And they believe they have justifiable reasons to be chary. How can they trust a chief minister who has been patronising the Meitei Leepun and Arambai Tenggol, the two radical Meitei groups who were at the forefront of the pogrom in May, they ask.
How do they trust a chief minister who has not taken any action against the Manipur policemen who distributed deadly weapons and ammunition to these two groups, who were permitted to hold arms training camps in Imphal before the violence began.
Referring to the newspaper interview published this week, they wonder why the chief minister was not asked about the role of the two Meitei radical groups. What was the motive behind the creation of these two groups, they want to know. “Why were they given a free hand to carry out the attacks on human rights activists and anyone who speaks against Biren Singh?”
His partisan stand, they maintain, is clear. He has declared the hills a ‘disturbed area’ even though they are more peaceful than Imphal. He has withdrawn the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Imphal, in effect tying the hands of the Indian Army and Assam Rifles, while the AFSPA continues to be operative in the hills, allowing armed forces and even militants in uniform to storm villages and houses with impunity.
Biren Singh’s fresh demand to fence the 398 km border with Myanmar (10 km have already been fenced and 80 km more are being fenced), thereby restricting trade and free movement along the border, is another reason for the Kukis’ fury.
Manipuris from the border areas often travel to border towns in Myanmar for medical care because healthcare in the hills has been grossly neglected and is hopelessly inadequate.
While drug trafficking and drug addiction are both major concerns across the region, it is pointless to blame a community or a group, as a large-scale narcotics trade is carried on with the patronage and complicity of people in government, they claim.
The civil war in Myanmar may have pushed some of their warlords to seek sanctuary in Manipur but the government has the resources to deal with it, if it is really serious.
All signals from the ground suggest that the conflict in Manipur is entering a dangerous phase. With New Delhi and the media preoccupied with Israel, both sides engaged in the conflict might just resort to more violence in order to draw attention to their cause.