Sometimes, it takes sheer brain-storming in trying to find the real reasons and not the publicly announced reasons of seeking a separate administration. They talk as if their community is the most oppressed and victimised lot in the state without having any say in the affairs of state and politics. They are already ruling the roost. Let us start from the bureaucracy.
The Kukis or Kuki-Zo officers hold most of the vital posts and important departments, not only the top bureaucracy but also in the middle and lower rung positions. In fact, the political bosses work on their advice and whims. Sometimes they face hurdles when Naga or Meitei bureaucrats come in the way. But then, hurdles can be overcome by creating extraordinary circumstances like bandhs or blockades. It is only a question of winning over the other ‘minority’ on a case-to-case basis.
So, where does the question of victimisation of Kuki-Zo people arise in terms of policy and governance in the state of Manipur? The so-called ‘majority’ community has long been at the butt-end of allegations of robbing the benefits meant for the hill people while blindsiding the fact that it was mostly bureaucrats from the hills who are at the helm of state affairs with only a sprinkling from the valley.
While one can still count the number of direct IAS and IPS officers from the majority community, there are plenty from among the hill communities who enjoy the benefits of being from the Scheduled Tribe communities and they have been ruling the roost all this time and even enjoying the double benefit of both entry point and promotion avenue as well. So much heartburn has been caused by these benefits that some sections of the majority community have even come up with a demand for transformation into the ST category.
It was only in recent times that, young and bright people from the majority community have begun opting for UPSC examinations and many of them are excelling in it. In the past, the brightest and most brilliant students from the majority community were drawn more to the medical and engineering fields and other areas of scientific excellence.
Now the majority community is slowly picking up in the All India Services, but still the gap is very wide. Even among the ST bureaucrats also, it is more among the Kuki-Zo group. For example, the state Police department has become top heavy with IPS officers from the Kuki-Zo group with a sprinkling of Nagas in between. So, what more could they aspire for in these circumstances?
Look at the political landscape again. The seats dominated by the Kuki-Zo community are increasing day by day as the influx continues unhindered and spread. All the major political parties are wooing them. The ruling BJP striking a deal with some of the Kuki militant groups in the 2022 state assembly elections had come out in the open recently. Although they deny it vehemently, it is all in the numbers.
Of the 10 Kuki-Zo MLAs in the present assembly, seven are from BJP while the other three support the ruling government here. Simply put, the government is at their beck and call.
The Meitei MLAs may be in majority, but it is ‘minority’ groups who are calling the shots. In the violence that broke out on May 3, the 10 MLAs have seen and tasted their power in the political landscape. They have managed to bring the administration to a near halt and the BJP leaders both at the Centre and state cannot lift a finger to stop them.
Now, those in the political opposition, not at state level, are voicing their support for the Kuki-Zos at every political forum overtly and covertly. So, what more do they want? Is it for giving free rein to poppy cultivation and laying waste to the environment without any hindrance? But then, not all can be cartel bosses or profiteers of the poppy business. The Kuki-Zo at the bottom are daily wagers living on handouts, workers engaged in poppy cultivation and drug couriers.
(The views expressed are personal)