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Manipur Post Election Priority: Comprehensive Approach

The Central government which takes office post declaration of Lok Sabha elections is expected to give priority to resolution of the violent political gridlock in Manipur. Union Home Minister Amit Shah indicated as much stating that the government is working on removing the trust deficit between the Meitei and Kuki communities to bring lasting peace in Manipur, and the process will be expedited once the Lok Sabha election is over. Mr Shah told PTI in an interview that the clashes between the Meitei and Kuki communities were ethnic in nature and hence cannot be resolved through force. "This is not an issue of riots or terrorism. This is an issue of ethnic violence. It can't be resolved through force. This is ethnic violence," he said when asked whether the government should adopt a security led approach to end the cycle of violence.

Indeed peace and stability in Manipur cannot be restored by a security led approach alone though neutralizing violence will be an important part of a comprehensive approach.

Moreover, the divide in Manipur is far more than ethnic alone. There are complexities summarized as (1) aspirations of Meitei for autonomy and secession from the Indian Union which at present has been relatively subsumed but raises head from time to time (2) Scheduled status to communities in the State – Scheduled Tribe status demand by Meitei and resistance to the same in the already empowered Kuki community (3) inequities in application and administration of land and forest resources perceived as well as real raising disparity between the two communities (4) ongoing unrest in Myanmar and its fallout.

The emergence of aggressive civil society groups and vigilante groups as Arambai Tenggol some of whom are indulging in violence and their management is another facet. A surfeit of security issues from rise in militancy, cross border linkages with civil war in Myanmar, large flow of arms, drug network and so on.

The security situation has portends of another inflammation if attendant administrative and socio-ethnic issue are not handled with due maturity. Application of legality of Forest and Land Act needs to be undertaken with human consideration based on the existing realities on the ground.

All these factors will require a comprehensive multi agency effort coordinated by an empowered executive with a centrally nominated governor being ideal as an elected Chief Minister likely to be from the Meitei community given the proportionality of population in the State legislature will be hampered on one hand by the influence of community leaders from within and resistance of the others – the Kuki.


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