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Salvaging the idea and reality of Manipur

What is the context?

Recently communal riots erupted between Meiteis and Kuki-Hmar-Zomi communities in Manipur.

What is the impact?

  • The communal riots in Manipur have caused significant human displacement, loss of lives, destruction of property, and show no signs of closure. 
  • The riots have transformed from ethnic cleansing to genocidal attacks and have expanded to peripheral areas, with ragtag mobs from either side continuing to cause destruction. 
  • The deployment of paramilitary forces, predominantly in urban areas, is not sufficient to maintain law and order.
  • The delay in imposing the shoot-at-sight order in Imphal and valley areas appears to be a deliberate state complicity to allow ragtag mobs to accomplish their targeting and erasure of lives, properties, and land records. 
  • The result is that thousands of Meiteis and tribals have been evacuated to safety and are likely to be displaced as refugees for a long time. 
  • The geopolitical body of Manipur has been badly bruised, and considerable Meitei settlements are likely to be erased forever.

What is the extent of damage caused by the communal riots in Manipur?

  • The communal riots have caused extensive human displacement, tragic loss of lives, and destruction of property.
  • The precarity of law and order remains as ragtag mobs with the support of armed groups from either side continue to expand the theatre of these riots to peripheral areas. 
  • The geopolitical body of Manipur has been badly bruised and radically transformed beyond recognition, making the task of post-conflict state building and transformation of state-society relations extremely difficult, if not impossible.
  • Extensive ethnic cleansing suggests that the geopolitical body of Manipur has been badly bruised, and considerable Meitei settlements are likely to be erased forever.

What steps should be taken to secure future stability and peace in Manipur after the communal riots?

  • The Manipur government must take primary responsibility for the institutionalized riots system that has caused communal violence.
  • The state government should prepare, activate and sustain measures that would prevent the recurrence of such riots. 
  • Government and Meiteis should realize that the stability and territorial integrity of Manipur is secured not by an aggressive integrationist project and non-functional sub-State asymmetrical institutions, but by genuine recognition and substantive accommodation of territorial rights and identities. 
  • Manipur should learn from the ability of deeply-divided societies such as Belgium, Canada, and Switzerland to hold together.It is facilitated by their enduring commitment to accommodate and institutionalize differences as a valuable good.

Conclusion

  • Reviving Manipur as an inclusive idea and a space of accommodation requires addressing the challenging task of future state-building and recognition of distinctive rights and identities. However, this task is complicated by the deep-seated sense of hatred and mutual distrust that exists among communities. 
  • It is imperative that leaders of communities, the State, and other significant stakeholders acknowledge the destructive nature of violence and take concrete steps towards inter-community reconciliation.
  • Immediate and sustained efforts towards reconciliation are necessary for Manipur to become a truly inclusive and accommodating geopolitical space.

 

Possible UPSC CSE Mains questions

  1. Critically analyze the impact of communal riots between Meiteis and Kuki-Hmar-Zomi communities in Manipur. What measures should be taken to restore peace and stability? 
  2. The communal riots in Manipur have not only caused extensive human displacement, but also transformed the geopolitical body of Manipur beyond recognition. Discuss the implications of this for future state-building and accommodation of distinctive rights and identities. 
  3. What factors have contributed to the communal violence in Manipur? Analyze the role of the state government in preventing the recurrence of such riots. 
  4. The revival of Manipur as an inclusive idea and space of accommodation is contingent upon inter-community reconciliation efforts. Discuss the challenges and opportunities for such efforts in the context of deeply divided societies. 
  5. In the aftermath of communal riots in Manipur, what steps should the state government take to address the precarity of law and order and ensure the safety of affected communities? How can the state build a more inclusive and accommodating geopolitical space?