Manipur: What has silence achieved?

While the national media and the Meiteis have clubbed all tribals as ‘Kukis’, the hill tribes comprise others such as the Zomi (Paite, Simte, Vaiphei, Zou) and Hmar in Lamka town (commonly known as Churachandpur district). They do not consider themselves as Kukis but are at the receiving end of the hatred being directed at all tribals, said to be militants and infiltrators.

The majoritarian Meitei academics and legislators continue to call for peace even as attacks on tribal people continue unabated. The stance of the state and national media has been partisan as most of the narrative is controlled by information fed by majoritarian opinion and Imphal-based media.

Acrimonious exchanges between academics and members of civil society have not been helpful either. The conflict is admittedly old and complex, with both sides accusing the other of triggering it. The Meiteis have accused the tribals of everything from illegal immigration to drug trade, terrorism and secession, while tribals have accused the Meiteis of launching an ethnic cleansing.

The divide is now so deep and positions on both sides have hardened so much that a solution appears difficult. Tribal groups, who initially wanted a ‘separate administration’ and functional hill councils under the Constitution’s 6th schedule, have now started talking of a union territory with a legislature.

This is clearly not acceptable to the Meiteis who want the integrity of Manipur to remain intact with no bifurcation or reorganisation of territory. Tribals are equally adamant that they need development in the hills and can no longer rely on Imphal to cater to their needs.

The question is, what has the union government’s silence for the past two months achieved? The answer, my friends, is blowin’ in the wind.

(The author is an assistant professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)

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