Manipur violence & Myanmar connection
At the instruction of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, the State Government has resumed collection of biometrics of illegal immigrants from Myanmar. Though this renewed initiative has its own significance in the backdrop of the ongoing violent conflict, many are of the opinion that it is too little and too late. Already, several quarters have raised deep suspicion about involvement of illegal immigrants from Myanmar in the ongoing violence. As per reports available at the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the ongoing civil war in Myanmar has displaced 18,27,000 people since February 2021, among which over 53000, mostly from the conflict-ridden Chin State and Sagaing region of Myanmar — the hotbed of armed resistance against the junta — have entered India’s northeastern states of Mizoram and Manipur till the month of May 2023. This figure is what has been officially accounted but many have well grounded suspicion that thousands more might have intruded into Mizoram and Manipur though their number has not been reflected in any official document as yet. Here one should not miss the fact that Manipur shares 400 Kms long porous border with Myanmar. A random identification drive carried out by the State Government last year identified 1,147 undocumented Myanmar nationals in 13 locations in Tengnoupal district, 881 persons in three locations in Chandel district, and 154 persons in Churachandpur district”. Again, quoting a report from the 28 Sector Assam Rifles, Home Department, Government of Manipur reported that 718 fresh refugees have crossed Indo-Myanmar border and entered in the general area of New Lajang of Chandel district as on July 23, 2023 due to the ongoing clashes at Khampat (Opposite Border Pillar 58). All these reports and data point out that influx of illegal immigrants from Myanmar into Manipur is not a myth.
Large scale influx of illegal immigrants in a geographically tiny and ethnically diverse State like Manipur is a serious matter. What is even more worrying is the growing suspicion of involvement of illegal immigrants and Myanmar militants in the protracted violence. Again, any serious study or analysis of the Manipur violence will never be complete without exploring the dimension of poppy cultivation and illegal drug business. According to a report in Economic Times, narcotics trade is playing a significant role in Manipur violence and the drug cartels are utilizing large chunks of the hilly districts for quality poppy cultivation. A report published by the Netherlands-based Transnational Institute in December 2021, observed how “opium cultivation in Manipur seems to be more integrated within the regional drug economy and connected to other actors, notably from Myanmar.” Any attempt for a comprehensive understanding of the Manipur violence must not overlook these facts and/or observations. In another word, Manipur violence is just not a conflict between two communities. Rather, it seemingly has deep connection with Myanmar or more precisely illegal immigration from Myanmar. Sreemoy Talukdar in an article published in the First Post wrote, “It is evident that while a knotty vortex of issues has contributed to the instability in Manipur, ritual incantation of ‘Meitei majoritarianism’ to explain the unrest amounts to little more than a projection of the left-liberal ideological bias. Unless a holistic approach is adopted by the Indian state that looks at the Manipur issue in all its multifaceted complexities, a permanent solution will elude us”. We are of the view that only such an approach can present a clear and unbiased narrative of the crisis. A section has been cooking and peddling false narratives with the primary objective of disintegrating Manipur, and unfortunately, a large section of the intelligentsia, political class, religious groups and media are more than happy to lap up these false narratives without raising a single question. An in-depth analysis and establishment of Myanmar connection with the Manipur violence will definitely go a long way in breaking down these false narratives.