As the two largest communities, the majority Meitei and minority Kuki, fight over land and influence, the small Indian state of Manipur has descended into what many have labeled a state of civil war due to ethnic violence.
This week, shocking footage from May emerged showing two Kuki women being paraded naked by Meitei men after their village was destroyed. This is the most recent example of terrorizing women in the region.
Where is Manipur and who lives there?
Manipur is a state in Northeast India. It is bordered by the states of Nagaland to the north, Assam to the west, Mizoram to the south, and Myanmar to the east. The state is about the size of Connecticut and has a population of about 2.8 million people.
The people of Manipur are called Manipuris. They are a diverse group of people who speak a variety of languages, including Manipuri, Meitei, and Kuki. The majority of Manipuris are Hindus, but there is also a significant Christian minority.
Manipur is a landlocked state and is home to a number of rivers, including the Manipur River, the Iril River, and the Barak River. The state is also home to a number of hills and mountains, including the Kangleipak Hills, the Naga Hills, and the Mizo Hills.
The economy of Manipur is based on agriculture, forestry, and tourism. The state is home to a number of tea gardens, rubber plantations, and orchards. Manipur is also a popular tourist destination, known for its natural beauty, its historical sites, and its unique culture.
Here are some of the major cities in Manipur:
- Imphal: The capital of Manipur, Imphal is a large city with a population of about 1 million people. Imphal is home to the Manipur University, the Manipur State Museum, and the Manipur State Archives.
- Thoubal: Thoubal is the second largest city in Manipur, with a population of about 400,000 people. Thoubal is home to the Manipur Institute of Technology, the Manipur Medical College, and the Manipur State Handloom and Handicrafts Corporation.
- Moirang: Moirang is a historical city in Manipur, known for its association with the Manipuri Lai Haraoba festival. Moirang is also home to the Moirang Moirang Lamjao National Park, which is home to a variety of animals, including the Manipur brow-antlered deer.
- Ukhrul: Ukhrul is a hill station in Manipur, known for its scenic beauty. Ukhrul is also home to the Ukhrul District Museum, which exhibits a collection of artifacts from the region.
What is happening?
Since the violence broke out in May, at least 130 people have been killed and 400 injured. As the army, paramilitary forces, and police work to reduce violence, more than 60,000 people have been displaced.
Hundreds of churches and more than a dozen temples have been destroyed, along with dozens of settlements.
How did it start?
Tensions flared up when Kukis began resisting Meiteis’ requests for official tribal recognition, which the Kukis felt would only increase the Meiteis’ already substantial power in government and society by allowing them to buy land or settle in areas dominated by the Kukis.
But there are a plethora of factors at play. The Kuki people believe that the Meitei-led government is using the drug campaign as a pretext to dismantle their communities.
Tensions have escalated as a result of illegal immigration from Myanmar. Growing populations put strain on resources like land, and youth unemployment has driven them into the arms of numerous militias.
Who is fighting whom?
For decades, Meitei, Kuki, and Naga militias have clashed with one another and India’s security services for competing nationalist and religious agendas. However, the most recent conflict has been fought nearly exclusively by Meitei and Kuki.
Dhiren A Sadokpam, editor of The Frontier Manipur, claims that ethnicity, and not religion, is at the heart of the current violence in the region.
Who are the Kuki and Meitei?
The Meitei originally hail from Manipur and the neighboring regions of Myanmar. The majority practice Hinduism, although others adhere to the Sanamahi faith. The Kukis are a predominantly Christian people that have migrated from Myanmar to the northeastern Indian state of Manipur.
The Imphal valley is home to the Meitei people, while the Kukis make their homes in the hills and beyond.
Why are women being attacked and humiliated?
According to BBC’s Geeta Pandey in Delhi, rape and sexual assault are increasingly being used as weapons of violence in conflict, which can escalate into a vicious cycle of retaliation.
Local media reported that Kuki militiamen attacked in May after receiving false information that a Meitei woman had been raped by them. As a result, “a new, deadly cycle of reprisal violence on Kuki tribal women, allegedly by Meitei mobs,” as reported by The Print, was set in motion.
What is the central government doing?
Until last week, when a video of the 4 May incident surfaced, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been silent on the violence in Manipur. What happened to the daughters of Manipur, he claimed, “can never be forgiven,” and that the act had “shamed India.”
However, many Indians are curious as to why he has taken so long to issue a public statement over Manipur.
In an effort to quell the recent upsurge in violence, the Indian government has sent 40,000 soldiers, paramilitary troops, and police to the area. It has so far ignored demands from tribal chiefs to establish authoritarian control.
Who runs Manipur?
The current Chief Minister of Manipur is N. Biren Singh. He is the 29th Chief Minister of Manipur and is in office since March 15, 2017. He is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Chief Minister is the head of government of Manipur. He is responsible for the administration of the state and for the implementation of the policies of the central government. The Chief Minister is assisted by a Council of Ministers, which is made up of cabinet ministers and ministers of state.
The Legislative Assembly of Manipur is the unicameral legislature of the state. It is composed of 60 members, who are elected by the people of Manipur. The Legislative Assembly is responsible for making laws for the state.
The Judiciary of Manipur is headed by the High Court of Manipur. The High Court is located in Imphal, the capital of Manipur. The High Court has jurisdiction over all cases arising in the state of Manipur.
The state of Manipur is divided into 9 districts:
- Imphal East
- Imphal West
Each district is headed by a Deputy Commissioner, who is appointed by the central government. The Deputy Commissioner is responsible for the administration of the district.
The state of Manipur is also home to a number of autonomous hill districts, which have a certain degree of self-government. These districts are:
The autonomous hill districts are headed by a District Council, which is elected by the people of the district. The District Council is responsible for the administration of the district.