Manipur’s BJP CM sparked conflict: Assam Rifles report on India violence

India’s Kangpokpi/Imphal Province – The atmosphere inside a makeshift bunker with mounds of gunny sacks and a tin roof was unnaturally quiet despite the fact that it was Christmas Eve. From the largely Christian Kuki-Zo tribe, 19-year-old Chonminlal Kipgen and 26-year-old Paolal Kipgen hunkered inside and clutched their single-barreled guns. They gazed out and searched the hills of the Kangpokpi district for armed warriors from the Meitei community, which is their adversary.

They claimed that they were volunteers from the community, consisting of residents who had taken up arms in order to protect their homes.
Not too far away, in the capital of Manipur, Imphal, the majority-Meitei people held similarly subdued celebrations during their most cherished festival, Ningol Chakouba, which took place at the beginning of November.

Over the course of eleven months, the two communities that reside in the state of Manipur, which is located in the northeastern region of India, have been engaged in what is considered to be the longest-running ethnic conflict in the 21st century. This conflict has been overseen by a federal administration that is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

1100 people have been injured and 60,000 people have been displaced as a result of the fighting. Both adults and boys from both communities have been recruited by a variety of armed groups that have been resurrected as a result of this. According to reports, two Kuki-Zo “village volunteers” were murdered and their bodies were allegedly mutilated on Saturday in the Kangpokpi region of Manipur. According to the news release that tribal organizations issued, they have accused “central security forces, who aided Meitei militants” of being the perpetrators of the deaths.

In many instances, the conflict is oversimplified as a struggle between the Christian Kuki-Zo community and the Hindu Meitei community. This oversimplification is a reflection of the religious polarization that is observed in communal clashes and assaults on religious minorities in different regions inside India. The Meitei population mostly adheres to a syncretic form of Hinduism in addition to their own indigenous spiritual system, which is known as Sanamahism. This is in contrast to the Kuki-Zo communities, which are virtually totally Christian. Religions other than Christianity and Islam are practiced by a lesser percentage of Meitei people.

On the other hand, an evaluation that was carried out by officials from the Assam Rifles in Manipur brought to light a distinct collection of elements that are exceptional to the conflict in Manipur. Within the state, the Assam Rifles have a long and contentious history. They are a paramilitary force that is under the jurisdiction of the federal government. It is the oldest paramilitary group in the country and, along with the army, it is responsible for preserving law and order in the northeastern region of the country.

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The evaluation, which was presented in a PowerPoint presentation, was examined by the Reporters’ Collective (TRC) before the end of the year 2023. All of the officers who presented the presentation expressed a desire to maintain their anonymity. They walked me through the presentation, which was consistent with the opinions that one of the officers had given with me while he was describing the causes behind the conflict in Manipur.
According to the presentation, a portion of the blame would be placed on the state administration, which is led by Chief Minister N Biren Singh, who is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is a Hindu nationalist party led by Modi, as well as his “political authoritarianism and ambition.”

It is the first honest evaluation that has been made available to the general public by a government agency that is part of the federal government.

This month, in the run-up to a general election, Modi had maintained that the timely intervention of the federal government had led to a “marked improvement in the situation” in Manipur. This is the reason why this is significant. One of the few occasions on which the Prime Minister has discussed the issue was on this particular instance. In the meantime, the minister of federal home affairs has placed his trust in the abilities of the chief minister to bring about peace, which has not resulted in a resolution as of yet. During the first two phases of the national elections, which will take place on April 19 and April 26, the two seats that the state holds in the lower house of parliament will be put to the vote.

The evaluation conducted by the Assam Rifles included a summary of the factors that led to the conflict, as determined by officers who were present during the incident.
It brought attention to the impact of “illegal immigrants” from Myanmar, which is a neighboring country, as well as the need for Kukiland and the subsequent call for a national registration of people to reduce migration.

The political and armed Kuki leadership desires to separate Kukiland from Manipur in order to create a separate administrative unit. During the course of the ethnic strife, the desire for Kukiland has been brought back to life.
Additionally, the presentation said that armed groups from the Meitei community are providing individuals with firearms, and that armed groups from the Kuki tribe are providing support to individuals who are considered to be self-sacrificing.

All of this has contributed to an increase in tensions and has challenged the efforts of the leaders of both communities to portray the conflict as a struggle between common citizens who are volunteering for self-defense against the other community.

Whether or if the opinions expressed in the presentation are supported by the Assam Rifles as an organization was not something that the TRC was able to independently verify. It was decided to send the official spokeswoman for the paramilitary unit a series of detailed questions.

At first, a representative for the Assam Rifles stated that they would not be able to provide a response to something that was considered to be “hearsay.”
The Assam Rifles responded to the initial email by stating that they would “respectfully decline to engage in discussions regarding speculative or unverified matters.” As a professional organization, we are primarily concerned with our primary obligations and responsibilities, and at this time, we do not have any further comments to make regarding this matter. After some time had passed, it requested a copy of the presentation.

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TRC issued follow-up emails to the Assam Rifles, asking if they held the beliefs that were portrayed in the presentation. The Assam Rifles did not react to these questions.

The Ministry of Home Affairs and the office of the Chief Minister of Manipur have not responded to the inquiries that have been submitted.

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