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Manipur Violence: Unending Woes - A Silent Cry Amidst the Chaos

Amidst the lush landscapes of Manipur, the haunting spectre of Manipur Violence, marked by a tale of unprecedented horror, forgotten suffering, and a nation's neglect, continues to scar the collective memory of its resilient people.

By Inderpal Singh
New Update

Search operations following Manipur violence
Search operation being conducted by security forces in a vulnerable region in Manipur | Photo courtesy: @manipur_police | X

In the heart of India's northeast lies the 'Jewel Land' - Manipur, a state adorned with the natural beauty of nine encircling hills and an oval-shaped valley at its core. However, the shine of this jewel dimmed on the fateful day of May 3 last year when Manipur violence, one of the most horrifying episodes of ethnic violence in recent history, cast a dark shadow over the region.

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The clash between the Meitei people, who predominantly inhabit the Imphal Valley, and the Kuki-Zo tribal community from the surrounding hills, left a trail of devastation in its wake. Nearly 200 lives were lost, over 1000 people scarred, approximately 5000 homes reduced to ashes, and an estimated 70,000 people forcibly displaced from their homes, with many still unaccounted for. The reality, however, may be even grimmer than the official statistics suggest.

In recent months, our nation's collective consciousness was violently jolted by a series of nightmarish events that unfolded in Manipur. The disturbing videos that emerged of two women being forcibly made to walk naked down a road and towards a field by a frenzied mob of men, shook us to our very core. The viral footage laid bare the horrifying reality as these women were dragged towards the field, subjected to groping and assault. This act of unspeakable violence has etched a searing scar on the psyche of our nation. Day in and day out, we were bombarded with harrowing news stories of innocent infants losing their lives, minors and women enduring the trauma of rape, teenagers being abducted and subjected to unimaginable brutality, and, most distressingly, families bearing wounds that defy articulation.

As the violence in Manipur began to unfold, the initial coverage was limited, with the news gradually seeping into the national media. Reporters were dispatched from New Delhi to cover the unfolding tragedy on the ground. As the story gained momentum and captured the attention of the nation, international media organisations too flung in sending their journalists to report the story. The state received unprecedented coverage, and political fights ignited over who was responsible for Manipur’s plight. However, as time passed, the fervour of media attention and political discourse on the subject began to wane, and Manipur slowly slipped from the forefront of public consciousness.

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Even today, the state of Manipur continues to grapple with routine instances of violence, but these distressing incidents find themselves relegated to the inner pages of newspapers. Television channels, preoccupied with reporting on topics such as the Ram Mandir and Gyanvapi, seem to have chosen to ignore Manipur, only addressing it when absolutely necessary. The international media, which once focused on the region, has also shifted its attention elsewhere.

Since the ethnic conflicts began in Manipur, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the northeast for the first time recently. He visited Assam on February 4th and 5th. However, dishearteningly, there was conspicuous silence on Manipur violence. Even the President of India, Droupadi Murmu, refrained from uttering the word 'Manipur' during her address to the joint session of Parliament.

The ethnic conflict in Manipur, which has persisted for several months, has cast a long and dark shadow over families in the region. Many continue to endure displacement, while those who have managed to stay behind have seen their businesses severely affected or even ruined. The violence has inflicted a crippling blow to the state's economy, leaving the business community in a state of deep distress, with no discernible signs of recovery in the near future.

Ethnic tensions have created a stark division between the two communities, resulting in separate zones where neither side can venture into the other's territory for business or any other activities, fearing the risk of attack or even loss of life. This segregation has taken a toll on the state's economy and its social fabric.

The once-thriving tourism industry in Manipur has also suffered significant losses as the violence has deterred people from visiting the state. The extent of the state's financial losses due to the ongoing violence remains uncertain, with no concrete numbers available to quantify the full extent of the damage inflicted upon Manipur.

Adding to the routine headlines, Manipur recently regained some media attention when the decomposed body of a 17-year-old boy, missing since May last year amidst the heightened ethnic violence, was discovered in Manipur's Chandel district. In another episode, just a few days ago, two lives were lost, and several others injured following a bout of heavy firing in Manipur's Imphal West district. On January 1st, as the world welcomed the new year, Manipur woke up to the sobering news of another tragic incident. Four people were shot dead, and many others sustained injuries in a clash in Thoubal district.

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The central government has not remained entirely passive in addressing the ongoing conflict in Manipur. On the surface, certain measures have been taken. Union Home Minister Amit Shah visited the state last year and announced the formation of a Peace Committee in response to the Manipur violence. The primary objective of this committee was to facilitate the process of peace-making among the various ethnic groups in the state. This includes promoting peaceful dialogue and negotiations between conflicting parties or groups affected by Manipur violence. The committee was expected to play a critical role in enhancing social cohesion, fostering mutual understanding, and enabling productive communication among the diverse ethnic groups in the state. 

Despite the formation of this Peace Committee, the glaring lack of substantial progress in talks between the two communities prove that this committee is nothing but a non-starter. In addition, the deployment of thousands of armed personnel in the state, intended to quell violence, has not resulted in the cessation of routine instances of unrest. It is evident that short-term measures alone are inadequate in addressing the underlying causes of the ethnic tensions.

As Manipur continues to simmer with unresolved issues, it is disheartening to observe that it is not only fading from the media's spotlight but also from the political discourse as the political class is gearing up for the 2024 elections. The grim reality is that we have collectively let down the people of Manipur, and in doing so, we have failed the very secular fabric of our nation. At a time when Manipur needed India's support the most, we have regrettably not accorded it the dignity and attention it deserves instead we allowed the state's troubles to fade into oblivion.  

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