A crystal clear explanation of why Manipur is witnessing violence

Who, where, why, what and how.
A crystal clear explanation of why Manipur is witnessing violence
A crystal clear explanation of why Manipur is witnessing violence
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Manipur is on the boil. According to the last count reported in the media, at least 8 have been killed and 27 injured amidst protests and clashes between people and the police. Houses of the state’s health minister and five other MLAs have been set on fire. The Union Home Ministry says situation is ‘very tense’. The epicentre of the violence has been the tribal hill district of Churachandpur.

Where is Churachandpur and who exactly is protesting?

Churachandpur is a district in the south-western corner of Manipur. It is locally known as Lamka and is the largest district in the state, and also considered an impoverished state. The district is inhabited by several tribes mainly belonging to the Kuki-Mizo-Zomi groups. Most protesters are believed to be from these communities. All Tribal Students Union Manipur (ATSUM), Kuki Students Organisation (KSO) and All Naga Students Association Manipur (ANSAM) are said to be at the forefront of the protests.

Why is there violence?

Violence erupted after the state Assembly passed three bills - Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015; Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms (7th Amendment) Bill, 2015; and Manipur Shops and Establishments (2nd Amendment) Bill, 2015. Of these, the land reforms bill is the most controversial as it is based on the ‘Inner Line Permit’ system. Tribal protesters say that the bill paves way for the Manipur government and the dominant Meitei community to grab land from the other tribes in the area, like Kukis and Mizos. It is not just Churachandpur, other hill districts have also opposed the move.

It is important to note here that Kukis and Mizos are known to be rivals, but they have joined their hands together on this one.

Wait, what is the ‘Inner Line Permit’ system?

An Inner Line Permit is a travel document issued by the Government of India to allow an Indian citizen to travel to certain parts within the country. These are areas that the government thinks need ‘protection’ from others, and an Indian citizen HAS to get a permit from the government before entering these areas. The ILP system was created by the British to safeguard their commercial interests, but now it is being used to protect tribal cultures and their natural resources. The ILP system is already in place in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland.

How does ILP system affect the protesting tribes?

The tribes – like Kukis, Mizos and Zomis – who are now protesting think that they stand to lose from the implementation ILP system in Manipur. They might now have to take a permit for residence and might not be able to own property, depending on which year they settled in Manipur, for which they land reforms act sets the base year as 1951. The problem, protestors say, is that even if they have been staying there since or before 1951, they don’t have the documents to prove it. This might lead to a significant number of them being displaced from their homes.

While Kukis, Zomis and Mizos consider Meiteis as ‘outsiders’ on their tribal land, the dominant Meiteis want to be able to restrict the growth of other communities.

What is the other side saying?

The dominant Meiteis have been running a pro-ILP campaign for a long time.

In July, the Joint Committee on ILP launched a civil disobedience movement against the State Government seeking implementation of ILP.  The campaign too had a huge impact on the normalcy in the state. The pro-ILP agitations have also resulted in a few deaths so far. They say that this is only to prevent people from other states from occupying Manipur, and the Act will not harm other tribal communities in Manipur.

What next?

Many believe that it is the lack of proper communication between the warring communities, and of the Manipur government which is creating unrest. Unless the Manipur government assures the protesting communities that their lives will not be hampered, then protests could escalate into further violence.

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