As the violence and tension between the Meitei and Kuki communities in Manipur continue to escalate, the situation in the state remains tense. In the latest development, ten Tribal MLAs have called for a separation from the state and the establishment of a “separate administration” for regions predominantly inhabited by Kuki-Hmar-Zomi tribes, citing the failure of the existing government to protect them from violence perpetrated by majority Meiteis.
The call for separation comes after a wave of violence that has resulted in the destruction of homes, places of worship, and properties, and has left at least 71 people dead. In particular, the deliberate targeting of Christian churches has raised concerns among the Christian community in Manipur.
The violence, which began on May 3rd, has resulted in partitioning the state and has led to the destruction of places of worship, homes, and properties. MLAs, ministers, pastors, police officers, and even children have not been spared in the attacks, read a press statement issued on Friday.
The signed joint statement was endorsed by ten MLAs, comprising Ngursanglur Sanate, Letpao Haokip, LM Khaute, Letzamang Haokip, Paolienlal Haokip, Nemcha Kipgen, Vungzagin Valte, who are all affiliated with the BJP, as well as Kimneo Haokip Hangshing and Chinlunthang from the Kuki People’s Alliance, and Haokholet Kipgen as an Independent.
The tribal representatives stated that their people can no longer exist under Manipur, and living amongst the Meiteis is as good as death for them. They claimed that the animosity towards their tribe has escalated to such an extent that they have no choice but to demand separation from the state.
Meanwhile, the Churachandpur District Christian’s Goodwill Council released a letter on May 10, 2023, providing a summary of the facts and circumstances leading to the conflict engulfing the state of Manipur. The letter highlighted the deliberate targeting of Christian churches for pillage and destruction, with 121 churches belonging to various Christian denominations burnt down as of the date of the letter.
“The specific targeting of religious places in this conflict may be explained, in our understanding, by the Meitei extremists’ idea that this is the best way to get attention of the majority Indian. Therefore, they burnt many churches in their neighboring areas and put them up as an exhibit (to show that this is a conflict between indigenous Hindus and Christians that, the Hindus are persecuted in their own land, and that they will soon be reduced to a minority).”, the letter read.
The number of reported deaths since the clashes between Meitei and Kuki communities has risen to 71, with 40% verified as being due to the clashes, according to Kuldiep Singh, Security Advisor to the CM. The MLAs stated that they were seeking a separate administration under the Indian Constitution and wished to live harmoniously as neighbors with the state of Manipur, as they believed that the state had failed to protect them. Minister Leitpao Haokip said that the nature of the administration is up to the Union of India to decide. According to reports, a meeting is planned with community leaders and civil society organisations in Mizoram on May 16 to mobilize the demand.