‘Manipur’–One Year Later


May 3, 2024. It has been a year since the genocidal violence in Manipur started, and it has continued to intensify across the year. As of 1st May 2024, there have been 185 people killed in the violence initiated by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with more than 200 villages burnt and more than 41,000 people displaced from Manipur. The struggle in Manipur is centered on the lands of the tribal peasantry, with the ruling BJP government both at the centre and in the state pushing for the ability of the valley-based landowning sections to purchase the forest lands in the hills, instigating violence between the Kuki-Zo, Naga peasantry, and the Meiteis. Various reports surfaced where the Indian army and paramilitary arms and ammunition were “stolen” which were later found to have been arming the militias controlled by the party in power. The root cause of the conflict is how to exploit mineral resources of the region. Manipur is rich in limestone, chromite, nickel, copper, azurite, magnetite, and various platinum group elements which are predominantly found in Hundung, Phungyar, and Mailiang villages in Ukhrul district, as well as in Toupokpi, Chakpikarong, Pallel, Nungphura, Nungpal, SajikTampak, and Haikot villages in Tengnoupal and Chandel districts. 80% of these resources fall in areas inhabited by tribal communities practicing Christianity, who are particularly the Kuki-Zo and Nagas in Manipur, while the Meiteis who largely practice Hinduism are the main base of the ruling saffron dispensation. The Kuki-Zo and Naga peasants who inhabit these resource-rich forest and hill areas must therefore be displaced. At the same time, Manipur has never found itself completely integrated with even the erstwhile British Raj, let alone the Indian state born in 1947, and has seen movements for national liberation being attacked in the guise of the ongoing conflict which the state has promoted by utilising ethnic divide.

For the interests of corporatization, the conflict is a necessary act as a means of arming local state-backed militias, an excuse for the increased presence of central paramilitary, army, and police in the region in the name of ‘quelling the violence’ and ‘restoring order’ as a method of militarisation which can thus make the process of looting natural resources easier, as witnessed by the large displacement of peasants.

Just like the Salwa Judum and their successors the District Reserve Guard and Bastar Fighter in Bastar where the Adivasi peasantry too is fighting for their lands, combating displacement, genocide, and a systemic war on people by the Indian state for the sake of corporate loot, state-backed private militias are running amok in the region. Just on 30th April and 1st May 2024, the Assam Rifles, part of the Central Armed Police Forces like the CRPF, conducted combing operations in the forest areas near the Kuki-Zo dominated villages of Leisanghpai and Sejang in Jiribum under the guise of capturing a purported militant. Right after the operation, the villages were found to be burnt to ashes. In the name of protecting the residents, these villages are being cleared of the residents, allowing way for the private militias to take control and raze villages to the ground, compelling the peasants to leave.

The Adivasi peasants dominated 5th and 6th schedule areas in Bastar and Manipur, are seeing the most intense militarisation for the sake of corporate loot of natural resources, whereas the tribal peasants across the entirety of such resource-rich regions have been struggling against militarisation and corporatisation to save their jal-jungle-jamin, as well as for their dignity and democratic rights.

[Forum Against Corporatisation and Militarisation (FACM) is an umbrella platform of 16 mass organisations]

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Vol 56, No. 48, May 26 - Jun 1, 2024