Violece in Manipur
Violence broke out in many places at Manipur on 3 May 2023, Wednesday, about the Schedulrd Tribe (ST) status by Meiti Community. Protest turned violent at various places in the state also, large scale firebombing took place. The Chief Minister (CM), N Biren Singh, said that the firebombing lead to many people loosing their lives and properties were also damaged on large scale. First outbreak took place at Churachandpur district on 27th April, when a Mob lead by the domestic tribal leader burnt down a newly constructed gymnasium facility a day before it’s inauguration by the CM. Eight districts faced curfew, mobile internet was suspended in the entire state. Army and paramilitary forces are deployed to maintain the situation.
Things went out of hand on 3 May, when ‘All Tribal Student Union Manipur’ (ATSUM) called for a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ in the Torbung area of Churachandpur district to oppose the demand for inclusion of the Meitei community in Scheduled Tribe (ST) category. ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ took place in several other places in Manipur, and many of them turned violent. Similar outburst took place in tribal-dominated Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, and Tengnoupal districts as well as the non-tribal-dominated Imphal West, Kakching, Thoubal, Jiribam, and Bishnupur districts. The outburst took place because of the hurtful and provocative messages spread on social media. The recent protests and violence were triggered by a Manipur High Court order on 27 March, directing the Manipur state government to submit recommendations to the union government for the inclusion of Meitei in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list. The high court also criticised the state government for dragging the issue for over 10 years.
Meities commuity in Manipur
The demands by Meities started with a memorandum submitted to the governor in November 2012 by the Scheduled Tribes Demand Committee of Manipur Valley (STDCM). The committee met the then CM. Shri. Okram Ibobi Singh in December 2012 with the demand, and later also met the then prime minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh in July 2013 with the demands. The petition by the Meetei (Meitei) Tribe Union that resulted in the High Court order said that Meiteis had Scheduled Tribal status before 1949, but when the state merged with India in October 1949, they lost that status. When different communities in India were classified as Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) under Article 341 and Article 342 of the constitution, the Meitei community was not included in any of them, reportedly because they are caste Hindus. While both Naga and Kuki tribes are opposing the Meitei demand for ST status, the Naga community has distanced itself from recent protests and violence. It is the Kuki tribes who are mainly behind the recent protests and violence.
Tribal groups are alleging that Meiteis want to grab their jobs
The tribal groups are alleging that Meiteis want to grab their jobs by becoming STs, while they already have reservation as OBCs. They also claim that the Meitei community is already an advanced community, and they don’t require the benefits of reservation. The Meiteis are wealthier, wield both political and administrative power, have higher population than all tribes combined in Manipur, occupy most positions of power, control major businesses and institutions, and have relatively higher social, educational and economic standing than tribals. The tribal groups are alleging that if Meiteis become STs, they will grab all jobs reserved for STs, claiming that the educational qualifications of Meiteis are generally better than Nagas and Kukis. The tribal groups further argue that the plain people, the Meiteis, were not included in the ST list because they have lost their ‘primitive and distinctive’ features, therefore they can’t be classified as tribals. On the other hand, Meiteis deny that they are seeking ST status to grab reserved jobs. According to them, without the status of the scheduled tribe, the Meetei will lose the status of an indigenous community.
They claim that their ancestral lands, culture and identity are under constant threat from illegal immigrants from Myanmar and outside the state, and therefore they need the protected status. The Hindu activists point out that the Tribal Churches Leaders’ Forum issued a statement supporting the tribal solidarity march. In response to the call by ATSUM, The Tribal Churches Leaders Forum (TCLF unanimously resolved to endorse the ‘Solidary March’ of ATSUM in a meeting held on 1st May 2023. “This solidarity March organised by the ATSUM is to collectively protect the social, political and religious interests of the tribal people of Manipur,” said the statement.
On Sunday 21at March 2013, Army personnel and Assam Rifles patrolled the area to ensure protection to vehicles carrying essential goods to and fro Imphal via NH 37 in violence-hit Manipur
Today as on May 22, 2023 at 17:35 hours, two houses were torched by a mob in Imphal East district of Imphal after two armed forces officers asked them to shut their shops in afternoon, police officials said. Army men deployed in the area who rushed to the scene used force and fired teargas shells to disperse the mob resulting in minor injuries to a few people.