Imploding by itself

The election to the Lok Sabha has brought out some demands to postpone the election in Manipur as the situation is abnormal and there can be no free and fair election. On the other hand, differences have cropped up within the Kuki community with the UKLF stating that they will support the BJP candidate in the election on the ground that it was the BJP which initiated talks.

ByRK Nimai

Updated 19 Mar 2024, 8:23 pm

Representational Image (Photo: Pixabay)
Representational Image (Photo: Pixabay)

The nearly year-long crisis in Manipur seems to have started to fatigue two warring communities. The happenings during the Kangla Declaration and the subsequent assault on a senior police officer led to internal conflict within the Meitei community which was exacerbated by the bombing of an office of a student body and the subsequent arson on a school and an office of a CSO. Very serious concern was expressed then that the Meitei community is being imploded especially in Imphal but it seems better sense had prevailed and the matter did not deteriorate further.

The differences however, did not seriously impact those defending the vulnerable villages, though concerns were expressed in the social media by many who are not fully aware of the ground reality. One advantage of the Meitei is the uniformity within the community though at one stage there was likelihood of an urban-rural divide with some actively propagating that the support from the city was insufficient to meet the need of the vulnerable villages.  This died a natural death as the support did not wane though it may not be sufficient.

Further the support to the victim families in particular was to be fair in many cases outstanding as the support was provided when it was really needed. Even now support continues though at a lesser scale which has nothing to do with the desire but the economic downturn has impacted everybody and despite the willingness to provide the support physically, it becomes difficult.

One major activity impacting all is the large scale extortion by various groups, including some which are taking advantage of the turmoil. Every section of the society and particularly those in the trade sector are feeling the pinch and the outcome is the higher prices of all items despite the fact that unemployment is at its highest. The purchasing power has gone down considerably and as a consequence, prices of vegetables produced within the state literally crashed impacting the farmers. This was compounded by the fact that with limited avenues of employment many had gone to agriculture and horticulture leading to increase in production and perishable items glutted the market. Every leikai is full of vegetable vendors indicating the lack of avenues for employment.

The Kuki which was seen as having a unified approach during the crisis with ITLF and COTU leading in the forefront also recently saw internal dissensions resulting in the attack on the ITLF office at Tuiboung. Many were taken by surprise but this was waiting to happen as the Kuki-Chin is not a single community but a conglomerate of different tribes, each with its own agenda. Many smaller tribes were sucked into the crisis as they have to toe the line of the more powerful bigger tribe and literally have limited voice. With the crisis prolonging, the differences are bound to increase.


Further, the villages which are adjacent to the Meitei settlements belong to the Kuki and their villages bore the brunt of the crisis. The Paites which are mainly settled in Churachandpur have lost little except the losses they suffered in Imphal. Their settlement in Churachandpur remains unscathed and thus their approach towards the crisis will be different from the Kuki. Even among the Kuki there is a difference between the Thadou and the other Kuki and their disagreement and their conflict in the late 1980s and early 1990s is still fresh in the memory.

The Pan Kuki movement then created a schism between the Thadou and the other Kuki and the Thadou per se have little ground to be inimical to the Meitei. Even the armed groups are divided with some solely for the Thadou and some for the Kuki. In the early days there was unison in their fight against the Meitei but with the passage of time, the difference has to come out in the open and the happenings in Churachandpur is a pointer of what lies in the future.  This does not mean that there will be open conflict within the Kuki-Chin community but the gap in understanding is always there.

The reported allegations that the leaders lead cushy lives while those in the frontline were not provided with food leading to the village defence volunteers moving out of their bunkers was an indicator of the difference between the leaders and those in the frontline. Besides the vandalisation of ITLF office, firing was resorted to the house of their spokesperson which signals a larger issue. Similarly, the keeping of a bomb at the house of a leader of a CSO at Imphal however, indicates that all is not hunky dory and conflict within the community can occur anytime. Such individual targeting is not conducive to a unified approach in bringing normalcy.

There is a difference between the two communities as regard to logistics. For the Meitei due to the smaller size of the area under their control and being in the flatland, the logistics are much easier to manage and the reinforcement to any part of the valley can be reached within half an hour or at the most one hour. In contrast, in the hills, reinforcement can take a long time despite new roads being cut to avoid Naga villages and areas vulnerable to Meitei attacks. The only reason why the Meitei could not attack the Kuki villages is the deployment of central forces which act as a deterrent but the Kuki time and again took advantage by firing pumpis and small arms on Meitei villages and then escape.

Here the role of the Central forces is critical and it must ensure that attacks from either side do not happen if normalcy is to be brought. More than 90 per cent of the attacks since May 9 of last year were initiated by the Kuki and Meitei casualty was much higher.  The narratives of Meitei targeting Kuki are not borne by the data and are propaganda circulated by vested interest though during the first week of the violence, the Kuki were the worst sufferers in terms of casualty. The on and off attack by the Kuki can lead to the other side to conduct a major offensive by-passing the central forces which will set back any proposal for negotiation to bring normalcy.


The election to the Lok Sabha has brought out some demands to postpone the election in Manipur as the situation is abnormal and there can be no free and fair election. On the other hand, differences have cropped up within the Kuki community with the UKLF stating that they will support the BJP candidate in the election on the ground that it was the BJP which initiated talks. This claim further cut the chances of the Kuki electing their own MP.

BJP may nominate a Naga and among the Naga there are likely to be three candidates. Meitei voters of the eight assembly segments in the Outer Constituency may not opt for a single Naga candidate which will make the contest sharp and violence cannot be ruled out. The firing in a meeting of the Congress candidate was a pointer of things to come. The election has brought differences within all communities and some other armed groups may also take the decision to support the BJP candidate which will result in only violence. The ability of election bringing discord among communities and within communities is seen vividly.

With the passage of time, ennui seems to have settled on the two warring communities albeit slowly, though basic military training is going on, on both sides.  There may be chances that the Kuki-Chin group may implode with groups headed by aliens going the other way from those led by Indians. Or alternatively those groups headed by aliens may be cleaved into two one headed by an Indian and the other continued to be led by aliens. The task of the ITLF which was leading their campaign in the front is facing the biggest challenge and the ability of its leadership to negotiate the challenge will tell on their movement.

Though the Naga have time and again stated that ITLF and COTU despite their name do not represent the tribal and it represents only one community, national media continue to harp as if it represents the entire tribal of Manipur. Or alternatively the clarification from the Naga is subdued that it doesn’t reach the national media. In terms of land, the conflict is mainly between the Naga and the Kuki and clashes had occurred in the past and may happen again. However, after a long peace talk, the Naga seem to have lost their will to fight and try to avoid it as far as possible and this is making the Kuki more belligerent. Despite the rumblings, it is hoped that the differences within each community are settled amicably without resort to violence as it can lead to a bloodbath.

(The views expressed are personal)


First published:


meiteiskukismanipur crisisKangla Declarationlok sabha elections 2024

RK Nimai

RK Nimai

The author is a former bureaucrat, Imphal, Manipur


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