Narco-terrorism, politics, extremism: Pillars of systematic violence against Kukis in Manipur

Interestingly, while entire of the media and human rights activists are calling it a massacre of Meitei community by Kuki terrorists, the analysis reveals that while nearly 90% of all killed were Kukis.

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Manipur violence (File)

Manipur is an important piece of history where Indian National Army of Subhash Chandra Bose hoisted flag in a place called Moirang. Several thousands of brave Indian Warriors perished on this land which is now in turmoil. Although the state has been witnessing terrorism and feudal clashes for a long time, probably this is the first time that so much of tensions are observed in the hill state.

Although it all started on 03rd May 2023, when a group of Kuki volunteers were protesting and burnt a forest office triggering violence. Since then, the riots have been orchestrated in a well-organized manner where over 100 Kuki villages were burnt and over 200 (As per few estimates, the number could be much higher as media and state administration could not reach far flung hill areas) were killed mercilessly. Interestingly, while entire of the media and human rights activists are calling it a massacre of Meitei community by Kuki terrorists, the analysis reveals that while nearly 90% of all killed were Kukis, the percentage of displaced Kukis is over 80% which reflects as to how fake narratives are built to suit the convenience of one particular group. The violence which is continuing even after 60 days was well planned. The perpetrators of these riots planned it for months and were waiting for a trigger to instigate violence. When we analyze the riots, there are seven key pillars of it. Let us understand them one by one.

Politicians and social leaders- In Manipur, the dirty nexus between politicians and valley-based terrorists is well known. Since March 2023 when Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was revoked from Imphal valley, political voices were clearly indicating feudal turbulences which became prominent after the proposal to include Meitei community among tribes was promulgated. This factor was not only popularized by the political leaders but was projected in such a way that Kuki community took it as a threat to their very own existence which culminated in the protests of 03rd May 2023 and later turned violent. Not only this, but the political leadership of Manipur also remained biased towards their own community before and during the riots. When riots started, the ruling party removed all Kuki police personnel and administrative officers including DGP from active duties but did not take any step to stop officers of their own community from all the wrongdoing. This reflects their intention and planning to annihilate one social group from Manipur.

Narco-Terrorism and role of Kuki SOO groups: Although hill tribes like Kuki & Zou have been known to cultivate opium for last several decades but it never made a headline in the public. Due to proximity of “Golden Triangle” and no means of livelihood for hill people, these communities often resort to such practices, but the real syndicate of this narco-terrorism is connected to certain valley-based elements and politicians. It is also one of the major sources of income for Valley based terrorist groups who have been waging war against India for last several decades. One of the roots of the current crisis lies in the control of narco-terrorism syndicate where both Kuki SOO groups as well as Valley based terrorist groups want to have their control over this lucrative business.  

Extremist groups like Arambai Tenggol & Meitei Leepun- Two valley-based groups are in the forefront of news now a days. These are Arambai Tenggol and Meitei Leepun. When sophisticated weapons were being looted from the headquarters of Manipur Rifles and India Reserve battalions, when Kuki villages were being burnt, when gun shops in Paona Bazar were being ransacked and when a large crowd gathered outside chief Minister N Biren Singh’s house to stop him from resigning, the black shirt clad people belonging to these two groups were visible everywhere and played a very big role in the ongoing violence. This was openly accepted by their leaders over the camera who are portraying themselves as the savior of Meitei community and justifying all the violence carried out by them.

Meirapaibis or the womenfolk – If we talk of Manipur violence and do not talk about the Meirapaibis, the story remains incomplete. Over last several decades, they have been known to shelter the terrorists, harass the security forces and justify their anti-national activities in the garb of woman empowerment. All the officers of Armed forces who served in Manipur especially Meitei dominated areas will vouch for this fact. In the current violence also, it has been clearly seen that these so-called torch bearers were escorting armed terrorists to the Kuki villages and stopping central security forces to intervene. They were the ones who forced Indian Army to release 12 hardcore terrorists involved in 2015 ambush on Indian Army convoy in Chandel district, and they were the ones who burnt alive a Meitei lady travelling in ambulance to treat her child just because she was married to a Kuki man. These torch bearers who are burning the state mercilessly and not only state administration, but central forces too are silent before them. Unfortunate but true.

Manipur police & state administration – If anyone tries to snatch weapons from a police person, he is authorized to fire. If anyone tries to loot the armory, police force guarding it shall be responsible to save it at all costs but that did not happen in Manipur. A majority of the police force is from Meitei community, and they were openly seen standing with their community rather than the country. Over 4000 sophisticated weapons looted from their armories were handed over smoothly to the rioters and there was a clear biased approach visible in the actions of Manipur police. When they were told to stop Kuki mob, they fired mercilessly and when they were told to stop Meitei mob, they left their position allowing the rioters to wreak havoc. Not only this, but they were also actively seen escorting the rioters to the Kuki villages along with Meirapaibis.

In Sugnu area where over a dozen Kuki villages including Khongnang Phaisabi, Langching, Khopijang, Singtom & T. Lhaloiphai were completely burnt to ashes and several people were killed, it was Manipur police which along with Meirapaibis did not only dug the road but also clashed with Assam Rifles to stop them from reaching the place of incident and as a result, extremists had a free run for several hours. Similar incidents were reported in other areas including Kangpokpi, Khamenlok & Bishenpur too.

Valley Based terror groups & Surrendered terrorists – Valley based terrorist groups have been a major concern for India’s sovereignty. In last one decade or so, Security forces have effectively contained their imprints over the valley and the state was slowly moving towards normalcy. Imagine the situation two decades back when these terror groups used to have “Liberated Zones” like Sajik Tampak, New Samtal, Lajang and Hengshi inside the territorial boundaries of Manipur but those days have gone. The supply of weapons and explosives to these groups was effectively contained and their recruitments and activities are minimized which resulted in removal of AFSPA from Imphal Valley in March 2023. The present riots gave a lucrative opportunity to these groups. After they were gifted sophisticated weapons and communication devices from Arambai Tenggol & Meitei Leepun, they projected themselves as savior of the Meitei community and led the attacks on Kuki villages. Since their recruitments are low, they also instigated their trained cadres who surrendered in the past to join their ranks.  As per few reports, over 500 surrendered cadres have already joined these armed terrorist groups, and many are in the process of joining since there is abundance of weapons & warlike stores. If we take a rough estimate, over 1500 armed terrorists are roaming in Manipur freely under escort of Meirapaibis and Manipur Police and government is silent.

Manipur based media and journalists – All the economic activities of Manipur are centralized in Imphal valley due to its connectivity and as a result nearly all the major media houses are also located in Imphal itself. Surprisingly, all of them are owned by influential people of Meitei community & not even a single by Kuki people. Soon after the riots broke out, these media houses started portraying Meitei community as a victim whereas the situation was otherwise. The aggressive portrayal of news and events instigated common public which was otherwise silent to develop a hatred against Kuki community. Politicians and other leaders were quick to pick up their stories to instigate hatred. Not only this, when national media reached Imphal, they took help of Meirapaibis and Manipur police to ensure that these correspondents could never reach the hill areas. A live example is Sugnu area where over a dozen villages were turned into ashes on 28th May 2023, but not even a single media person visited there till date because they are not allowed to.

The high-level drama where Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh retracted his decision of resigning was nothing but a step to gain sympathy while the state is still burning. No politician of ruling party is ready to talk about those several thousands of sophisticated weapons which were looted or the actions of Manipur Police or the incompetence of the government. Even Central government is silent over it while innocent lives are being lost every day. Clashes happening every single day and fake narratives are being sold like hot cakes everywhere. It is high time that the leaders sitting in Delhi should take a call.

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