Complex mix of tribes is the real problem

Jay Raina
New Delhi, June 26

MANIPUR HAS a long history of political instability. Between 1972-1995, 14 governments changed hands with five spells of President's rule.

The recent fall of the Koijam Ministry leading to the ongoing fluid political situation is part of the pattern. The surprise element is, however, the violence witnessed in the plains of Imphal following the extension of the Centre-NSCN (IM) ceasefire agreement beyond Nagaland.

Manipur has long opposed the extension. The vehement opposition to the extension can be traced to a complex tribal mix inhabiting the state along its borders with Nagaland. Tangkhul Nagas owing allegiance to T Muivah-headed NSCN (IM) are settled in large numbers in two sensitive Manipur border districts--Ukhrul and Senapati.

The NSCN (IM) supremo, himself a Tangkhul Naga, has for long been eyeing this region as part of his perceived Nagalim (Greater Nagaland) dream. Muivah comes from Manipur's Ukhrul district and has considerable local support.

Over one third of an estimated 23 lakh people comprise an intricate mix of tribes and sub-tribes settled along the hilly districts. The tribals are further divided into Nagas and non-Nagas belonging to Kuki-chin-Mizo mix.

Apart from Ukhrul and Senapati districts, the tribals are fairly spread out in districts such as Tamenlong and Chandel. The rest of the state is inhabited by the Meiteis in the plains. But against tribals who are Christians by faith, the Meiteis overwhelmingly abide by Hinduism.

In this complex mix of religious and tribal divisions, extension of the Centre-NSCN (IM) ceasefire agreement to Manipur is feared to lead to hatred between the people in the plains and those living in the hills.

The Centre's move may even create a hiatus within the tribal community itself.

Significantly, the latest ceasefire agreement has cleverly added a clause of "two entities" as signatories to the agreement.

This tag attached to the peace pact, applicable without territorial limits, is aimed at negating the claim of the NSCN (IM) to its self-perceived status of a sovereign Nagalim.

Though the accord is in consonance with the first agreement (July 1997) wherein the ceasefire was to be implemented in all the Naga-inhabited areas of the North-East, the recent violence in Imphal can be attributed to lack of informed discussions on the Naga peace dialogue.

However, suspicions between tribal and non-tribals continue to prevail even though the two strands of the state populace have generally lived in peace.

The BJP-Samata power play in the state may further add fuel to disturbances leading to escalated violence. The Centre, perhaps, needs to provide instant answers to the agitating Manipuris. Concluded

Security tightened following bloody clashes

NABARANGPUR: After Sunday's bloody clash between armed tribals and Bengali settlers which claimed one life and left many injured, the situation in Raighar area is still tense. Ban orders have been imposed in block headquarters of Raighar. Banasingh Gond, a tribal, was killed in the violence.

As the news of death of Gond spread on Monday, armed tribals started congregating swearing revenge. Two settlers, Vikash Mandal and Bishnupad Mallik, on way to Kumuli village which is said to be the operating centre of the Bengalis, were attacked. Police rushed to the spot and rescued them. Mandal has been admitted to Hatbharandi hospital with serious head injuries while Mallik escaped with a bruise when an arrow hit him.

Soon after the incident, District Collector Usha Padhee rushed to Jamdora junction where thousands of armed tribals were pouring in from nearby villages. Padhee tried to pacify the tribals with the promise that their grievances would be immediately looked into. Akhil Bharat Adivasi Vikash Parisad president and legislator Sadan Naik persuaded the tribals not to take law into their hands.

Before dispersing, the tribals demanded action against those responsible for killing Banasingh at Jamdora on Sunday, eviction of Bengali settlers from the encroached government land, posting of only local non-Bengali teachers in tribal villages, evacuation of persons who are staying illegally in the area, providing contract works of various departments to tribals only and settlement of the encroached lands in favour of the landless local tribals.

According to the Collector, 12 persons involved in the murder of the tribal, had been arrested and forwarded to the court. Also, around 600 persons who were staying illegally in the area had been sent back.

Tribal youths in Raighar area alleged that the Kumuli village had become the main operating centre of the Bengali settlers. They suspect that some ISI agents are staying in the village.

Meanwhile, the body of Banasingh was cremated amid tight security by the police in the presence of the relatives. Superintendent of Police Parida said 16 sections of armed police had been deployed in area.

Red alert has been sounded in all the police stations of villages where Bengali settlers are residing following Sunday's clash. However, no untoward incident has been reported till now.

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Referred by: Mukandan CM
Published on: June 28, 2001
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