No balkanization along ethnic lines, Union Minister Rajkumar Ranjan Singh writes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Manipur

Union Minister Rajkumar Ranjan Singh has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding the situation in Manipur

New Delhi/Imphal:

Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs and Education, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the threat of “ethnic balkanization” in Manipur. The BJP MP, whose Lok Sabha constituency is Inner Manipur, called on the PM to ‘curb and control’ with ‘a strong hand’ any attempt to dismantle the northeastern state, where 35 ethnic groups live .

More than 70 people have died since May 3 in clashes between the Meiteis, who live in and around the valley of the state capital Imphal, and the Kuki tribe, who are settled in the hills at the behest of the valley dwellers for inclusion in Scheduled Tribes (ST category). Following this, 10 tribal MPs from BJP-ruled Manipur wrote a letter to Home Minister Amit Shah, demanding a separate administration for the tribals within the state, saying they “can no longer live together “.

“From May 3 and for a few days, there was total chaos and trust between the two communities – Meiteis and Kukis – vanished. In utter dismay and frustration, Kuki leaders, including their deputies, began demanding a separate political administration for their people. Perhaps they are under enormous pressure from various quarters, including activists,” Mr Singh said in the letter sent to Prime Minister Modi on Saturday.

“This is a very dangerous proposition for a small state with 35 ethnic groups. Peaceful coexistence should be the norm. The Naga-Kuki conflict, the Meitei-Pangan (Muslim) clash and now the Meitei-Kuki riot should be treated as aberrations. These must be mastered and controlled by a strong hand. No balkanization on ethnic grounds should be encouraged at any cost,” the Minister of State for External Affairs said in the letter.


Manipur Ethnic Violence: Supplies have started reaching the state with a military escort

He said public figures calling the violence “ethnic cleansing” were wrong and should refrain from using “such dangerous expressions”.

On Friday, Manipur Chief Police Officer P Doungel also denied claims by the 10 tribal deputies that Manipur police had “stripped” Kuki cops of all their powers and “disarmed” them before the violence breaks out between the Meiteis and the Kukis. Manipur Police said: “…All Kuki/Meitei police officers from DGP (Director General of Police) down to the lowest rank, whether in khaki or green, are all performing to the best of their ability, where that they are affected.

The Union Minister in the letter said that the clash between the two communities was sparked by a peaceful rally which suddenly turned violent, and unfortunately the activists are giving it a common color.

“A few activists are trying to introduce the religious angle that the Meiteis are mostly Hindus and the Kukis are Christians. They try to blame people who radicalize in the name of religion and culture. Church and temple burnings are cited to provide a community angle. It is untenable. Violent mobs burn and destroy everything in their path… It was impossible for the local police to control the rioters until the army and paramilitary forces arrived and intervened,” Mr Singh said in the letter.

“If some wise minds try to create political demarcation through such heinous crimes, such plans should never succeed. They can’t bluff the Union government by setting up a game plan. Sacrificing innocent human lives to achieve a political agenda is undesirable and undesirable. Working out a peaceful coexistence must be the solution. Dismemberment will never be a solution,” said the Union minister.


Ethnic violence in Manipur: The army has intensified its patrols in sensitive areas. They also organize regular peace meetings between the communities, in addition to providing aid.

“We should not blame any community or ethnic group… Harmonious relations between ethnic groups are often violated by leaders to achieve their political goals. Myopic politicians often play with the lives and emotions of ordinary people… They have done enough harm to society. Their tactics cause unimaginable losses, for example the current ethnic hell. These local leaders must be identified and condemned,” Mr. Singh said.

The Union Secretary also blamed Britain’s colonial policy of divide and rule for sowing the seeds of the current crisis.

When Manipur came under British control after the Anglo-Manipur War in 1891, the administration of the valley remained with the king of Manipur and the administration of the hill remained with the chairman of the darbar of Manipur, who was invariably a British, Mr Singh wrote in the letter.

“A psychological gap was created. Also after independence, Section 371C still formed the barrier between the hills and the valley,” Mr Singh said.

Mr Singh has asked Prime Minister Modi to work to remove “mechanical divisions” in Manipur, widened by religious affiliations.

“The state should belong to the people as a whole – without any distinction of hill dwellers or valley people – according to the model of Himachal Pradesh. If necessary, Section 371C can be amended,” Mr. Singh said, referring to a constitutional guarantee that deals specifically with Manipur.


Manipur ethnic violence: More than 70 people died in the clash between Meiteis and Kukis

The Meitei groups alleged that the Kuki tribes’ protest against the Meiteis’ demand to be included in the ST category was merely an excuse to push towards their main goal – the formation of a separate Kuki country. Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh, who is from the BJP, said the territorial integrity of Manipur would be protected.

Tensions over the eviction of Kuki villagers and suspected illegal immigrants from reserved and protected forests, and the destruction of poppy fields preceded the violence that erupted on May 3.

The inability of the state government to answer the question of how to identify illegal immigrants who came from Myanmar to escape persecution is a factor that contributes to the resentment of the Meiteis.

A section of the Meiteis alleged that illegal immigrants settled among the tribals who lived in Manipur, due to cultural, clan, religious and family ties. They called on the government to complete the National Citizens Register (NRC) exercise. Large-scale deforestation in the hills and predominantly tribal districts, such as Churachandpur, is believed to be attributed to illegal immigrants establishing new settlements.


The hill districts section in the ‘India State of Forest Report 2021’, produced by the Forest Survey of India (FSI)

The scale of poppy cultivation in Manipur also expanded to 15,400 acres of land in the hills between 2017 and 2023, according to data from the state anti-drugs special unit Narcotics and Affairs of Border ( NAB).

NAB data shows that 291 encroachers were evicted from reserved and protected forests between January 2017 and April 2023. Anti-encroachment action occurred in 21 locations across the state between that timeframe, according to NAB.

The Kukis have alleged that the BJP government in Manipur is systematically targeting them – using the drug war campaign as a cover – to evict them from the forests and their homes in the hills.

A joint statement by tribal student groups in Delhi demanded an investigation into the alleged involvement of “Arambai Tenggol” and “Meitei Leepun” – two youth organizations in Manipur – in the “pre-planned and systematic unleashing of a pogrom” against the Manipur tribals.

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