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The most violent state—Manipur

  2 comments   |     by Masud Ahmad Khan

The so-called shining India and the world’s largest democracy has been converted from a secular republic to a Hindutva republic. A prediction made by an eminent Indian writer, Khushwant Singh in the early 80s that, “Hindus who form 80 percent of the population will in due course make Hindutva the state religion of India.” At present India is engulfed with several armed separatist movements. North East India is the most volatile and insurgency-affected region; Meghalaya, Manipur, Assam Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, referred to as the seven sister states. All the states are in a prolonged struggle against India for independence. According to Archanna Upadhyay in her book, ‘India’s Fragile Borderlands’, North East India clearly has the distinction of being one of the most volatile areas of the world. Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Tripura rank among the most violent states in the region.

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One such small hill state in North East India is Manipur. The state has an area of 22327 square kilometres and the population is around three million. 90 percent of the geographical area is covered by hills and the remaining is a small valley covering an area of 2238 square kilometres. The population is divided between those who live in the hills and those who live in Imphal Valley. It borders Myanmar from the East and Nagaland to the North, Mizoram to the South and Assam to the West.

The British took over the Manipur Kingdom in 1891 after a brief war and did not annex the kingdom but placed a resident there. On partition of the sub-continent, Manipur became an independent country with a constitution of its own. Manipur was forcefully annexed by India on October 15, 1949 and was not incorporated into the union as an equal member of the state of union. Armed struggle for independence started after its forcible annexation by India. On January 21, 1972 Manipur was made a state of the Indian union. The Kubaw Valley—7000 square miles and part of Manipur—was given to Myanmar by the British in 1826. The people of Manipur view the valley as an integral part of their state. The area was permanently gifted to Burma in 1953 during the visit of the Burmese Prime Minister to India.

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The people of Manipur see Manipur as an independent state with incorporation of Kabaw valley at some time. The Meiteis are the largest ethnic group in the state; composing more than half of the population. They live in the valley which is ten percent of the total area of state. Meiteis, the majority Hindu population, demand promulgation of Inner Line Permit (ILP) which protects locals and prevents outsiders from buying property and settling in the area. The Inner Line Permit (ILP) is an official document issued by the government of India to travel by Indian citizens into the protected area of Manipur. There is a lot of resentment in Manipur who think it is against their interest.

The population of non-Manipuris had grown over a period of time. In 1950, the population of Manipur was 500,000 and in the 2011 census it was 280,0000. The Meiteis are also upset with the rising demographic imbalance in the state. The next major group is the Nagas, who live in the hills and work for Greater Nagaland. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) and others are working for a greater cause of “Greater Nagaland” an independent state consisting of all the Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar.

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In 1994, the Nagaland assembly passed a resolution seeking integration of the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh into a greater Nagaland. Militant organisations like the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak and the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), the People’s United Liberation Front, Kukis National Front (KNF) and the Kukis National Army (KNA) etc struggling for independence of Manipur. The Indian army has 180 camps across Manipur including along the 400-kilometre-long border with Myanmar. There are more than 100,000 India soldiers in the troubled state with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). This act gave the Indian army vast powers and also gave security forces immunity against prosecution.

Over 26000 civilians have been killed by the Indian Army in the insurgency besides injuries to thousands. According to a report carried by BBC, a police official Herojit Singh told the BBC, “He killed more than 100 people in Manipur and had kept a tally of his kills in a notebook”. Manipur has long accused the Indian army of human rights violations under AFSPA. There was a unique protest on July 15, 2004 in Imphal where 12 women stood naked in front of the Kangla Fort, the headquarters of Assam Rifles with a banner “Indian army rape us”. On October 29, 2019 the representative of Maharaja Leishemba Sanajaoba announced separation of Manipur from India and forming a government in exile in Britain. Leishemba was the constitutional head of state (king) of Manipur from 1996 to present. According to the Indian Express, the Coordination Committee and Alliance for Social Unity Kangleipak (ASUK), an organisation of militants, made a statement that, “India’s independence has nothing to do with Manipur”. As such there is no ground for the people of Manipur to celebrate the independence of India.

The protests have continued since Thursday when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at hundreds of mainly student demonstrators. Police had said the protests got out of hand as demonstrators marched in Dhaka, with many throwing rocks and stones at officers, injuring at least four. “We fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them. There were 200 protesters. We have also arrested 33 people for violence,” police official Syed Nurul Islam had told AFP. A spokesperson for the march had said 2,000 mainly student protesters joined the demonstration.

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