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Insights Into The Recent Uproar In The State Of Manipur

The recent uproar in Manipur calls for keen scrutiny on essentially 3 aspects the Manipur HC orders to the State government to recommend the Meitei community for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes (STs) list to the centre , the underlying causes for the riots and the uncalled state emergency.

The Scheduled Tribes category is reserved for people who are away from the mainstream society, including factors like geographical isolation, possessing a distinct culture and economical backwardness. But the actual datapoints of the Meitei community (who predominantly occupy the valleys) reveal that they are better educated, they have better access to drinking water, clean fuel, and hospitals. The existence of industries also provides employment opportunities.

On the other hand, relatively less educated people (who occupy the hilly areas) who majorly speak Thangkhul, Thado, Kabui or the Mao language. This sector is unfairly represented by the public sector enterprises and they do not earn sufficient income from anywhere as they live in a relatively less accessible and feasible areas compared to those in the valleys.

The agony of the tribes in the hill is only fair because the data bears fruits to their worries. The fear that the valley population would encroach their share of reservation, leaving nothing for them due to added advantages of living in a valley. Though a straight-jacket formula cannot be drawn to add or delete groups from the SC/STs list, some standard of measurement like the aforementioned 4 can be considered as a valid one.

Going by that, it is evident that, the people in the valley, including Meitei Community do not live in isolation nor are they economically backward. Tourism industry is also flourishing the valley and not in the hills. The pre-existing reservations for the Kuki and other hilly tribal communities were significantly low and unjust. Further adding the people in the valley to the ST list would be doing more injustice to those who are actually eligible to claim the SC/ST reservation.

Though the uproar and riot took place after the HC order, it seems to be a proximate cause and not the probable cause. The underlying causes are linked to the government's labelling of tribal areas' as protected or reserved forests. And the ethnic group of Kukis' are agitated as their kins from Myanmar (The chin) are inhumanely treated as they are incoming as illegal migrants from Myanmar. The BJP's CM justifies the labelling of reserved forests by reason of protecting the areas against the drug lords. It seems only unfair to give the same blanket description to the entirety of the Kukis' community.

It has been reported that the Biren Singh government uses, satellite mapping to locate changes in forest encroachments in hilly areas. On April 2023, at least 26 houses were demolished by way of satellite mapping as such settlements were not found in 2020 but were there in 2022. The native people claim that they have been residing in the same place for 60 years uninterruptedly.

The eviction was done after the forest department issued a notification in November 2022 derecognising 38 villages in Chorachandpur and Noney districts claiming that they fell within the protected forest area. This very much seems like a targeted move on the Kuki community. The usage of satellite mapping to trace encroachments is atrocious.

The armed rebellion in the state is not unprecedented. There are a lot of recognised armed organisations like the Kuki National army and the Zomi Revolutionary Army. They both form a part of Kuki National Organisation. They signed a deal with the Centre and State (the SoO agreement) which is a ceasefire agreement. State emergency under article 370 and 371C have been declared only thrice after independence.

Much more furious riots than this were not declared as State Emergency (ex. The Agnipath riots). Thus, the government's attempt to declare it as a state emergency and initiating a "Shoot at sight" orders are so bizarre in the light of modern Indian politics. It seems that, the government is trying to simmer the ethnic uproar by engaging military and RSF which are more than necessary.

Though Manipur has the status of a "border" country, it only further leads to a suspicion that such heavy deployment of armed forces has a larger objective than to just bring back the state in accordance with the constitution. On March 10,2023, there was a similar uproar of rallies in the hills of Churachandpur,Jiribam,Tamenglong and Ukhrul. The Kuki tribes have been protesting against the government for target eviction of them from their lands, by naming it as protected or reserved forest area.

Law and order can be brought back in Manipur only when the government assures the existing Scheduled tribes their right to land, reservation in public offices, right to settle is not going to be further affected. The HC order should be dismissed. A proper survey or research should be undertaken to identify areas of illegal encroachments.

Peace can be restored only through co-operation various political forces including local armed forces. The Centre and the State has an obligation to take steps of resolving it immediately as riots and conflicts in the national border state might look weak and might destabilise the border relations with neighbouring countries.

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