial sittings to active problem-solving. As it stands, the State’s leadership risks driving an even deeper wedge between its people and India’s cherished democratic principles.
The Justifiable Solidarity in the Wake of the Manipur-Kuki Conflict
As the Manipur-Kuki conflict enters its fourth month, international and national communities from Nagaland to the United Kingdom have voiced their concern, showcasing a collective stand against ethnic violence. The solidarity and response from diverse groups, both geographically and culturally, serve as a testament to the global understanding of human rights and the universal values of peace and harmony.
The recent submission of an MoU by the Nagaland Joint Christian Forum to the President of India exemplifies the earnest plea for intervention from higher authorities. In a condensed form, the MoU stresses the critical nature of the Manipur situation, the unfortunate destruction of several churches, and the essential role these religious institutions play in community bonding and service delivery. The plea not only seeks immediate intervention to restore peace but also emphasizes the need for rebuilding the destroyed churches and aiding the displaced.
Such acts of solidarity are not just heartening; they are justifiable and necessary. The violence in Manipur is not a regional or isolated issue; it’s a challenge to the very fabric of unity, diversity, and peace that India represents. Every act of support, every voice raised, bolsters the idea that communities, regardless of borders, will stand united against ethnic conflicts and violence.
Global Solidarity: How Collective Efforts Ended Ethnic Violence
Throughout history, collective world efforts have played a pivotal role in resolving conflicts and bringing peace to regions plagued by ethnic violence. A united front can influence regional policies, apply diplomatic pressure, or provide resources to aid peace-building processes. Two prominent examples:
- The Bosnian War (1992-1995): The conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, characterized by ethnic violence primarily between Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks, saw atrocities, including ethnic cleansing and the infamous Srebrenica massacre. Global efforts, particularly by the United States and the European Union, culminated in the Dayton Agreement, which brought an end to the conflict. The NATO-enforced peace, coupled with international diplomatic efforts, was crucial in ending the violence.
- Rohingya Conflict ( 2016-2017) The international community’s collective response to the Rohingya crisis showcases the power of global solidarity in addressing human rights violations. As the Rohingya faced what the UN Human Rights Council termed a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” immediate humanitarian intervention came from organizations such as the UNHCR, Doctors Without Borders, and Save the Children, which offered crucial food, medical, and shelter aid. Recognizing the escalating refugee situation, Bangladesh commendably opened its borders, accommodating hundreds of thousands of fleeing Rohingya. In parallel, countries including the U.S., the European Union, and Canada exerted diplomatic pressure by imposing sanctions against key Myanmar military leaders. Global media outlets ensured the Rohingya plight remained under international spotlight. Financial support was also solicited through international donor conferences, while nations like Canada provided hope by resettling Rohingya refugees.
These instances highlight the significance of collective efforts, be they diplomatic interventions, peacekeeping forces, or international tribunals.
Solidarity and collective forces within Northeast India
Certainly, India, especially its northeastern region, has witnessed its share of ethnic tensions. However, there have been collective efforts, both nationally and internationally, to bring about peace and resolution. Few worthy examples as
- Assam Accord (1985): The Assam Accord was signed between the Government of India and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) to end the six-year-long Assam Movement. The accord addressed major grievances related to illegal immigration, and safeguards for the Assamese people’s culture, and brought peace to the state. It was a testament to the fact that negotiations and dialogue could end years of strife.
- Mizo Accord (1986): The Mizoram insurgency led by the Mizo National Front (MNF) was one of the most violent insurgencies in the northeast. The Mizo Accord signed between the Indian government and the MNF brought peace to Mizoram, transforming it from one of the most troubled regions to one of the most peaceful states in India.
- Bodoland Territorial Region Accord (2020): The Indian government signed an accord with multiple Bodo factions to address their demands and aspirations. The accord aims to bring lasting peace to the Bodoland region of Assam, which has seen decades of violence and agitation.
- Naga Peace Talks: The Naga insurgency is one of India’s oldest unresolved insurgencies. Over the years, there have been several rounds of negotiations between the Indian government and different Naga factions, notably the NSCN (IM). The talks have resulted in ceasefire agreements and have kept major violence at bay for years.