Kuki-Meitei strife not a Hindu-Christian one, Manipur body tells EU Parliament chief
As India tried to come to terms with the naked-parading and sexual molestation of two Kuki women, allegedly by a bunch of Meitei hooligans, in Manipur on May 4, a Sunday Times headline on July 20 screamed: ‘Manipur violence: gang rape of Christian women causes uproar in India’.
Though the murmurs have been heard on social media for a while now, the West seems to be officially warming to the idea that the Manipur violence — which, according to India, resulted from the tribal Kukis’ opposition to ST status for the non-tribal Meiteis — can actually be seen from a different angle, that of religion. The idea stems from the fact that the tribal Kukis are mostly Christian while the Meiteis are largely Hindus.
Even before the shocking incident came to light, the European Parliament, on July 12, adopted a motion on the Manipur violence, calling it a result of “divisive policies promoting Hindu majoritarianism”. In Britain, meanwhile, Fiona Bruce, MP and Britain’s Special Ambassador for Religious Freedom, raised the issue in the UK Parliament on Saturday (July 22), highlighting the apparent role of religion in fuelling the attacks in Manipur.
Bruce observed that “hundreds of churches have been destroyed” in Manipur, and “schools and seminaries (have) also (been) targeted in what looks like systematic and pre-mediated attacks with religion as a key factor”. She went on to ask what the Church of England could do to help Christians in Manipur.
Denial from Meiteis
A day later, on Sunday (July 23), the Coordinating Committee On Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), the apex body of Imphal Valley-based civil society organisations of the Meitei community, shot off a “letter of appreciation with clarification” to Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament, “rejecting the opinion” shared by the members of European Parliament during their debate.
The Government of India has already condemned the European Parliament resolution, calling it an “interference” in its internal affairs.
The COCOMI, while thanking Metsola for the resolution, has also claimed that it was “guided by (a) wrong and misleading perspective”.
“Your proactive approach in demanding action from the Government of India to address the crisis is highly appreciated. The Resolution is significant considering the deafening silence of the Prime Minister of India as we have been experiencing on the matter,” the COCOMI wrote.
“However, it is regrettable to note that the core issue of narco-terrorism, which is fuelling the conflict, seems to have been omitted from the Resolution you have adopted. Your Resolutions were guided by wrong and misleading perspective which made you arrive at a flawed understanding of the issue in Manipur as a conflict between Christian minority and majority Meetei Hindu,” it added.
The COCOMI argument
Next, in points, the COCOMI has highlighted that the violence “was not on religious lines” and that it was “between immigrant Chin-Kuki Narco-Terrorist Groups and Indigenous Meetei communities”.
It has also mentioned that “hundreds of churches belonging to about 25 ethnic communities are still standing tall and performing their services in the heart of Meetei-dominated areas” and “many Christian ethnic communities except Chin-Kuki groups are still settled in Imphal and other Meetei-dominated areas and living together in harmony”.
The group has also urged Metsola to note that a whopping 170,000 Meiteis are Christians, which is 35 per cent of the Kuki Christian population in Manipur. Also, it has alleged that even Meitei Christians had been killed in the Kuki areas, viz. Churachandpur, Saikul, and Kangpokpi districts on May 3-4 by the Kukis. The COCOMI has further claimed in the letter that “100 per cent” of Meitei religious centres in the Kuki-dominated hills had been “wiped out”.
The narco-terrorism angle
Next, the COCOMI has highlighted the “Chin-Kuki Narco-Terrorism” issue, which, it says, has direct relation to the ongoing violence in Manipur. This illegal drug trade, it says, “is primarily operated and managed by” members of the Christian Chin-Kuki tribes from Myanmar, who are deforesting the state massively for opium cultivation.
The COCOMI has also mentioned the “geo-political factors at play, including the political instability in Myanmar, the clandestine narco-economy, and the ethno-nationalist mobilization of the Chin-Kuki-Mizo ethnic armed groups that has the potential to destabilise the ethnic harmony and co-existence in the borderlands of India, Myanmar and Bangladesh”.