TODAY -

Delhi's dance with the Meitei-Kuki conundrum
Larger ethnic entanglements loom

Pamreihor Khashimwo *



Manipur has long been a region marred by ethnic conflicts, and the State is currently experiencing a resurgence of these conflicts with a distinct tone and character. The ongoing Meitei-Kuki conflict, a struggle for territorial dominance and cultural identity, has persisted due to Delhi’s seemingly indifferent response and political apathy.

The lousy responses from Delhi have potential dangers of the crisis swelling to involve other ethnic groups, such as the Naga community. Delhi’s inertia, often bordering on sleepwalking, has not only contributed to the escalation of tensions but has also prolonged the suffering of the people.

The current conflict traces its roots to historical grievances, territorial disputes, and competing claims over resources. Despite the festering conflict, the response from Delhi has been characterised by a lack of effective measures and strategic interventions. Delhi’s approach has often been reactive rather than preventive, leading to the exacerbation of the situation.

The reluctance to address the root causes of the conflict has allowed it to persist, resulting in a protracted struggle that has claimed numerous lives and displaced countless people from both sides. Delhi’s lack of sustained political will to engage in meaningful dialogue and find a lasting solution has allowed the conflict to fester, perpetuating a cycle of insecurity and instability. It has often resorted to ad-hoc measures and reactive policies rather than engaging in sustained and inclusive conversations with all stakeholders.

As the conflict continues to unfold, there is a growing concern about the potential involvement of other ethnic communities, which is a knotty issue and remains a ticking time bomb that could potentially entangle other ethnic commu- nities, notably the Naga community. The Naga community, with its history of struggles and aspirations for autonomy, could become entangled in the crisis if not addressed promptly and effectively.

The Naga people have historical animosities with both the Meitei and Kuki communities. Overlapping territorial claims and resource disputes create a volatile environment where the Meitei-Kuki conflict could spill over into Naga areas, further complicating an already intricate situation.

During this conflict, there have been many small-scale skirmishes or incidents that have affected the Naga population. Given the volatile and fragile nature of the State’s relationship with other ethnic groups, allowing such an episode to persist could set off a bigger ethnic clash.

Delhi’s approach to conflict resolution in Manipur has been characterized by a series of failed mechanisms. Tensions have flared as a result of the absence of an all-encompassing and inclusive strategy. The political apathy of Delhi has also made the situation worse.

The politicisation of identity and the use of ethnic disparities as a political tool have worsened the crisis. The inability of Delhi to put an end to divisive politics and advance inclusive Government has made it possible for politicians to inflame ethnic feelings and widen rifts within Manipur society.

Most importantly, there are risks and difficulties associated with outsourcing other organisations for State security. The potential risks associated with relying on such entities for security functions are evident in various examples worldwide. One notable case is the Wagner Group, officially known as PMC Wagner, a Russian private military company known for its involvement in conflicts beyond Russia’s borders.

The Wagner Group, often described as a shadowy and quasi-official private military organisation, has been linked to various activities in Syria, Ukraine, and Africa. While officially not acknowledged by the Russian Government, its close ties to the Kremlin have raised concerns about the blurring lines between State and private military interests. The Wagner Group’s actions have been characterized by a lack of transparency, accountability, and adherence to international norms, making it a controversial actor in global security affairs.

Similarly, outsourcing State security to armed militia may lead to several critical issues. Such groups often operate with a degree of autonomy, making it challenging for the State to hold them accountable for their actions. Relying on armed militia groups may erode the State’s authority on the use of force, undermining the Government’s ability to maintain law and order.

This can lead to a situation where militia groups prioritise their interests over the public good. Such militia groups may forge alliances with various actors, including criminal organisations or foreign entities, based on financial interests or ideological alignment. This can complicate the geopolitical landscape and compromise National security.

Relying on such militia groups can signify a lack of confidence in State institutions and their ability to maintain security. This may lead to a weakened State that struggles to address internal challenges independently.

It is crucial for Delhi to carefully consider the long-term implications of outsourcing security functions and to prioritise building transparent, accountable, and profe- ssional State institutions capable of upholding the rule of law and safeguarding the interests of the citizens.

The prolonged Manipur crisis also has international implications for India. The neglect of the North Eastern region by Delhi has allowed external actors to exploit the vacuum, further complicating the situation. Lack of strategic attention to the region has compromised National security and undermined India’s position in the international arena.

Beyond the political and strategic dimensions, the humanitarian impact of Delhi’s sleepwalking response cannot be understated. The failure to address these human dimensions reflects the callousness of Delhi’s approach.

To obviate the further escalation of the conflict and the potential entanglement of other ethnic communities, inclusive and sustained dialogue is imperative. Delhi must take a proactive role in mediating between the conflicting parties and fostering an environment conducive to peace building.

Delhi should allocate sufficient resources for conflict resolution efforts, including the establishment of a dedicated task force to oversee peacebuilding initiatives in the State. Ensure that all affected communities, including the Meitei, Kuki, and potentially affected Naga, have representation in the negotiation process.

Most importantly, Delhi must wake up to the realities of Manipur, recognise the gravity of the situation, and take bold and compassionate steps to address the root causes of the crisis. Only through a holistic, inclusive, and sustained effort can Manipur hope to emerge from the prolonged nightmare that has gripped the State for far too long.


* Pamreihor Khashimwo wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on February 15 2024.



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