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Manipur: The Sister Failed by The Four Pillars.

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The system that should’ve rescued this northeastern sister at “Manipur is burning”, is dawdling to acknowledge the fact that “Manipur is still burning”. Who failed Manipur is still the question that hasn’t been answered with accountability.

What’s happening in Manipur? A question that is now slowly attracting the attention of the nation. Gunfires, explosions, lynchings, rape, and harassment, houses burned; hundreds of lives lost, and people displaced with no homes and food shortages. Sounds like a war, and the scenes depict it likewise.

So how did the state land itself in this ordeal? Some basic data provides the context to recognise the issue.

Manipur: The state is divided into the valley region and the hill region,

  • The Imphal valley constitutes 10% of the total land area and 57% of the total population of the state, mainly of the Meitei Community (90–95% inhabited in the valley).
  • The hill region constitutes 90% of the total land, with 43% of the total population of the state comprised of 33 tribes, including Nagas and Kuki-Chin tribes with ST status (90–95% inhabited in the hills).
  • The state assembly has 60 seats, of which 40 are held by the Meitei Community, and the state contributes 2 Lok Sabha seats.

Economically, the valley region has seen immense growth due to its geographical advantage in contrast to its hill counterpart. This establishes a clear geographic, demographic, economic, and political divide.

Today, ‘the system’ has allowed the historical social divide that exists between hill and valley people to manifest, and with it, its worst ramifications.

The Root-causes

  • The Manipur High Court (Single Judge Bench of Chief Justice M.V. Muralidaran) directed the state government to recommend inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list in March 2023.
  • Concerns and actions taken against alleged tribes illegally cultivating Poppy (Opium) and illegal immigration

Though these are the triggers, the underlying divide between the Meitei and the Kuki communities goes beyond these key issues,

The Meitei Community has been demanding ST status for years now, which would allow them to own land and conduct business in the hill areas. They claim, any Indian can own and conduct business in the valley, and the land available for Meiteis’ is shrinking.

The community also fears turning into minorities due to the demographic change that might be caused by the illegal immigration of refugees from Myanmar into the hilly areas.

The failure of “The System”

Judiciary: Many questioned if a high court judge has the jurisdiction to direct the plea for ST status from the state to the centre. The Supreme Court came down heavily on Chief Justice M.V. Muralidaran, calling his directive “completely and factually wrong”.

“We have to stay the order of the Manipur High Court. It is completely and factually wrong. We gave time to Justice Muralidaran to remedy his error, but he did not do so. We have to take a strong view against it now,” the Supreme Court said.

The State Government: The Kuki community perceives the Biren Singh led government to be Meitei majoritarian, serving the interests of the said community at the cost of the hill people.


The Kukis claim that they’re being dislocated from their indigenous land in the name of ‘protection of reserved forests’ by this government following demolitions and evictions of a Kuki village in Churachandpur, Dist. Manipur.

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The state government, headed by Chief Minister Biren Singh, also seized and evicted many Kuki tribal regions without notice, accusing them of alleged illegal poppy cultivation.

In order to tackle illegal immigration, the government proposed a document verification drive be taken up in five districts, which were mostly Kuki areas.

Although poppy cultivation and illegal immigration are concerning issues for the state, considering the complex relationships between the communities, the policies to tackle these issues could have been more sensitive, perhaps a holistic socio-economic approach to the issue, instead of isolating the community, would’ve generated less friction.

The approach chosen by the government has ploughed deeper distrust and hatred between the Meiteis and the Kukis; this could affect the state and the communities for decades before it can reopen the dialogue of harmony.

The government also failed to curb the violence in the state and maintain law and order in the last two months.

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Chief Minister Biren Singh signed the resignation, taking accountability for his failed administration, but was blocked by a group of women on his short journey to the governor’s office. The said women somehow got their hands on the official resignation letter and tore it to shreds. Later, the chief minister decided not to resign and continued to be the Chief Minister of Manipur.

The Union Government

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attracted a lot of criticism for not addressing the Manipur crisis since its inception. Union Home Minister Amit Shah visited the state for 4 days and spoke with both communities, but no developments of significance came out of it.

The deployment of the Assam Rifles and military proved uneventful, as the communities didn’t cooperate with either. The mistrust and standoffs between people of assam and the central forces were reported from the ground.

The centre was also criticised for not imposing the president’s rule  or considering setting up a seperate administration. Here, the centre has seemingly not been able to mediate, take control of the ongoing crisis, or effectively undertake peacekeeping missions.


The mainstream media failed Manipur in its struggles; it was said to be underreported, and the attention of the viewers was drawn away from Manipur with dramatised null issues. The cries of an Indian in Manipur went unheard and didn’t reach the rest of India. This is a rising concern because the failure in administration cannot be rectified without the media and the citizens raising their voices collectively, and if the population is kept in the dark about the severity of the crisis, the administration may never come under any pressure to rectify and rethink policies. The administration need not be held accountable, for there are none to question.

The media is called the fourth pillar of democracy; it is supposed to speak truth to power and point out the shortcomings of the administration. Report the state of affairs on the ground, inform and enlighten citizens and voters as to how the administration is performing, and promote harmony and social welfare.

Viral video: Fake news surfaced with an image showing a woman’s body wrapped in plastic, allegedly assaulted by the members of the Kuki community, which was fact-checked to be an image from 2022 and shows a woman killed by her family in Delhi.

But the fact check didn’t reach the people of the Meitei community; a mob of men assaulted and paraded two Kuki women naked on the streets, claiming revenge. The victim claims that the police handed her over to the mob.

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This horror took place on the 4th of May but came to light only in the last couple of days due to the video going viral across the nation. No arrests were made until the video came to light, and so far we’ve witnessed a single arrest in the case.

The Prime Minister acknowledged and expressed how enraged he was after the video went viral. This would be the first time he would address Manipur violence, and he attracted criticism for this address as he mentioned Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh before he mentioned Manipur.

The Supreme Court of India took Suo Moto cognizance of the event.

The Chief Justice of India addressed the video; he said, “Using women as instruments in an area of communal strife to inflict gender violence is deeply deeply disturbing. This is the grossest of human rights violations”.

The CJI’s order read, The Court is deeply disturbed by the visuals that have appeared in the media since yesterday depicting the perpetration of sexual assault and violence on women in Manipur. What is portrayed in the media would indicate gross constitutional violations and infractions of human rights. Using women as instruments for perpetrating violence is simply unacceptable in a constitutional democracy…This Court must be apprised of the steps that have been and shall be taken by the government to (i) hold the perpetrators accountable; and (ii) ensure that such incidents are not repeated.

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