Read Part 1 here.
Kukis became a nuisance in many places where they have settled and multiplied, be it Manipur, Assam, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Israel, Occupied Palestine etc. They committed riots, destruction, looting and ethnic cleansing over the years to create a designated area for Kukis. They have been fighting hard for an exclusive Kukiland, known as Zalen’gam.
An example of this is the ongoing riots in Manipur started May 3, 2023, organized by the Kukis. To cover up such a reactionary agenda and ethnic cleansing, they spread widespread false propaganda portraying them as innocent victims. However, this time their lies have been exposed.
At the crux of the current voilence is the demand for Scheduled Tribe status for the Meitei community and other tribal groups opposing it. In fact, the violence that has broken out across the scenic state first erupted on 3 May when thousands turned up for the Tribal Solidarity March called by the All Tribal Students Union of Manipur (ATSUM) in Torbung area of Churachandpur to protest against the inclusion of Meiteis in the ST category.
The Meiteis are the largest community in Manipur. They are dominant in capital Imphal and are the ones commonly referred to as Manipuri. According to the last census of 2011, they are 64.6 per cent of the state population but occupy only about 10 per cent of the landmass of Manipur.
On the other hand, there are the tribals known as the Nagas and Kukis, who account for nearly 40 per cent of the population but reside across 90 per cent of Manipur’s land.
While the Meiteis are mostly Hindu, the Nagas and Kuki-Zomis are mainly Christian. Manipur has nearly equal populations of Hindus and Christians, at around 41 per cent each, according to data from the 2011 census.
Apart from being the majority community, Meiteis also have more representation in Manipur Assembly. That’s because 40 of the 60 Assembly seats in the state are from the Imphal Valley region – the area that is mostly inhabited by the Meiteis.
As of today, 34 sub-tribes of the Naga and Kuki-Zomi tribes are on the government’s list of Scheduled Tribes, but the Meiteis are not. However, the Meiteis have long been demanding for Scheduled Tribe status, arguing that it needs to be protected from the influx of outsiders and “infiltration”.
K Bhogendrajit Singh, general secretary of the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur, which has pushed for tribal status since 2012, was quoted by The Scroll as saying, “Any citizen of India, including our own hill people, can come and settle in Imphal Valley.”
For the Meitei community, there’s resentment as tribals have been buying land in the Imphal Valley where they live, but they haven’t been allowed into the hills.
In a plea before the Manipur High Court, demanding the same, the Meetei (Meitei) Tribe Union argued that they were a recognised tribe before the merger of the princely state of Manipur with the Union of India in 1949 but lost that identity after the merger. They have argued in court that the demand for ST status goes well beyond reservation in jobs, educational institutions and tax relief and extends to the need to “preserve” the community, and “and save the ancestral land, tradition, culture and language” of the Meiteis.
Hearing this matter, on 19 April, the Manipur High Court issued a directive to the government to consider the request of the community for its inclusion in the reserved category within four weeks and send a recommendation to the Union government for its consideration.
Kuki always oppose ST status to Meiteis
The demand for ST status for Meiteis has always faced resistance from the other tribals, namely the Kukis and the Nagas. They argue that the Meiteis are the dominant population in the state and also hold dominance in political representation.
They further argue that the Manipur language of the Meiteis is already included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, and that sections of the Meitei community — which is predominantly Hindu — are already classified under Scheduled Castes (SC) or Other Backward Classes (OBC), and have access to the opportunities associated with that status.
Following the High Court’s decision, the ATSUM called for a ‘Tribal Solidarity March’ in the Torbung area of Churachandpur on 3 May and this was the tipping point and soon after violence broke out in the area.
Since then, the once beautiful and scenic northeastern state has seen murder, mayhem and has been plunged into turmoil. More than 130 people have died since, during clashes between the majority Meitei and the tribal Kuki minority groups. Some 60,000 have become refugees in their own land.