One of the core issues lies around whether chief minister N. Biren Singh’s regime is biased towards the majority Meiteis.
The peace in Manipur was as short-lived as the news cycles that may have swung the attention away from a problem that has been festering since the major outbreak of violence there in the first week of May.
The repeal of the Internet ban, at 143 days the second longest in India after the one in Jammu & Kashmir, lasted less than three days before horrific pictures surfaced on the Net of the murders of two Meitei lovers, who had eloped and got trapped in a Kuki-dominated area, which may have taken place in July.
Adding to a litany of problems surrounding the Manipur issue was the strength of protests at the abduction and killing of the lovers in which scores of students in their higher secondary school uniforms were injured. It would only add to the burden of an administration already struggling to cope with the internecine violence if the youth were to get restive.
In a land in which trust between communities has been shattered and in which a virtual civil war raged, spurred on by the firepower of weapons seized from police armouries as well as those obtained from migrants crossing over from Myanmar, the “sun of peace” may rise only to set again with every provocation of proof of atrocities that the communities rained on each other.
Amid the myriad issues — including religious differences over which churches were burnt — hanging around a state in which around 180 people may have died and the lives of at least 50,000 displaced — land is at the heart of the conflict.
The immediate trigger for the serious outbreak of violence in May was a court order granting ST status to the Meitei community that threatened to rent asunder basic control over land.
Having poured thousands of troops into Manipur to contain the violence, the Centre may have been hoping the administration would regain a modicum of control. One of the core issues lies around whether chief minister N. Biren Singh’s regime is biased towards the majority Meiteis.
A solution will not lie in pedantic calls for peace that tend to ring hollow in a surcharged atmosphere exacerbated by the loss of trust. A way out of the impasse may lie in the President’s Rule being imposed and the fundamental issues of Meitei, Naga and Kuki-Zo communities being viewed afresh, and the playing field being levelled out before attempting to find long-term solutions.