It’s almost a month since May 3, that eventful day when communal riots erupted in Manipur and the subsequent shutting down of internet connectivity which remains suspended in the state till today. Despite the continuous arrival of Central Forces to help bring ‘normalcy’ back into Manipur, reports of sporadic violence, arson, and attacks at peripheral villages splashed across the pages of local newspapers in the last few days.
With public anger starting to veer towards attacking the residents of politicians, it appears that we are yet to get back to how things were. The cries and appeals from various sections for restoring normalcy back to the state seem to be muffled by even louder rumours and false propaganda from vested interest groups which are flooding the social media despite the internet shutdown.
It appears that our so-called ‘normalcy’, which we dearly miss and have been longing for so much now, was rather a make-believe state of existence we were living in, while an undercurrent of hostility and a ploy for insurrection from underlying forces were at play.
In 2022, a year before the communal clash took place and the 10 Kuki MLAs submitted their demand for a ‘Separate Administration’, one Mark T Haokip, a rights activist was arrested from Delhi after Churachandpur District Police lodged an FIR against him on charges of promoting enmity between different groups or communities on grounds of race, language or regional groups, etc. and statements creating or promoting enmity hatred or ill-will between classes in the state.
After his arrest, violence broke out in Churachandpur district as protesters clashed with police, resulting in the clamping of prohibitory orders under Section 144. A few days later, a police investigation revealed that Mark Thangmang Haokip turned out to be a leader of an insurgent group called the Government of the People’s Democratic Republic of Kukiland (GPDRK). In a press conference, Police announced that Mark T Haokip has confessed to this fact. It was further confirmed by the press release issued by them and their website domain www.kukigovt.com which was run with the purpose to propagate ideas of a Kukiland.
Police found that the members of the GPDRK had been kept concealed with the intent to facilitate designs to wage war under the garb of the human rights group, the IHRA which Mark T Haokip was running as president of its state unit.
An SIT that was formed in connection with the case found that transactions of funds from multiple sources have been made for various terrorist activities and conspiracies by the GPDRK. Police revealed that transactions in one of their bank accounts reveal a total of 196 pages of multiple and varied transactions. Another bank account runs over 80 pages of transactions from various multiple sources, covering a large amount of money (total pages of 286 pages of Bank transaction Statements). Interestingly, a line seal of director IHRA Indo-Myanmar and Indo-Bangladesh and others were also seized from Mark Haokip's possession when he was arrested.
Police stated that GPDRK had been continuously waging propaganda through various social media platforms and actively promoting enmity between different groups through its propaganda machinery. The members of the outfit have been spreading false propaganda, leading to tense situations on many occasions, the police stated. It was revealed that the outfit spread its propaganda, raising funds for their organisational activities besides Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others to spread their agendas.
When the communal clash took place, the government did not take long to shut down the internet in Manipur but hate posts, false propaganda, and separatist sentiments against the state government and one community continued to circulate in a well-organised manner. We have heard of the existence of a Kuki IT Cell that uses toolkits for actively promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of race, religion, language, etc on social media. Who funds them and how strong the network of this so-called Kuki IT cell is? Is it connected to the GPDRK or does it go far back and beyond any Mark Haokip? Were those Bank transaction statements running across a massive size of 286 pages meant for running just one website domain? We can only be hopeful that the investigations are still going on and it will shed light on the truth.
However, police investigations had revealed that the aspirations for a Kukiland did not start after May 3, 2023 and individuals like Mark Haokip had been working towards it, as per the available reports. Further investigations should be continued to find out if they are all connected or whether the violence that erupted recently was an isolated case.
The fact is we can never return to a certain normalcy where we remain blissfully ignorant of these underlying issues. The normalcy we had was rather a brief moment of lull and we were in for a rude awakening.
(The views expressed are personal)