North East

Six Steps Union Government Needs To Take For Ensuring Manipur’s Return To Normalcy

Jaideep Mazumdar

Jan 23, 2024, 06:46 PM | Updated 06:45 PM IST

Meitei women protesting the state's inability to stop violence in Manipur.
Meitei women protesting the state's inability to stop violence in Manipur.

A developing political crisis in Manipur led the Union Home Ministry to dispatch a team led by former special director of Intelligence Bureau, A K Mishra to Imphal to resolve the crisis.

While the three-member team, which includes top intelligence officers, will most probably be able to stave off the crisis, there is no way the imbroglio in the violence-wracked state can be solved without a decisive and multi-pronged intervention by the Union government.

The team — Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB) joint directors Mandeep Singh and Rajesh Kumble — hit the ground running immediately upon landing in Imphal in Monday (22 January) evening. Their first meeting was with members of the Meitei group ‘Arambai Tenggol’.

The central team will meet a number of Meitei civil society organisations as well as Kuki bodies like the Kuki Inpi and Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum, as well as political leaders, MLAs and others.

But simply holding discussions with representatives and leaders of the two warring communities will not solve the burning problem in the state. A number of major steps need to be taken, and immediately, before the situation in Manipur spirals out of control.

The six most important of these are:

Update NRC: The Union government should initiate steps to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Manipur.

The NRC of 1951 should be the basis of this updation exercise for which foolproof rules and procedure have to be drawn up.

This exercise will result in the detection of all those who had entered the state illegally from Myanmar over the past few decades.

The Meiteis allege that massive illegal influx of people of Chin-Kuki-Zo ethnic group from Myanmar has altered the state’s demography.

All these infiltrators need to be identified and deported.

Include Meiteis In ST list: Meiteis deserve Scheduled Tribe (ST) status not only because they qualify for this status, but also because such a step is necessary for preserving their identity, rights and culture.

The lack of ST status has robbed the majority community of many rights and put the Meiteis at a severe disadvantage in their own state.

The Kukis, on the other hand, enjoy ST status and have leveraged it to not only become very powerful, but also enjoy a disproportionate share of administrative power and access to state resources.

This difference between Meiteis and Kukis have also emboldened the latter to demand a separate state.

Remove Assam Rifles From India-Myanmar Border: The Assam Rifles (AR) has failed its mandate of guarding the India-Myanmar border.

This paramilitary force has not been able to prevent infiltration of thousands of people of Chin-Kuki-Zo ethnicity from entering Manipur from Myanmar.

The Assam Rifles has also been unable to stop members of Kuki militant outfits operating in Myanmar from entering Manipur, and also arms and drug smuggling from Myanmar.

This massive failure on the part of the AR has contributed majorly to the continuing violence in Manipur.

Also, the AR is seen by Meiteis as being biased in favour of Kukis. This perceived bias has added fuel to fire in Manipur.

Hence, the AR has to be withdrawn from the border.

Rejig Control Of State Security Apparatus: The elected government of Manipur does not have complete control over the security apparatus in large parts of the state. This is grossly unfair and unacceptable.

While the Manipur Police, over which the state government has complete control, is in charge of the security situation in the Meitei-dominated Imphal Valley, central forces — the army, AR, BSF and CRPF — have been tasked with maintaining security in the Kuki-dominated hill districts.

The Chief Minister is, thus, powerless when it comes to preventing violence in the hills.

This is the main trigger for the current political crisis in the state. Meiteis are incensed over the continuing attacks by Kuki militants on Meitei civilians and the state police and their government’s inability to stop the attacks by eliminating the Kuki militants.

The Meiteis believe that the central forces have been unwilling to crack down on Kuki militants.

The Chief Minister should be made the sole controlling authority of the joint command that controls all security forces in the state.

Disarm All Groups: All groups, be it the Kuki militant and vigilante groups, as well Meitei groups, should be immediately disarmed.

Proliferation of arms has led to continuing violence.

The governments — both Union and state — have to make it amply clear to all groups and individuals across the two communities that violence will not be tolerated anymore. Everyone has to lay down arms, and failure to do so would invite very harsh and punitive measures.

The government has to set a deadline for surrender of arms, and launch a combing operation across the state to recover all arms that have not been surrendered.

Also, a massive counter-insurgency operation has to be launched across the state to neutralise not only the valley-based insurgent groups, but also Kuki militant outfits.

Abrogate Suspension Of Operations (SoO) Agreement With Kuki Groups: The state and Union governments signed an SoO agreement with two conglomerates of Kuki insurgent groups — the Kuki National Organisations (KNO) and the United People’s Front (UPF) in 2008.

Under the terms of the SoO, the militant groups have to surrender their weapons and stay in designated camps.

But Kuki militants have been openly displaying arms and moving around freely in the hill districts. These militants are believed to be behind the ongoing attacks on Meiteis, including the state police.

Since the militants have violated the SoO, the entire agreement should be scrapped and operations launched jointly by state and central forces against the Kuki outfits.

Apart from these steps, the Union government should also make it very clear to both the communities that violence will no longer be tolerated.

Civil society groups of both the communities are very influential and they should be asked to use their influence to stop the violence. Failure to do so, they ought to be told, can have severe consequences.

It is time the Union government does some tough talking in Manipur, and also takes bold steps that will stop the continuing violence.

Measures to foster an understanding between the two communities can only happen after the guns fall silent.

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