The ethnic clashes that have engulfed Manipur since May 3 has claimed 96 people till the last account of which 25 belong to Meitei community and 63 to Kukis while eight remain unidentified. Another 14 Meitei people are still missing. This was revealed to India Today NE by a source involved in maintaining law and order in the state.
NUMBER OF HOUSES/VILLAGES BURNT DOWN/VANDALIZED DISTRICT WISE (MEITEI & KUKI)
|MEITEI||160||1449||26 vill||34||2 vill, 128 houses||-|
|KUKI||5||127||-||-||46 vill,1030 houses||30 houses, 2 vill|
|MEITEI||167, 2 vill||50 houses||31 vill, 2 houses||205 houses||-|
|KUKI||20 houses, 1 vill||2 vill||36 houses,4 vill||227 houses, 16 vill||1 vill|
The source further stated that 1,988 homes belonging to Meiteis and 1,425 Kuki homes spread across 158 Meitei-dominated villages, 83 Kuki-dominated villages and 33 villages of mixed-population, were burnt down or vandalised. Of the Meitei houses, 1449 were destroyed in Churachandpur, Kuki-dominated district. Similarly, 1030 Kuki homes were reduced to rubble in Kangpokpi.
NUMBER OF TEMPLES BURNT DOWN/VANDALIZED DISTRICT WISE
Apart from lives and properties, the miscreants targeted places of worship too. If 17 temples were vandalised in the districts of Churachandpur, Bishnupur, Kangpokipi, Tengnupal, and Imphal East, 221 churches were also burned down in several other locations.
NUMBER OF CHURCHES BURNT DOWN/VANDALIZED DISTRICT WISE
Geographically Manipur can be divided into two parts—the Imphal valley and the hill areas. Of the 60 assembly constituencies in Manipur 40 seats are in the valley areas which comprise of six districts—Imphal East, Imphal West, Thoubal, Bishnupur, Kakching and Kangpokpi. The remaining 20 seats are spread over the other 10 districts. The valley districts, dominated by Meitei community, who are pre-dominantly Hindus, account for just over 11 per cent of the geographical area but are home to 57 per cent of the total population of 2.8 million (Census, 2011). The hill districts, dominated by Naga and Kuki tribes, who are mostly Christians, are home to 43 per cent of the population.
The immediate trigger for the latest round of violence that started on May 3, was the ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ by the All Tribal Students’ Union of Manipur (ATSUM) against a recent order by Manipur High Court directing the state government to recommend to the Centre for inclusion of the Meitei community in the state list of Scheduled Tribes (ST) within a period of four weeks. The court’s order re-ignited the historical tensions between the valley-dwelling Meitei community and the state’s hill tribes, primarily Nagas and Kukis.
There is a long history of ethnic rivalry among the three communities. The hill tribes claim that valley people have cornered all the developmental works in the state as they enjoy political dominance while Meiteis allege that they are increasingly getting marginalised in their ancestral land. Their population which was 59 per cent of the total population of Manipur in 1951 has now been reduced to 44 per cent as per 2011 Census data. More importantly, they cannot buy land in hill areas where tribals have exclusive rights and are forced to remain confined to the Imphal valley.
That’s one reason why several organisations have been demanding tribal status for Meitei community. The recent plea before the Manipur High Court by the Meitei Tribe Union argued that the Meitei community was recognised as a tribe before the merger of the princely state of Manipur with the Union of India in 1949, but lost its identity as a tribe after the merger. To “preserve” the community, and “and save the ancestral land, tradition, culture and language” of the Meiteis, they want the tribal identity back.
However, tribal bodies in the state believe see this demand as another attempt by the Meitei community, which has 40 representatives in the 60-member Assembly, to take control over the entire state. For record, Chief Minister N Biren Singh is a Meitei. Tribal groups also point out that Meitei community are already classified under Scheduled Castes (SC) or Other Backward Classes (OBC), and have access to the opportunities associated with that status. Some Meiteis even belong to upper castes.
Even though the situation is still tense in various area of the state, it has improved since Union Home Minister Amit Shah's four-day-long trip to Manipur between May 29 and June 1. Shah announced a judicial committee headed by a retired high court judge to probe the violence in Manipur. A special CBI team will investigate six specific cases that hint at a conspiracy behind the conflict.
The Centre and the State each contributed Rs 5 lakh for the kin of those who lost their lives in the violence as part of a relief and rehabilitation package for those affected by the conflict. Shah added that a peace committee comprised of members of civil society will be led by the Governor of Manipur.
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