The euphoria shown by the CM when claim was made about the relationship of Hundung and Meitei was short lived after the clarification by the NSCN(IM) that the relationship was restricted to Hundung only and not to all Tangkhul. This evokes a question as to whether all the Tangkhul are from a common ancestor or are they a community formed by the merger of various communities.
For this writer, the story of the Tangkhul and Meitei having a common ancestor was first narrated by a Tangkhul from Ukhrul who told that Tangkhul first settled near water bodies but due to sickness went up the hills. However, it was agreed that the younger brother will light up a lamp in autumn and on seeing the lamp, the elder brother will know that all is well with his younger brother. The light will be watched from the peak of Shokvao. There are other versions of this story, such as getting lost while hunting, etc but the common refrain is that both sprung from a common ancestor.
Another corollary is whether the Hundung people and subsequent villages spread from it like Shangshak, etc were not part of the group who migrated from Makhel, as per the Tangkhul belief? These are legends and stories, which one may not completely rely upon though these are materials for construction of proto-history. The only way to understand the proximity is through DNA analysis, which had been carried out for the Meitei, Meitei Pangal, Meitei Bamon, Kabui and certain other tribes from the Kuki-Chin group. Tangkhul were not included as none was ready to provide the consent form for allowing the study as required for human research.
The clarification of the group makes it clear about their stand in the present conflict and the way ahead which is not easy to surmise. They try to be equidistant between the two contesting parties while also reserving their continuing demand for a greater Nagalim which may be distant at present but was dreamt for a long period of time. The demand for a separate flag and constitution may not fructify and they should have the option to search for alternatives and this aspect was seen in the clarification.
The problem of some of the Meitei leadership is their belief in their assumed superiority and trying to take decision for the whole people of Manipur without consulting others. There is a tendency to call an organisation “All Manipur....” when only Meitei were members. The other tribes were not roped in. This tendency was also used by the Kuki-Chin which usurp the term “Tribal” to their advantage. As an example Indigenous Tribal Leaders Forum is an organisation which does not have any indigenous community of Manipur and it also does not have any Naga among them.
But by using the term “Tribal’ in the title; those who are not aware and are from outside the state believes that it includes all tribal from the state. There were some objections from certain Naga sections, but that was half hearted and has no impact on the attempt to show that it represents the entire tribal community, which it is not. The competition is in misleading the common folk that they represent all communities, in which it is fairly successful.
Among the Meitei, there are allegations of not able to work united and a decision announced by a group was sought to be followed by all, though at the time of taking the decision hardly anybody was consulted. One of the reasons for different approaches was due to lack of consultation among the various groups with their own followings. This lead to different narratives confounding the common folks who are suppose to join in the implementation of the decision. Decision likely to affect the entire state was taken unilaterally and expected to be followed by all, which lead to conflicts unnecessarily. There is therefore a need for developing a mechanism where discussion were held before an announcement was made.
From the government side, there has been shifting on the causes of the present conflict and now the most common reason is instigation by foreign elements. During this period, various causes were attributed like WoD 2.0, illegal migration, eviction from forest land, Kukiland, etc but one need to understand that the matter is complex and cannot be attributed to a single factor.
The question of how and why the anger to the Manipur government was translated to anger towards to the Meitei is still unanswered. Kuki may have their grouses against the state government, and some may be rightly so but targeting Meitei is just illogical and the victims from both sides are those marginalised people who have no say in the collective decision.
The Kuki-Chin claims that violence went unabated when a pastor was killed in Kangvai on May 3 while the Meitei claims that the burning of many Meitei houses at Kangvai and Torbung led to the succession of violence.
In Moreh, it started with extreme violence with a handful of Meitei were killed and many shops and houses were looted and gutted. Another narrative is that Meitei resorted to looting of arms first arms from MPTC, 8 IRB and 7 MR all three located at Khabeisoi on May 04 while on May 3, a gun shop was looted at Churachandpur and Kangpokpi and Singhat PS were looted of arms on May 04. Who started first and who followed shall be clear from the FIRs and subsequent investigations. A layman finds the different narratives confusing if one does not realise that massive mis and disinformation propaganda is going on.
All is quiet on the poppy harvest front though there have been massive seizure of opium and heroin both in and outside the state, mostly from the latter. Most of the arrested are from one or two particular communities, which have all along been blamed for their involvement in drug trade. It does not mean that all from the two communities are involved but the few most active belong to these two communities.
The operations to recover arms have led to seizures of sophisticated weapons, including sniper rifles brought from across the border reinforcing the claim that operatives from across the border are active in this conflict. The claim that near Moreh training of militants including those of foreign origin are undergoing have been doing the rounds for many months but it seems that no action have been taken and is still continuing and it is the responsibility of those central forces operating in the area to clarify the claim to the satisfaction of all concerned. These could easily be verified through humanint or through use of technology like drone, etc.
The claim that state forces were not allowed entry by certain central forces in these areas is very damaging and ought to be clarified. The alleged construction of new bunkers in the hill overlooking Phubala and Sekmai deserves all the attention and its destruction is all the more important if the lull in fight is thought to be extended.
The lull in the firing is an opportunity where efforts need to be made to bring in a sense of normalcy. If this opportunity is lost, such opportunity may be hard to surface again. What the people is not aware are the so called initiatives taken up by the authorities to reduce or contain the conflict. Some may be overt which must be informed while some may be covert which may be kept under secrecy for the time being.
One need to be extremely wary of the social media posts where even claim was made that a Meitei group has signed an understanding with the state government for ceasefire which is absolutely false. Whether it was done with malafide intent of just a prank is yet to be understood.
At the start of the conflict, it was proposed that those communities who are not involved in the conflict may be best go-between but none came to bridge the gap. This is different from the Naga-Kuki conflict of 1992-97 where despite claims by the Naga that Meitei are bias towards the Kuki, Meitei worked hard to bring an understanding. Unfortunately the other communities are being slowly sucked into the present conflict or are extremely wary of acting as a go-between as there is no love lost with the two adversaries.
With the passage of time, picking out the truth is becoming more difficult with different narratives floating around in both the social and mainstream media and it is the duty of the government to isolate the grain from the chaff.
(The views expressed are personal)