Manipur is a hilly state located in the northeastern region of India. It is situated east of Bangladesh and shares its borders with Myanmar. The state is inhabited by an estimated population of 3.3 million people.
The majority of the population in Manipur are Meiteis, comprising more than half of the residents. The Kukis and Nagas make up around 43% of the population and are the predominant minority tribes in the state.
Currently, Manipur is facing a serious crisis with ongoing violence that started in May. The violence has resulted in at least 130 deaths and 400 injuries, and it has forced over 60,000 people to flee their homes. The situation is being addressed by the army, paramilitary forces, and police who are struggling to control the violence.
The conflict escalated when Kukis began protesting against the Meiteis’ demands for official tribal status. The Kukis argued that granting the Meiteis tribal status would further enhance their influence in the government and society, potentially allowing them to acquire land or settle in areas predominantly inhabited by Kukis. However, there are various underlying reasons contributing to the conflict, such as the Meitei-led government’s perceived war on drugs, illegal migration from Myanmar, land use pressures due to population growth, and unemployment pushing youth towards various militias.
The main parties involved in the conflict are the Meitei, Kuki, and Naga militias, which have historically fought each other over conflicting homeland demands and religious differences. The recent flare-up, however, is primarily between the Meitei and Kuki groups.
The Meiteis primarily reside in the Imphal valley, while the Kukis live in the surrounding hills and beyond. The Meiteis have roots in Manipur, Myanmar, and surrounding regions and are mostly Hindus, with some following the Sanamahi religion. On the other hand, the Kukis, mostly Christians, have spread across the northeast of India, and many of those in Manipur can trace their origins back to Myanmar.
Women in the region have also become targets of violence, with reports of attacks and humiliation. Sexual assault and rape are being used as instruments of violence in the conflict, leading to a cycle of revenge attacks.
The central government of India, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had remained silent on the situation in Manipur until a video of a violent attack emerged. After the video’s release, PM Modi condemned the incident and assured that the guilty parties would face consequences. However, many have questioned the delay in his response. The Indian government has deployed a significant number of soldiers, paramilitary troops, and police to the region in an effort to contain the violence but has refrained from imposing direct rule as requested by tribal leaders.