Manipur is facing large-scale violence in many areas that the state had to deploy its Army overnight and impose shoot-at-sight order to contain such violence. This clash broke out between the tribals and the majority Meiteis community, displacing over 9,000 people for safety purposes. The clash is majorly between- Imphal Valley-based Meiteis & the hill-based Kukis due to the demand for a Scheduled Tribe status for Meiteis & the eviction drive by the Manipur government to clear the reserve forests occupied by illegal immigrants in hill-based areas.
Read this article to know the main issue concerning Manipur violence, its consequences and many more. So, let's get started!
What is happening in Manipur?
A decade-long problem in Manipur is again popping up but in the form of violent protests that broke out against a High Court’s direction to the state government on including Meiteis (Imphal Valley-based) in the Scheduled Tribes category.
- Meiteis are about 53% of the state's population but occupy about 10% of Manipur’s land area. If Meiteis are included in the ST list, then they can now purchase land in Manipur hills inhabited by tribals.
- Also, the Manipuri language of the Meiteis is included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution, and the sections of the Meitei community which is predominantly Hindu — are already classified under Scheduled Castes (SC) or Other Backward Classes (OBC) and have access to the opportunities related to this status.
Why did Manipur violence happen?
The main issue relates to Imphal Valley and Manipur Hills, that is, the ST status of Meiteis and illegal immigration in Manipur Hills. To understand the complete issue, let’s take a tour of a few facts about the state of Manipur.
- Manipur comprises 16 districts. The state has two distinct areas Imphal Valley and Hill districts. It is home to 35 tribes, mostly Naga or Kuki.
- On the one hand, the Imphal Valley is dominated by Meiteis, who are Hindus comprising five districts.
- On the other hand, the hill districts are dominated by Naga and Kuki tribes. And the ongoing violence is mostly centred in the Churachandpur district, which is among the hill districts.
- The Kukis and Nagas are basically Christians, wherein the Kukis dominate four hill districts.
- The valley is the most populated part of this state as it comprises not only people from the tribes but also migrants from other parts of the country.
- The rest of the population is spread over the maximum land area in the Manipur hill districts. However, these districts have reserve forest areas.
- The Meiteis (synonymous to the Manipuris) constitute the majority of the state's population, and their dominance is the main concern for Kuki tribes, if they are given ST status, reservation of Meiteis will become a growing concern for the hilly areas tribes.
Are police authorised to shoot at sight at a protesting mob under IPC?
As per the laws, police in India are generally not authorised to shoot at sight at a protesting mob. Any use of lethal force by police officers are heavily regulated and can only be used in specific situations to protect themselves or others from imminent danger.
- The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) govern the use of force by police officers.
- These laws also make it clear that even in situations where the use of force is authorised, police officers must use the minimum amount of force mandatory to achieve their objective and ensure that their actions are proportionate to the threat faced (Section 99 of IPC).
- Hence, indiscriminate firing on a protesting mob is illegal in India.
- Also, the right to peaceful assembly and protest is a fundamental right guaranteed in the Indian Constitution. The police are obligated to facilitate such protests and ensure the safety and security of the protesters. Still, the protest has to be “peaceful”; if not, then the police can use force but starting with a minimum amount to achieve the goal.
Demand for Scheduled Tribe status for Meiteis
1. The Kukis Point of View
The Manipur High Court on April 20th, directed the state government to consider the Meitei community's request to be included in the Scheduled Tribes list within 4 weeks. The HC asked that the recommendation be sent to the Central government for its consideration. This move is what’s being objected to by the Kuki organisations who are protesting against the Meiteis ST status & held a 'Tribal Solidarity March'. Kukis fear that if Meiteis are given ST status, they will take all their land areas in hill districts.
2. The Meiteis Point of View
Meiteis claims that the protest against ST status is fake. The Kukis are mostly worried by the state government's drive to eradicate illegal immigrants from settlements in reserve forest areas in the hill districts.
"They seized opportunity in the garb of the protest against the ST status, but their main problem is the eviction drive. But the drive is being conducted across Manipur, not just in the Kuki area," Chand Meetei Pocshangbam, member of All Meitei Council stated.
Illegal Immigration and Demand for NRC in Manipur Hills
In March, many Manipuri organisations held a demonstration in New Delhi demanding the implementation of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) with 1951 as the base year. The main concern was that the state witnessed a sudden population surge with a growth rate of 24.5%, against the national average of 17.64%. This abnormal surge was being noticed mainly in the Manipur hill areas occupied by Kukis and Naga. The All Meitei Council states that the Kukis are migrating illegally from the Myanmar border and occupying forest land in Manipur.
As a response, Kukis claimed that the eviction drive & the demand for ST status were to drive the Kukis away from their land.
Internet ban in Manipur
Mobile internet services have been suspended for 5 days in the state amid incidents of fighting between young men and volunteers of different communities.
The seriousness of this protest can be seen by the acts of tribes and Meiteis people who are burning tyres on roads and setting fire to some houses in parts of the state.
As we can deduce that the tribal groups are opposing the HC order mainly for two reasons. First, the dominance of the Meiteis, both in population & political representation & second, the Manipuri language of the Meiteis is included in the VIIIth Schedule of the Constitution, and the Hindu sections of the Meitei community are already classified under SC or OBC.
After the rally turned violent, the state government imposed a curfew and suspended mobile internet services in the entire state for five days. The Indian Army, Assam Rifles, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and Rapid Action Forces were soon deployed to take hold of the situation.
What’s your take on this issue? Is the curfew & shoot at sight justified in this situation? Comment us below😊