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The sharp divide that is Manipur’s burden

What is the context?

 The ethnic violence in Manipur has led to many deaths, with hundreds of houses, churches, temples, and vehicles being vandalized or set ablaze. The conflict stems from the long-standing hill-valley identity divide.

What is the Hill-Valley Divide?

 The Hill-Valley Divide refers to the divide between the hilly regions and the valley regions of Manipur, India. The urban population in the valley, consisting mostly of Hindus and a significant number of Muslims, have better access to basic facilities such as clean drinking water, clean cooking fuel, hospitals, public sector jobs, and industries that provide better employment opportunities. On the other hand, the tribal people who speak Tangkhul, Thado, Kabui, or Mao languages, and who are mostly Christians, live in the hilly regions with relatively poor access to these basic facilities.

 

What triggered the violence in the region? 

The violence was triggered by a tribal solidarity march organized by the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM), protesting against the Manipur High Court’s direction to grant Scheduled Tribe status to the non-tribal Meitei-speaking people.

What is the religious divide in the Hill-Valley Divide? 

The sharp hill-valley divide is also reflected in religious terms. In the hill districts, 89-96% of the population is Christian, while in the valley, their share is marginal. In the valley, 60-75% is Hindu, with the Imphal East and Thoubal districts having a significantly high Muslim population.

How does employment and tourism differ between the two regions

People from the hills hold 35% of public sector jobs, despite forming close to 43% of the population, whereas those from the valley hold about 65% of such jobs. Also, close to 90% of foreign and 75% of domestic tourists restrict themselves to the valley. This has resulted in the tribal people having few job opportunities and earning less from tourism than their valley counterparts.

What is the difference in access to basic facilities between the two regions? 

The hill-valley divide is more pronounced when access to basic facilities is compared. In the valley, 73-90% of households have access to better quality water compared to 51-69% in the hill districts. In the valley, 70-90% of households have access to clean cooking fuel, compared to 23-62% in the hills. In the valley, 67-76% of births were institutional, compared to 39-67% in the hills.

Way Ahead for Resolving the Hill-Valley Divide in Manipur:

  • Addressing the economic disparities: The government must address the economic disparities between the two regions by providing more job opportunities in the hilly regions and encouraging tourism in the hills. This would require improving infrastructure and promoting cultural tourism.
  • Improving access to basic facilities: The government must improve access to basic facilities such as clean drinking water, clean cooking fuel, healthcare, and education in the hilly regions.
  • Addressing the identity divide: The government must work towards bridging the hill-valley identity divide by promoting a sense of unity and brotherhood among the different communities. This can be done by organizing cultural and sporting events that bring together people from different regions.
  • Encouraging dialogue: It is important to encourage dialogue between the different communities and their leaders to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. This can be done through community-level discussions and bringing representatives from different communities to the table.
  • Ensuring justice: The government must ensure that justice is served to the victims of the violence and those responsible for the violence are brought to book. This would help in building trust among the different communities and prevent such incidents in the future.

Conclusion:

The hill-valley divide in Manipur is a complex issue that requires a multi-pronged approach to resolve. Addressing the economic disparities, improving access to basic facilities, promoting a sense of unity and brotherhood among different communities, encouraging dialogue, and ensuring justice are some of the ways that can help in resolving the conflict. The government must work towards finding a peaceful solution to the issue to ensure that the people of Manipur can live in peace and harmony.

Possible UPSC CSE Prelims question

  1. What is the Hill-Valley Divide in Manipur and how is it reflected in terms of access to basic facilities and employment opportunities? What are some of the ways to resolve the conflict arising from the Hill-Valley Divide in Manipur?
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