First anniversary of Manipur crisis

On the first anniversary of the Manipur crisis, we must pay our respect to those who have departed untimely, seek the bodies of those missing and resolve to continue support to those displaced so that they can return to their homestead.

ByRK Nimai

Updated 24 Apr 2024, 4:33 am

(File Photo: IFP)
(File Photo: IFP)

The Manipur Crisis which started on May 3, 2023 is nearing one year, and within a few days the first anniversary will come. With the election for the 18th Lok Sabha, there has been a lull in the physical conflict though now and then there have been violent incidents leading to deaths. However, the election which is the worst in the history of Manipur has cleaved the Meitei society into groups, based on which candidate one supports.

Despite no large meetings being held, except for the one organised by the ruling party where the Union Home Minister made a whistle stop to address for a few minutes, the rancour in the social media was unprecedented. Attempts to character assassination were made though without much success but the attempt itself indicates that morality is no longer practiced but the desire to run down opponents with the sole aim to win the election indicates the selfishness of our community. This is not to say all are involved as there are many sane voices who sought free and fair elections. 

The large-scale attempt to riggings has never been seen before in the state. Perhaps, the decision to use muscle power was taken late as money power could not yield the desired result and without proper planning the attempt was crude, though in many polling stations it was fairly successful. One flip side is that once this had happened in a polling station those who later on cast the votes have a tendency to go against the party which used force.

The Men In Black was the buzzword and the three who were allegedly involved in a shooting incident where an old voter at Khurai was injured have been apprehended with a weapon and some cash. However, there has been no further statement from the police thereby people are concerned that the matter is being hushed up. Similarly there have been reports of groups coming and threatening people who were supportive of other candidates but there have been no police action it seems. This election had led to sane voices questioning whether democracy is at all suitable in a state like Manipur where the principle of might is right has been in vogue for the last few decades. 

The present crisis which is nearing one year is perhaps the worst crisis the state had ever faced after the Seven Year Devastation of 1819-26. The conquest of the state by the British in 1891 despite a large number of deaths does not result in the general population suffering for such a long time. Similarly, the merger of the state to the then Dominion of India in 1949 also does not impact the general population, though with the opening of the borders there was a flood of illegal immigration which has now impacted the state resulting in the present crisis. The present crisis has led to serious setbacks to the economy of the state and it impacts all the population as it is not limited to the warring communities. The organic relationship between the hill and the valley has been seriously disrupted and its effect was felt by both the denizens of the hill and valley. 


For the Kuki-Chin the ITLF and CoTU continues to lead their community but for the Meitei, all the CSOs has been defanged and the CM has posited himself as the spokesperson of the community thereby opening to charges of Meitei government. The state government which should have been neutral and also seen to be neutral was made to be seen as highly biased thereby causing severe trust deficit among the people. Not to speak about the Kuki-Chin, many Meitei are very concerned with the role adopted by the government which may lead to the breakdown of the idea of a composite Manipur.

If the CSOs were allowed to function as usual, and one should remember that it was the CSOs which facilitated and went to Churachandpur to bring those Meitei from there who have been displaced and they are also the one who also facilitated those displaced in Imphal to the hills in the early stage of the conflict.  If the CSOs of the Meitei were allowed to function normally, there would have been interaction either physically or virtually and things could have been calmer. The old Kuki-Chin CSOs like KIM, etc could also continue to have a say. Among the Meitei, CSOs have been supplanted by the Government while among the Kuki-Chin by new more militant groups, now making rapprochement between the two communities extremely difficult.

Slinging mud continues and with the way things are going one, the crisis is likely to continue for a longer period. Further, despite appeals among the Meitei to come together as the election is over, it is unlikely as the division engineered during the election in many cases is too deep to be forgotten in a short while. A major attack by the Kuki may perhaps lead to the joining of ranks among the Meitei and the Kuki is likely to understand the situation as for them a divided Meitei is always better during the crisis.

The strategy now adopted is to conduct pinpoint attacks, such as the ambush on unarmed civilians drivers on NH 37 by an unknown group. This can be the harbinger of things to come and can lead to conflict with the Naga, who literally dominate this route except for in a few pockets. Tollen where the ambush took place is such a small village with about 10-12 houses and if such ambushes occur repeatedly they may be asked to vacate, which they have to as they don’t have the number to resist.

The attempt to blast a power tower at Ngaprum Chingjin is with a similar objective, creating major disturbance with minimal effort and loss. One needs to realise that there is a change in the strategy and counter measures need to be put in place for minimum damage. The Meitei continue to follow the same strategy, defend and sometimes make incursions deep into the other’s area of influence.

With the coming of the first anniversary of the crisis, both the warring communities need to have a deep introspection to find out ways to settle the dispute. For the Kuki-Chin like other nomads, they will always be in conflict with the earlier settlers and had to make adjustments while for the Meitei or Naga, one needs to consider that those who had come almost a century back cannot be deemed to be outsiders any longer. Nomadic life is a thing of the past and people are now settling everywhere. It also needs to be understood that flatland dwellers do not go and settle in mountains and it is mostly the mountain men who come down to settle on the plains. 


For the Kuki, in all the countries they reside be it Bangladesh, India or Myanmar, their first demand is more autonomy but their ultimate object is to have a separate nation which is unlikely as they never in their history have a nation and the rewriting of history is to make a case that there was once a Kuki nation. Which no one will buy except for their avid supporters?

Nearly 300 lives have been lost on both sides and more than 60,000 displaced and both communities need to have a look on who are the instigators who do not suffer any of the disadvantages both communities suffer. One can choose your enemy but not your neighbours and thus despite all, the three major communities will have to adjust and live together.

On the first anniversary, we must pay our respect to those who have departed untimely, seek the bodies of those missing and resolve to continue support to those displaced so that they can return to their homestead. We should also offer our respect to those who sacrificed to defend their villages without any publicity but perform their duty diligently and are not bothered about the credit. But we also need to resolve that normalcy returns to Manipur for which the prerequisite is the return of the IDPs. There can be events galore to reminiscence on the incidents that had happened in the last one year, but the future also needs to be on the agenda.

(The views expressed are personal)



First published:


meiteiskukismanipur crisismanipur conflict

RK Nimai

RK Nimai

The author is a former bureaucrat, Imphal, Manipur


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