Lame excuses: On Manipur and the ethnic conflict

Biren Singh continues to blame ethnic violence on ‘illegal migration’

Moves such as seeking to end the Free Movement Regime, that is seen as favourable by the citizens of both countries, the announcement that India will fence the 1,643 km India-Myanmar border and Mr. Singh’s statement that 5,457 “illegal” migrants were found in Manipur’s Kamjong district should be seen in this light. The Chief Minister has repeatedly maintained that the conflict, which has killed more than 220 people, displaced over 50,000 people and resulted in injuries to thousands, besides creating a siege mentality among the Meitei and the Kuki-Zo communities, is a consequence of his government’s actions against “poppy cultivation” and “illegal immigration”. This is both an over-simplification and a biased view of the ethnic conflict that has raged in the State because of the inability of the Biren Singh government to rise above the ethnic fray and build confidence measures that could win the trust of the Kuki-Zo community. That the violence has been followed by the brazen militarisation of Manipuri society, in the hills and in the valley, with vigilante groups armed with sophisticated weapons, causing law and order problems, and impeding security personnel seeking to impose law and order, reflects even more poorly on the government. Unless there is a change, both in approach and in leadership in Manipur and the way it has treated the conflict, the situation will continue to fester.