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Manipur is Burning; Will Justice Be Served?

The north-eastern Indian hill state of Manipur shares borders with Myanmar to the east and south. The Imphal Valley, which makes up around 10% of the state's total land area and is primarily inhabited by Meitei people, is the region's geographic center. Hill tribes, referred to as Kukis in the southern half and Nagas in the northeast, live in the surrounding hills.


The Meitei people, who make up the majority in the Imphal Valley, and the tribal group from the surrounding hills, which includes the Kuki people, engaged in an ethnic conflict on May 3, 2023. The dispute stems from the Meitei people's long-standing quest for Scheduled Tribe designation under the Indian Constitution, which would grant them rights similar to those enjoyed by other tribal communities.  The tribal groups opposed the Meitei's demand. On May 3, all hill districts participated in a solidarity march organized by the All Tribal Student Union of Manipur (ATSUM). 


In the non-tribal areas during the violence on May 3, homes and churches belonging to the  Kuki tribal people were attacked. Five hundred residents of numerous tribal homes in Imphal were reportedly forced to flee their homes and seek shelter in Lamphelpat. 1000 Meiteis impacted by the violence had to seek refuge in Bishnupur. 


Eight districts, including Imphal West, Kakching, Thoubal, Jiribam, and Bishnupur, which are predominately non-tribal, and Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, and Tengnoupal, which are predominately tribal, all had curfews in place. On May 4, the Manipuri administration issued a shoot-at-sight directive. Hence, more than 9,000 people had to be moved to safer areas. 


On May 16, there was an internet outage, and the curfew was still in effect. There were also reports of food shortages, closed stores, schools, and offices, and thousands of refugees stuck in camps. More displacements had occurred as a result of recent violence. 


A video went viral on July 19, 2023. It included two naked Kuki women being exhibited, as well as one of them being slapped and subjected to sexual harassment by what looked to be young Meitei men. Due to a ban on internet use in Manipur, the video only became public after two months.  The video made the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, end his months-long silence on July 20, 2023. He declared that the act had embarrassed India and that no one guilty would be spared.


It is being said that the violence will be investigated by a commission headed by a retired Chief Justice, and a peace committee will be formed under the direction of the Governor and security advisor Kuldeep Singh, as well as members of civil society. Six instances, including a conspiracy in the violence, will be investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), ensuring a fair investigation to identify the underlying factors. Hopefully, by doing these tasks, conflicts are resolved, and justice prevails.

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