The Chief Minister of Manipur Mr. Biren Singh in a press conference on 28th May 2023 said, “Around 40 'terrorists' have been killed since security force launched an operation in Manipur to restore normalcy and peace in the state.”
This announcement comes a day before the Union Home Minister is expected to arrive in the state and the Army chiefhas been in the state to try and resolve the violence in Manipur. The statement might have been made in an effort to boost claims of his government’s efforts at restoring normalcy. However, his blanket labelling of those killed as terrorist without providing more details, exposes the fallacy that led to bloodshed and validates accusations of the Zomi-Kuki people that he is complicit in the violence.
The Chief Minister has long been accused of driving a communal agenda using state machineries to target a specific groups and of actively supporting organizations like the Arambai Tengol and Meitei Lepun who seem to be spearheading the on-going conflict. While the clashes are on sharp communal lines, as validated by the unqualified apology tendered by The Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), to the Tangkhul community over the harassment of four girls. The Chief Minister is on record saying, “There was no fight between communities and there should not be any. It (fight) is purely with the government. When any government anywhere tries to do something, there will always be acceptance or resistance” to try and justify his actions.
A return to normalcy at this point seems a far cry as the attacks on life and property continues on both sides. The situation is likely to turn worse as over 1,000 arms and ammunition are reported to have been looted by Meitei militant mobs from the armories of 7 Manipur Rifles at Khabeisoi, 2nd Manipur Rifles at Deulahane and 3rd India Reserve Battalion at Thoubal. In a similar fashion, more than 1,000 weapons and 10,000 rounds were looted from Manipur Police Training College, two police stations, and an IRB battalion camp in Imphal by Meities during the first few days of the violence.
Social-media has emerged as another front for the conflict as diaspora of both communities living outside the state fight to try and control the narrative. However the ban on internet access for general public which has now been extended till 31st May 2023, has made it difficult for genuine news to surface. The limited news reports coming from newspapers based in Imphal only further aggravates the divide with headlines that frequently screams ‘Kuki Militants’ while preferring to use the much milder ‘Mob’ to try and justify actions of the majority Meitei community. National and regional news organizations too seems largely restrained by limited access to information and lack of credible sources.
The Home Minster Shri Amit Shah, currently on a visit to Manipur is expected to manifest the central governments intent and intervention to bring an end to the conflict. An immediate intervention through imposition of President Rule would have been ideal, the delayed intervention has led to total collapse of law and order and a dysfunctional government. The continuing violence has not just resulted in loss of life and property on wither sides but it has in effect led to a total separation of people on ethnic lines and the mental scar is far too wide to be bridged anytime soon. A part of the conflict that is fought on social media would ensure that memories stay fresh for a long time.
How then should the centre and the state government resolve the situation? Any solution must be based on a careful study and understanding of the underlying causes of the conflict and must be directed at providing a lasting solution so that such pogrom have no further space in the future.
Meanwhile for the internally displaced victims now scattered both within and outside the state, life will never be the same as the memories of what they have lost and what they have to endure will haunt them for life. While promoting an awakening of some sort and inciting mobs might be a means to a goal for some, it is the most vulnerable section of the people that suffers the most.
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