Ever since the outbreak of ethnic violence between the Meiteis and Kukis, community dynamics had changed a little. However, the complexity still remains an enigma to many outsiders. In terms of upkeep of the state’s territorial integrity, the political divide was mostly between the Meiteis and the Nagas while the Kukis more or less remain as observers.
Well, that has changed drastically changed as Meiteis and Kukis are aligned on opposite sides of the pole in view of their demand for a separate administration. It is rather interesting that the Nagas are not exactly against the demand for a separate administration for the Kukis, as they also have been voicing the demand for a Greater Nagaland or alternative arrangement outside the purview of Manipur administration since long. Their only condition is that, the ‘ancestral’ land belonging to the Nagas should not be touched in the event of a separate political arrangement for the Kukis.
Smaller tribes like the Kom or Aimol etc who are not aligned to any of the major groupings in the hills had always shown loyalty to the territorial integrity of Manipur in view of their close association with the valley population since time immemorial. The Meitei Pangals, in spite of their recent religiosity, always goes along with the Meiteis. What remains to be seen is their ability to abide by the commandments of mainstream Muslim organisations and shun unwanted activities which could cast aspersions on their loyalty.
For the Nagas, politics had long taken over the umbilical connections, age-old bond of brotherhood and shared historical experiences with the Meiteis. However in spite of the political divide, the Meiteis and the Nagas had in recent times managed to find common ground in terms of incessant influx of Myanmar illegals from across the border and establishing roots in the political demography of the state. We did warn about the inner rumblings within the Kuki-Chin brotherhood.
When one talks of territorial integrity, most of us are fixated on the possible outcome of NSCN-IM and Government of India only. The concept of territorial integrity encompasses anything which dare threatens our borders and the issues of territorial disputes, homeland aspirations, ownership of state lands, and above all emotional integrity. And we had highlighted the issues of frequent incursions of Myanmar forces on our borders and the border disputes with the state of Nagaland, the GOI negotiations with SoO groups, the Mount Koubru controversy and the unfinished district reorganisation which should essentially be included in the discourse of territorial integrity.
The 2021 one-day people’s convention organised by COCOMI on special status for Manipur was certainly a beginning in the right direction. It resolved that no ethnic based territorial council can be accepted within the territory of Manipur, citing that such an arrangement will create more political and ethnic problems in the state.
There is also apprehension that some large communities might engulf people of small communities. To prevent such a threat to small communities and to provide equal rights and equal privilege for each ethnic community, the demand for a special status to protect the ethnic rights and identity as a whole was raised.
The principle includes acknowledging the need to protect the territorial, administrative and emotional integrity of Manipur, cherishing the age-old bond of brotherhood among all the indigenous communities of Manipur, upholding the inalienable rights of all the indigenous communities to protect, preserve and develop their respective distinct identities, realising the necessity to maintain harmony by respecting each other’s distinct identities and realising the truth that only a ‘special status’ with a high degree of autonomy for the state of Manipur can provide for all aspirations and rights of all communities and others.