TODAY -

A brighter side of the conflict
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: February 22, 2024 -



IN the midst of suffering brought on to the people by an unprecedented ethnic conflict between the Meetei/Meitei and Kuki-Chin communities in the state since May 3 last year, it would certainly sound insensitive to talk about any positive aspects that may have come out of the nearly 10 months long humanitarian crisis. Butthetruth is that many things that would have remained oblivious not just to the parties in conflict but also to the whole wide world, if not for the prolonged crisis, are now out in the open for all to see and understand better the issues surrounding the conflict, which is certainly a good thing.

During the initial stage of the conflict, everyone including national media and international bodies lapped up every "victimhood narrative" spun out from the media cell of Indigenous Tribal Leaders' Forum (ITLF), which is spearheading the agitation for a separate administration for the Kuki-Chin people in Manipur, as the gospel truth, and demonised the Meeteis.

Just because the Meeteis happen to be a bare majority and predominantly Hindu living in the relatively developed valley area while the Kuki-Chin are Christians settling in the surrounding hill areas with lesser amenities of modern life, it was rather convenient for the mainstream media houses and their parachute journalists to look through their over-familiar prism of majority Hindu-minority Christian conflict and write their news reports accordingly, without ever trying to understand the historical context, cultural nuances, and intricate societal dynamics involved.

They also never tried to find out the root cause of the conflict nor thought it vital to question who lit the first spark that led to the outbreak of the conflict on that fateful day of May 3 last year after the All Tribal Students' Union, Manipur (ATSUM)-sponsored tribal solidarity march taken out against the demand of Meitei/ Meetei to be recognised as Scheduled Tribe (ST) ended peacefully in all other hill areas except the Kuki-Chin dominated areas.

Fortunately, the situation seems to have been reversed today and the balance tilted in favour of the Meetei, thanks to the conflict which has dragged on for so long, partly due to the failure of the government, both in the state and at the centre, to resolve the crisis but mostly due to the endless false narratives peddled by leaders of Kuki-Chin civil society organisations at every possible platform.

Without prompting from anyone, the self-contradictory nature of these narratives has exposed the hollowness of every claim made by Kuki-Chin people, whether it be regarding their indigeneity, ownership over land or even fraternal ties among themselves, for the whole world to see and understand the larger conspiracy at play behind raising the demand for a separate administration.

If not for the ethnic conflict that broke out after the Kuki-Chin people clashed with the Meetei over the latter's demand for ST status, the world may not have known about the dire situation in which the people of a community, who are part of a civilisation dating back to ancient times, are today.

It is also equally possible that everyone in Manipur would have remained blissfully ignorant about the cooked-up history of Kuki-Chin people that has already found a place in the academic syllabus prescribed by the Council of Higher Secondary Education, Manipur (CoHSEM) for students of class XII standard, not to speak of the two controversial books on the so-called "Anglo-Kuki War 1917-1919" that were found included in the list of essential readings for students of MA history in Delhi University.

In response to numerous RTI applications filed after the outbreak of current conflict, the Ministry of Home Affairs had time and again clarified that no Anglo-Kuki war ever took place in Manipur and there is no information about INA freedom fighters belonging to Kuki-Chin community in its FFR Division (INA Section), thus, shattering the very foundation of Kuki-Chin historicity and claim of indigeneity.

To cut a long story short, despite the suffering caused, the ongoing conflict in Manipur has opened the eyes and ears of people in more ways than one.



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