Since May 3 this year, Manipur has been embroiled in an ethnic strife pitting the Meitei people from the valley against the Kuki-Zomi people from the hill-based Scheduled Tribe. This conflict has resulted in approximately 180 casualties.
During this period, there have also been instances of looting police armouries, extensive damage to hundreds of churches and over a dozen temples, and the destruction of several villages.
In an effort to curb the spread of videos and pictures depicting the violence and destruction of property in the state, the Manipur government has issued a directive stating that any such distribution will face strict legal consequences.
Manipur Government Order
On Wednesday night, an order was issued in response to the viral spread of videos and images depicting extensive violence on social media platforms. One of these videos portrays the shooting and subsequent burial of two individuals at close range by a group of unidentified people. Unfortunately, the specific location of this incident and the burial site remains unknown.
The directive from the Manipur Home Department expressed grave concern and sensitivity towards the circulation of such content, which showcases violent acts causing harm to individuals or damage to private and public properties via various social media channels. The government views this as a potential exacerbation of the state’s law and order situation.
After a comprehensive assessment of the situation, the state government has decided to take measures to restrict the dissemination of these videos and images, viewing it as a positive step towards restoring normalcy in the state. Individuals in possession of such content are encouraged to approach the nearest superintendent of police, regardless of jurisdiction, to submit them for appropriate action.
Any individual found contravening this order will face legal consequences and will be subject to prosecution under the relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Information Technology (IT) Act, particularly in relation to the misuse of technology.
In September, widespread demonstrations erupted in Imphal valley following the emergence of photos depicting the bodies of two missing youths on social media. During the crackdown by security forces and police on the protestors, over 100 students, predominantly girls, sustained injuries.
In response to the protests, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) dispatched a team of officials, leading to the subsequent arrest of four individuals. They were then transported to Guwahati for further investigation and legal proceedings.
On July 19, a video surfaced on social media showing a mob subjecting two Kuki women to a naked parade. The assault had taken place on May 4, and the police officially filed a case on May 18. However, it wasn’t until the video circulated on social media that nine individuals were apprehended in connection with the incident.
The Manipur government reinstated mobile internet services on September 23, more than four months after they were initially suspended due to the ethnic conflict between the Meitei and Kuki communities in May. Nevertheless, the ban was reinstated on September 26 following large-scale protests in Imphal regarding the killing of two Meitei students.
As of Wednesday, the ban on mobile internet has been extended until October 16.
Since May 3 this year, the northeastern state has been embroiled in ethnic violence between the Meitei and Kuki tribes. This turmoil stemmed from the Meiteis’ demands for tribal status.
The Meitei people have origins in Manipur, Myanmar, and the neighboring regions. While the majority adhere to Hinduism, there are also some who practice the Sanamahi religion. On the other hand, the Kukis, who are predominantly Christian, have dispersed throughout the northeastern regions of India. Many of those residing in Manipur can also trace their ancestry back to Myanmar.
In terms of settlement, the Meiteis primarily inhabit the Imphal valley, whereas the Kukis predominantly reside in the surrounding hills and further beyond.
The tensions escalated when Kukis started protesting against the Meiteis’ request for official tribal status. The Kukis contended that this designation would further consolidate their significant influence in government and society, enabling them to acquire land or establish residences in predominantly Kuki areas.
However, there are numerous underlying factors at play. The Kukis argue that the Meitei-led government’s anti-drug campaign serves as a pretext to displace their communities. Illicit migration from Myanmar has also heightened tensions. The increasing population exerts pressure on land resources, and rising unemployment has driven young people towards various militia groups.