Manipur In Flames: How Ethnic Tensions Turned Into A Humanitarian Crisis – OpEd

Residents of Manipur say there has been a breakdown of law and order. The state’s government, led by India’s Hindu-nationalist ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), last week issued “shoot-at-sight” orders. Skirmishes broke out in the state capital Imphal on May 3 after thousands of people from the Naga and Kuki tribes took part in a rally against the majority Meitei ethnic group being afforded special status under India’s “Scheduled Tribe” grouping.

The BJP is trying to illegally grand the Meitei community, a largely Hindu ethnic group who account for about 50% of the state’s population, have for years campaigned to be recognized as a scheduled tribe, which would give them access to wider benefits including health, education and government jobs.

If the Meitei community are given scheduled tribe status, other ethnic groups – many of whom are Christian – say they fear they will not have a fair chance for jobs and other benefits. The clashes turned violent, with video and photos showing angry mobs setting properties on fire. Eyewitnesses told CNN that homes and churches have been burnt, as frightened families desperately try to flee affected areas.

One youth tribal leader in Imphal who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity said his house was ransacked and vandalized, forcing him to stay in an army camp. “What we are witnessing here unfortunately is there seems to be a very systematic, well-planned series of attacks. The execution is almost clinical and they know exactly the houses where people from tribal communities reside,” said the leader.

“I barely escaped… the mob was already in the house. I climbed the fence over to the neighbors’ house. I just came with my laptop bag to this camp. I have nothing.”

The Naga and Kuki groups fear the change in status could result in their steady removal from a protected area they have occupied for decades and leave them vulnerable to exploitation.

The Kukis, who are from the same ethnic group as the Chins, say the government has unfairly cracked down the group since their arrival, leading to feelings of persecution and abandonment.

“We are being treated like second-class citizens,” said one Kuki woman who also spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity. “We have been here for generations and now they are trying to push us out.”

The violence in Manipur is the latest in a series of ethnic clashes in India in recent years. In 2012, at least 100 people were killed in clashes between the Bodo and Muslim communities in Assam. And in 2008, more than 1,000 people were killed in clashes between the Maoist rebels and government forces in Chhattisgarh.

The Indian government has been criticized for its handling of the violence in Manipur. Human rights groups have accused the government of using excessive force and failing to protect civilians.

The United Nations has also expressed concern about the violence. In a statement, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, called on the Indian government to “take all necessary measures to protect the rights of all communities in Manipur and to bring to justice those responsible for the violence.”

The violence in Manipur is a reminder of the deep ethnic divisions that exist in India. The country is home to more than 100 million tribal people, who make up about 8% of the population. These tribal groups have their own languages, cultures and customs. Rahul Gandhi, leader of the Indian National Congress (INC) opposition party: “The violence in Manipur is a shameful stain on India’s democracy. The government has failed to protect its citizens and must be held accountable.”

DMK leader MK Stalin: “The violence in Manipur is a direct result of the BJP government’s divisive policies. The government must stop playing with fire and start working towards a more inclusive society.”

Independent analyst Apoorvanand: “The violence in Manipur is a reminder of the deep fault lines that exist in Indian society. The government must take urgent steps to address these fault lines and prevent further violence.”

These are just a few of the many comments that have been made by Indian opposition and independent analysts on the violence in Manipur. The violence has sparked a national debate about the state of India’s democracy and the government’s handling of ethnic relations. It remains to be seen how the government will respond to these criticisms and whether it will be able to prevent further violence.

In addition to the comments from Indian opposition and independent analysts, there have also been comments from international human rights groups. Amnesty International has called on the Indian government to “immediately end the violence and bring to justice those responsible.” Human Rights Watch has said that the violence is “a clear violation of international human rights law.”

The violence in Manipur is a serious human rights crisis. The Indian government must take urgent steps to address the violence and prevent further bloodshed.

The Indian government has been trying to integrate these tribal groups into mainstream society for decades. But the process has been slow and difficult. The tribal groups often feel that they are being treated as second-class citizens.

The violence in Manipur is a sign that the Indian government still has a long way to go in terms of addressing the needs of its tribal communities.