India’s Manipur suffers major loss of live and property in the violence

Manipur, a state in north-east India, is still reeling under the tremors of violence that broke out last year devouring lives and paralyzing the economy.

Nearly a year has passed since the ethnic violence broke out in Manipur, a State of north-east India, between the two communities but the situation is yet to turn normal.

Over 170 people have died in the violence and property worth millions of dollars have been destroyed in the mayhem that broke out on May 3, last year.

Why the tension began?

Manipur is inhabited by several tribal groups including the Meitei, Nagas and Kuki. But the dominant is Meitei community that largely follow Hinduism and live in Imphal Valley, the state capital of Manipur and Kukis follow Christianity.

The Meiteis comprise 51 percent of Manipur’s population of 2,3 million but are concentrated mostly in the plains and occupy only ten percent of the land. The Meiteis, however, have a strong presence in State politics due to their larger numbers.

The Kukis and Nagas comprise forty percent of the State’s population but hold ninety percent of the State’s hilly land.

The tension had been brewing in both the communities, Meiteis and Kukis, for a long time but it came to the surface in the first week of May 2023 after the Manipur High Court, acting on a writ petition on April 14, directed the State government to send a recommendation to the Union government to grant tribal status to the Meiteis.

Members of a community with tribal status get reservations in government jobs and educational institutions.

The court’s order was strongly opposed by the Kukis who argued that it would further strengthen the already dominant Meitei community.

Houses burnt in Manipur
Several houses and other establishments were gutted in the violence © Gurvinder Singh

On May 3rd, the All tribal students’ Union (Atsu) in Manipur held a rally across the hill districts of the State to protest the court order. Soon the violence broke out and spread to the entire State even engulfing Imphal, the State capital.

The mayhem that ensued was so devastating that there were several gruesome killings and even senior government officials and their families were not spared either.

Gouzavung, 57, who was an under-secretary with the Manipur government was murdered with her son Goulalsang, 27 on May 4. Goulalsang, was 27 and recently married. The duo along with family members were trying to shift to a safer location during the violence when the mob attacked and killed them.

The violence, however, continues even in 2024 as two people were killed and a dozen injured when security forces fired at a mob that stormed a government compound housing the offices of the senior government officials in Churchandpur district of Manipur in February, this year.

Businesses ruined

Apart from causing severe loss to lives and property, the violence has completely destroyed the business sector and have paralysed the State’s economy.

Several entrepreneurs, both small and big conceded that the violence has ruined them completely forcing to shut their business or run at a minimal staff strength, “Earlier, I used to have twenty people as staff in my food processing factory for different works. But we suffered massive losses during the violence due to the closure of the factory for over a month. We had to retrench fifty percent of our staff due to financial constraints. It is really painful that we had to remove our employees but there were hardly any option before us,” said an entrepreneur based in Imphal requesting anonymity.

Yumjao Leima, 47, a vegetable seller at Ima market in the heart of Imphal that has the distinction of being the only market in the world run by over six thousand vendors said that her business has been wiped off in the violence, “It is difficult to even sell Rs 2000 worth of vegetables nowadays compared to Rs 5000-6000 that I sold before the violence. The poor income has made it difficult to run my household and maintain other expenses. We have been completely shattered by the mayhem.”

Tourism which was the mainstay of Manipur as it has several picturesque locations like Loktak Lake and hills have been ruined badly.

Ima market
Business has suffered a major setback at Ima market in Imphal © Gurvinder Singh

Fear in minds

Even Government officials admitted that the repercussions would be long-term.

“It would be too early to calculate the exact loss from the violence as still it is difficult to enter in areas that have faced bloodshed. But we believe that it would take long-term for the situation to turn normal. The violence, however, has created bifurcation between the Meiteis and Kukis like never before.”

Life is returning towards normalcy in Manipur © Gurvinder Singh

The spate of violence though has subsided in the recent months, however keeps the situation away from being fully normal, “It’s true that the violent incidents have reduced due to the strict action by the state government but we still fear to venture out in the remote areas of the state fearing attack. We prefer to stay closer to the vicinity of our houses and return before the dark. The situation might never be normal as before as fear has taken a firm grip in our minds. The brutality has shaken us to the core and the pain can never be described in words,” summed off Thongak Lairembi, 55, who sells vegetables at Ima market.

Siamo anche su WhatsApp. Segui il canale ufficiale LifeGate per restare aggiornata, aggiornato sulle ultime notizie e sulle nostre attività.

Licenza Creative Commons
Quest'opera è distribuita con Licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 4.0 Internazionale.

Related articles