Perceived class conflict triggers friction among ethnic groups in Manipur

Sunil Thongam
Manipur has 33 recognised tribes of two different conglomerates--the Nagas and Kukis. It is inhabited by three major ethnic groups--the Meiteis in the valley and the Nagas and the Kuki-chin tribes in the hills. Manipur is also inhabited by the Meitei Pagan, or Meitei Muslims, a minority community.
The tribals in Manipur are displeased by what they say lack of adequate representation in public and political institutions. They are unhappy over alleged discriminatory legislation. The Nagas and Kukis want more participation in the State decision-making processes.
For instance, the Hill Areas Committee (HAC)-recommended draft Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) Amendment Bill, 2021 seeks greater financial and administrative autonomy in the hill region. However, the Government of Manipur is unwilling to consider the demand as it thinks the Bill seeks right of self-Government.
Such denial is prone to strong agitation from the tribal groups causing serious disturbances to the life of the people. Such a situation often creates ethnopolitical issue. The potential of violence should always be made low via inclusion and reaching consensus among all stakeholders in the political process.
Most importantly, any move by a particular ethnic group that has the potential to disintegrate Manipur's territorial integrity and administration is unacceptable to the Government. Political demands should always aim at distribution of social goods.
We must agree that the ethnic communities in Manipur exhibit common problems. Discriminatory economic system and low standard of living generate resentment and also contribute to tensions and destabilization.
We are facing many unresolved issues in landlocked Manipur. Lack of job opportunities and poor educational system in the State has induced labour migration as well as student migration to mainland Indian States. Nonetheless, Manipur has been witnessing increasing competition among the ethnic communities which reflects intergroup conflicts.
(To be contd)