Kuki, Naga, Meitei. Hills and valley. Inner line divide. The ethnic violence that broke out in Manipur around May 3 and claimed at least 73 lives has a long history. The tipping point was a push by the dominant Metei community for Scheduled Tribe status that was fiercely opposed by the state’s other tribal groups.
Since British times, Manipur has been shaped by policy and law that have sought to divide the state and its people – a legacy taken forward by the Union as well as state governments.
Veteran journalist Pradip Phanjoubam told Scroll that Chief Minister N Biren Singh, since his return to power in March last year after the state assembly elections with a majority government, has pushed rash policies, without consultation.
“He got arrogant,” said Phanjoubam, editor of the Imphal Review of Arts and Politics, told Scroll over the phone from Imphal. “He started pushing things around, not listening to anybody else because he knew his position was safe.”
How Singh tackled issues such as the drive against poppy cultivation and the proposed National Register of Citizens may have given members of the Kuki community the impression that they were being singled out.
“…Small things were seen as provocations in a much bigger way by the Kukis,” said Phanjoubam.