Day in day out, the civil society organisations based in Kangpokpi or Churachandpur keeps bleating about the partisan state government and its oppressive policies and the domineering attitude of the majority Meitei community towards the Kuki-Zo fraternity. Through the estranged MLAs, they had demanded a separate administration for the Kuki-Zo dominated areas particularly in Kangpokpi and Churachandpur districts as they feel suffocated by the oppressive politics and policies of the ‘Meitei dominated’ government and could no longer live together with the Meiteis, as they say.
If we recall correctly, the Nagas through NSCN (I-M) had been demanding a Greater Nagalim or an ‘alternative arrangement’ for the Nagas in Manipur in the event of a shakedown of the Greater Nagalim demand. But, the Naga CSOs had never targeted the Meitei community as such and they never accused the state government of being Meitei oriented, nor did the Meitei community targeted the Nagas for supporting the demand or aspirations espoused by NSCN (I-M) and its frontal organisations.
In short, it was never a people-to-people conflict between the Nagas and the Meiteis. While the Meiteis are ready to lay down lives for keeping the territorial integrity of Manipur intact, Nagas are pursuing a political agenda and not against the Meiteis. That is exactly why, the Meiteis and Nagas were able to form a bond with regard to the threat of illegal migration of Myanmarese illegals. But, the Kukis targeted the Meitei community while their grievances were more of resisting the policies of the state which they feel are specifically targeted against them.
As we all know, those calling the shots among the Kuki-Zo populace are the drug lords who are financing poppy cultivation and drug business in the state besides the politicians and the militant outfits as well. So, when the state government starts clearing up illegal occupation in reserve and protected forest areas on the heels of the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ campaign the drug lord felt they were being targeted by the state government.
The Kukis had encroached large swathes of reserve and protected forest land for practicing poppy cultivation besides unauthorised habitation and establishment of new and newer villages. And they are bringing in their brethren from across the border to help in overwhelming the hills and poppy cultivation. Resistance to campaigns by state Forests department against illegal occupation and settlement in reserved and protected forests in the hills began through one of the vociferous Kuki BJP MLAs in Churachandpur district even before the May 3 clashes began.
Also, Kuki chiefs were made to oppose the tree planation drives of the Forest department through the frontal organisations on their payroll much before the clashes. Then came the realization that, they need to bring the Meitei population in the vortex so that their opposition to the anti-drug campaign and poppy cultivation is not interpreted as against the policies of the state government. The campaign against illegal occupation and settlement in reserve and protected forest areas affected the Meiteis and the Meitei Pangals while the campaign against poppy cultivation affected the Naga areas also.
But the impact was more in Kuki-Zo inhabited areas and they earnestly needed a villain for the imagined oppression of Kuki-Zo fraternity in Manipur. That is specifically why, they began attacking Meitei inhabited areas in the periphery of the valley, besides driving out Meiteis from Churachandpur and Moreh. Then, the drug lords through the Kuki elite began playing the victim card by bombarding the national media and social media with concocted historical narratives and false propaganda. The so-called mainstream media has been dabbling in ‘majority oppressing minorities’ or ‘targeting religious minorities’ narratives while focusing on the present conflict in Manipur without even bothering to understand the ground realities.