Communal intolerance in the state of Manipur
By Joel Mangboi Haokip
A lot has been said in the brutal murder of Th. Kishan and his two subordinate staff members in Ukhrul district of Manipur state by the proscribed National Socialist Council of Nagaland, Issak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) in February. The incident has widely appeared in Manipur local newspapers.
In the communally intolerance Manipur, it is good news to cheer that the brutality of some vested interest group could still be protested barring communal lines. But even after so much public outcry, the perpetrator seems uncooperative. This reminds us of the killing of hundreds of Kukis by the Naga limguards at the behest of the NSCN-IM in the 1990s.
Had the Kuki genocide not occurred, the historical affinity and peaceful co-existence between the Kukis and Nagas of Manipur may have not been affected. The NSCN-IM has destroyed the harmony and peaceful atmosphere by brainwashing the frustrated Naga youths of Manipur to target the Kukis in the name of nationalism.
Not to mention about the gravity of the crime and the scene that the slain bodies were dumped in a Kuki village, one thing is clear enough to indicate that the conspiracy behind the murder was apparently to flare-up communal tension.
Long before the height of Kuki genocide in the 1990s, the NSCN-IM first targeted many of the influential Kuki chiefs, high ranking officials and leaders, and then the common people.
The brutal murder of Th. Kishan deserves high condemnation. Every right thinking person would not leave any stone unturned so that the culprits do not go scot-free. The best possible solution can be achieved with the cooperation from NSCN-IM by handing over the culprits to the concerned authority. Making an excuse of merely dubbing its own cadres, who were involved in the murder, as black sheep will not bring any reasonable solution.
There had been gruesome acts committed by anti-social elements and so-called revolutionary groups in Manipur. Anytime such thing happened, justice has hardly been delivered. In many instances, the assurances made to book the culprits remain a dream yet to come true. Communal tinge has skewed us from the path to justice. Unless we stop practicing it, we will continue to remain in the pool of injustice.
There are numerous cases we need to ponder about. Some examples are; the deportation of innocent Kukis in 2007, rape of Parbung and Lungthulien women, the murder of T. Thangthuam. Although justice has been delivered to some extent through a meager compensation, it is incomplete unless the culprits are brought to justice for their heinous crimes.
The Kukis have been suffering for long in the hands of the valley-based undergrounds like the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) and Peoples’ Liberation Army/ Revolutionary Peoples’ Front/ (PLA/RPF) and the hill-based NSCN-IM. Not to mention all, look at the killing of T.Thangthuam, who was an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer. It was a premeditated plan. He was murdered as a ‘new year gift’ to the people of Churachandpur (locally known as Lamka) by the proscribed PLA/RPF on December 31, 2005.
Moreover, in many instances, the same outfit has attacked the regular patrolling unit of the Indian security forces in the crowded market of Lamka town, which amounted to civilian casualties and also inflicted fear psychosis among the common people.
Similar strategy has been carried out by the UNLF in the hill areas of Churachandpur and Chandel districts. I myself was a victim to witness such a death-trap cross-firing scene between the PLA/RPF and security forces that happened in the crowded Singngat parking lot in Lamka town few years back.
Despite huge damage caused in terms of human lives and properties, the cheap mission of the perpetrators had not shaken the faith of Kukis towards the path to peaceful co-existence and communal harmony. Thanks to the broad-minded Kuki leaders in particular and the submissive approach of the common people in general for upholding the value of tolerance, otherwise things could have had ugly consequences.
Instead of apologizing for their misdeeds, the aforesaid outfits accused the Kukis of being communal and stooge of security forces. Had the perpetrators been the victims, the story could have been different. This can be demonstrated in the case of Th. Kishan, who is a Meitei. The proscribed PLA/RPF and UNLF were the first valley outfits to issue notes of condemnation with warning tones.
It would not be wrong to say that the NSCN-IM and UNLF were the first to bring communalism in Manipur? Being the first underground outfits from the state, these groups were the first to engage in extortions, involved in killing innocents and brought insecurity to the people. The draconian law, Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), had to be imposed to contain this rampant high-handedness.
It is high time to question ourselves why our state is still in a mess in this 21st century. Look at how we handle crimes/criminals! The government’s responses are usually ad-hoc and much of the media coverage is just provocative. In most cases, the media and the local officials hastily labeled the criminals as barbaric or inhumane, with many assurances never been fulfilled. Mindless killings of innocent people have become almost a daily routine.
Lasting peace and security can be achieved with peoples’ participation. We must start building a united social movement against all sorts of criminalities. For peace and communal harmony to prevail, we must join hands together, irrespective of communities, and fight against anti-social elements.
The writer is an undergraduate engineering student at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India.