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Manipur Unrest

  Apr 13, 2023

Manipur Unrest

Q What is the context  ?

  • The recent demand for a separate administration in Manipur has sparked widespread discussions on the sanctity of borders and the territorial integrity of the state. The demand, supported by various Kuki-Zo legislators highlights the alleged tacit support of the Manipur government towards violence against the Chin-Kuki-Mizo-Zomi hill tribals. The counter-response from Meitei groups advocating for the protection of the state’s territorial integrity further complicates the situation.


Q What are the Causes of the riots in Manipur ?

  • The principal cause of the riots in Manipur is the failure of the state government to recognize and accommodate the territorial rights and identities of the different communities in the state.
  • The state’s aggressive integrationist project, which seeks to dissolve tribal land rights in the valley areas, has been a major source of tension between the Meitei and tribal communities.
  • Additionally, in April 2023, The Manipur High Court’s order to expedite the recommendation for granting ST status to the Meiteis further inflamed the tribal sentiments and led to the massive protest on May 3.


Q What are the factors contributing to the increasing demand for a separate administration in Manipur ?

  • Ethnic Tensions and Divisions: Manipur is home to diverse ethnic communities, including the Kuki-Zo and Meitei groups. Ethnic tensions and historical divisions have persisted for years, leading to a sense of marginalization and a desire for separate administrative arrangements.
  • Failure of Previous Arrangements: Previous attempts to address the concerns of tribal communities, such as the proposal for a Union Territory or inclusion in the Sixth Schedule, have been perceived as inadequate or non-serious. The lack of tangible progress has intensified the demand for a more comprehensive and separate administrative setup.
  • Demographic Changes and Displacement: The extensive violence, displacement of populations, destruction of property, and loss of lives in recent times have significantly altered the demographic landscape of Manipur. These changes have deepened the divide between different communities and created a sense of irreparable separation.
  • Economic Considerations: The Kuki-Zo-dominated districts of Manipur, such as Pherzawl and Churachandpur, possess valuable natural resources and strategic gateways to Southeast Asia. Proponents of a separate administration argue that harnessing these resources and leveraging the region’s economic potential would be better served under a distinct administrative framework.
  • Lack of Trust in the Current System: The demand for a separate administration reflects a deep-seated mistrust in the existing political and administrative structures. Some communities believe that their interests and concerns are not adequately represented or addressed within the current system, leading to a call for a separate administrative entity.
  • Popular Support and Mobilization: The current demand for a separate administration enjoys unprecedented popular support among the Kuki-Zo groups. This widespread backing has galvanized community members and fueled a sustained mobilization effort, making the demand a significant force in Manipur’s political landscape.
  • Alleged Government Support for Violence: The demand stems from allegations that the Manipur government has tacitly supported violence against the Chin-Kuki-Mizo-Zomi hill tribals. The perception of government inaction or indifference has fuelled discontent among the affected communities.


Q What are the Constitutional Challenges for the implementation of a separate administration in Manipur ?

  • Article 3 of the Constitution: The power to effect changes in a state’s border lies with the central government, as outlined in Article 3 of the Constitution. This provision grants unilateral power to the center to alter state boundaries.
  • Opposition from Naga Groups: Granting a separate administration for Kuki-Zo in Manipur’s hill areas could face opposition from certain Naga groups. These groups may be reluctant to compromise on their territorial aspirations, particularly concerning the Naga’s demand for a sovereign ‘Nagalim.’ Finding a resolution that satisfies the demands of both communities is a significant challenge.
  • Resistance from the State Government and Meitei Groups: The Manipur state government and Meitei groups may staunchly oppose the demand for a separate administration. They might advocate for maintaining the territorial integrity of Manipur and resist any attempts to alter the administrative setup.
  • Revisiting Constitutional Arrangements: Establishing a separate administration in Manipur would necessitate revisiting and potentially amending the existing constitutional arrangements. This could involve dissolving sub-state constitutional asymmetrical arrangements, such as Article 371C, district councils, and tribal land rights.
  • Overlapping Ethnic Boundaries: Manipur’s ethnic dynamics present a challenge when determining the territorial boundaries of a separate administration. Some districts, such as Chandel, Kamjong, and Tengnoupal, have mixed populations and historical territorial disputes between the Kukis and Nagas. Resolving these territorial complexities and addressing the concerns of all communities is a delicate task.
  • Economic Viability: Critics may raise concerns about the financial sustainability and resource allocation for the proposed administrative entity. Demonstrating the economic potential and strategic advantages of a separate administration is crucial to counter these arguments.

Q Which are Major tribes of Manipur ?

  • Naga Tribes: The Nagas are one of the largest and most prominent tribes in Manipur. They are primarily concentrated in the hill areas of the state, and are known for their distinct culture and traditions.
  • Kuki Tribes: The Kukis are another major tribe in Manipur, and are also primarily concentrated in the hill areas. They are known for their love of music and dance, and have a rich cultural heritage.
  • Meitei Tribe: The Meitei are the dominant community in the valley areas of Manipur, and have their own distinct language and culture. They are known for their love of traditional sports such as Thang Ta (a form of martial arts) and Sagol Kangjei (a game similar to polo).
  • Hmar Tribe: The Hmars are a smaller tribe in Manipur, but are still an important part of the state’s cultural fabric. They are known for their traditional dance forms, such as the Cheraw and Chheihlam
  • Zomi Tribe: The Zomis are another smaller tribe in Manipur, but are spread across several states in Northeast India. They are known for their love of music and dance, and have a rich cultural heritage.
  • Pangal Tribe: The Pangal tribe, also known as the Manipuri Muslims, is a minority community in Manipur. They have a distinct culture and language and are primarily concentrated in the valley region.
  • Anal Tribe: The Anal tribe is a smaller ethnic group in Manipur and is primarily concentrated in the hill areas. They have a unique culture and are known for their traditional dress, dance, and music.


Q What can be the Way ahead ?

  • Dialogue and Negotiation: Facilitating a dialogue between the various stakeholders, including the Kuki-Zo groups, Meitei communities, Nagas, and the state government, is essential. Open and constructive discussions can help identify common ground and potential areas of compromise.
  • Constitutional Reforms: Given the constitutional complexities involved, exploring options for constitutional reforms may be necessary. This could involve amending Article 3 to ensure greater involvement of the affected states in decisions regarding border changes, thereby addressing concerns about the exercise of unilateral power by the Centre.
  • Devolution of Power: Considering the overlapping ethnic boundaries in Manipur’s districts, there could be a focus on devolving power and granting autonomy to local communities within a framework of non-territorial and territorial autonomy.
  • Resource Management and Economic Development: Strategically leveraging the rich natural resources and strategic gateways in the Kuki-Zo-dominated districts, such as the natural gas belt and access to Southeast Asia, can contribute to the economic development of the region and provide incentives for a separate administration.
    Inclusive Governance: Any solution should prioritize inclusive governance that recognizes and respects the rights and aspirations of all communities in Manipur. Ensuring equitable representation, protection of minority rights, and mechanisms for peaceful coexistence are essential components of a sustainable way forward.
  • Learning from International Examples: Drawing lessons from federal polities like Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, where territorial divisions have been managed successfully, can provide valuable insights. Understanding their experiences and practices in accommodating territorially mobilized groups can inform the way forward in Manipur.
  • Building Trust and Reconciliation: Addressing historical grievances, fostering social harmony, and promoting reconciliation among communities are crucial for long-term stability. Efforts should be made to build trust, bridge divides, and promote understanding among different ethnic groups in Manipur.
  • With unprecedented popular support and the Rubicon of division already crossed, Manipur faces constitutional challenges in effecting this demand. The unresolved debate surrounding Manipur’s administrative future hinges on aligning agendas, ideas, and interests across India’s multi-level federal polity and processes.