You may have heard about about violence in India’s Manipur state, news about it runs under the hashtag #ManipurViolence on Twitter.
I provide some background about the situation in Manipur, which by no means complete, can serve as a concise starting point for your own research on the subject.
A Few Manipur Key Stats
From Indian press sources we learn that ’52 people have been killed in Manipur since ethnic violence broke out between Meitei and Kuki communities on May 3′, so let us look at Manipur and its population, its ethnic and religious make-up a bit closer. But first, where is Manipur anyway? It’s in the North-East of India, bordering Myanmar:
Now, we look at the ethnic and religious composition of the population of Manipur. As per Wikipedia (English), with not up-to-date statistics, but probably still valid, the total population is around 2,8 million people:
Who is in Power in Manipur?
The government of Manipur is accused of largely staying at the sidelines and not doing anything to stop the violence. So, what’s the composition of the government?
Both the Governor and the Chief Minister of the state are from BJP. The parliament has 60 seats and is dominated by the BJP, but governs with a coalition of 54 seats, to which the Kuki People’s Alliance (KPA) is providing two seats:
What is the cause or trigger of the violence?
Manipur is no stranger to violent protests, but the ongoing violence between the Kuki-Zomi tribals and the largely Hindu Meiteis is the first time in three decades that the state has witnessed direct clashes between two ethnic groups. In 1993, Hindu Meiteis clashed with Pangals (Muslims), and there was horrific violence involving the tribal Nagas and Kukis, which saw more than a hundred Kukis massacred in a single day, and thousands driven from their homes.Indian Express, May 7, 2023
Kukis and Nagas point out that tribal areas are 90% of state’s geographical area, but the bulk of its budget and development work is focused on the Meitei-dominated Imphal valley. Each of these groups has its aspirations and insecurities, and old grievances have been triggered by new developments, writes Esha Roy.
For an illustration of this issue, IndianExpress provides an infographic, depicting the ‘valley’ and ‘hill’ fault-line:
So, while the population is majoritarian Meitei, the Kukis and Nagas occupy 90% of the area of the state.
We now have a basic idea of what unrest and violence are all about. However, while it is described as an ‘ethnic conflict’, it seems that the causes are rather economic with a classical city-countryside divide. It is not clear whether the roots of the conflict are really ethnic or rather lie in the fact that different areas are treated economically differently and just happen to be populated by different ethnical groups.