How BJP’s Policies are Fueling Ethnic Unrest in Manipur: A Deep Dive


A ceasefire agreement was reached with a number of armed tribal groups in Manipur in 2008 when Manmohan Singh was acting as Prime Minister. This took place in Manipur. This action brought a sense of calmness to the troubled region, but that calmness has, sadly, been shattered in recent times as a result of the policies that the current government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has enacted at both the central and state levels.

The approach that the BJP government has taken towards certain issues, such as the demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status by the Meitei community, the severe action against encroachments on reserved and protected forests, as well as the generalisation of the entire Kuki community in the context of drug-related activities, has resulted in an increase in the level of ethnic conflict and violence that occurs in the region.

The Meitei community, which accounts for around 53 per cent of Manipur’s total population, has been campaigning to get their name added to the list of STs. Despite the fact that this may appear to be a straightforward demand for bestowing Scheduled Tribe designation upon a certain community, the repercussions are extremely far-reaching. The majority of Meiteis live in the Manipur Valley, and the awarding of ST status to them could upset the balance of resources and power between the hill tribes and the residents of the valley. This multidimensional issue has stoked the flames of racial strife.

Particularly noteworthy is the fact that the harsh action taken by the BJP government against people in the protected forest regions of the hills of Manipur has elicited substantial anger among the indigenous tribes. These tribes have viewed the steadfast stance taken by the Chief Minister of the BJP, N. Biren Singh, against what he considers to be encroachments by tribal communities as an assault on their means of sustenance as well as their customary rights.

In addition, the stigmatisation of members of the Kuki community as ‘drug lords’ has contributed to a heightened feeling of animosity and persecution within this group. The Kuki people have familial ties to the Chin people, who have been fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar, which is their neighbouring country. The Chin people have been fleeing for their lives. The harsh stance that the government has taken towards these people who are suspected of being illegal immigrants, has only served to make the problem worse.

When the BJP government reversed course on the Suspension of Operation (SoO) deal in March 2023, the situation took a decidedly negative turn for the worst. The United People’s Front and the Kuki National Organisation were the two tribal armed organisations that participated in the signing of the SoO agreement in 2008, which was a ceasefire pact between the Central and State governments and the two factions. The tribal people viewed the move by BJP government as a mockery of the peace pact negotiated during the time when Manmohan Singh was in office, and they viewed it as a direct attack on their community.

Furthermore, the use of Article 355 of the Constitution, which authorises the Centre to adopt necessary measures to safeguard a state from external aggression or internal disturbances, appears to be an exaggerated response. This sends a message that the Indian government is losing control over a part of its territory. Instead, all the stakeholders in Manipur should have been called for dialogue, and efforts should have been made to reach an equitable solution.

In spite of the fact that the administration in Manipur which is run by the BJP may have intended to combat drug problems and maintain forest lands, the technique that they chose to do so ignored the precarious ethnic balance in the region as well as its historical context. The peace that was established in 2008 by the government of Manmohan Singh through negotiations and agreements with tribal political groupings appears to have been shattered as a result of the policies that are currently being implemented by the BJP.

It is imperative that the government reevaluate its strategy in Manipur, with a primary focus on open conversation, an understanding of the complex problems facing the region, and the promotion of an environment that is both inclusive and equitable. Only at that point would it be possible to find a lasting solution to the conflict in Manipur.

Disclaimer :- This post is independently published by the author. Infeed neither backs nor assumes liability for the opinions put forth by the author.

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