Planned aggression: To what end?
The tragic violent crisis which erupted in the State on May 3, 2023 is, so far, largely a tale of aggression on all fronts and fierce retaliation. The infamous Churachandpur rally of May 3 ignited a vicious cycle of violence. The aggressiveness was visible on the first day itself with many heavily armed combatants marching in the midst of the equally charged civilians. In the name of the so-called Tribal Solidarity Rally, thousands of people, both armed and unarmed, marched all the way from Churachandpur to Torbung Bangla. Within minutes, the marchers from Churachandpur opened indiscriminate fire and thus drove off the unsuspecting villagers before setting ablaze hundreds of houses. The attack at Torbung Bangla turned out to be the beginning of a pre-meditated, pre-planned and well coordinated offensive. Within no time, similar violence erupted in Meitei settlement areas of Kangpokpi, Moreh and other Kuki dominated areas. The attack was so aggressive that the Meiteis, even the most vigilant ones, were caught off guard and found themselves stupefied. In the evening, Meiteis started a fierce retaliation targeting Kuki settlement areas at Imphal. Unlike the offensive, the retaliation, though fierce, was spontaneous, unplanned and disorganised. No doubt, the physical or military offensive was so aggressive that it succeeded in plunging the whole State into a very deep violent crisis on the first day itself. What is more interesting is the fact that the subsequent media campaign was equally or more aggressive. The media campaign was quite aggressive and successful, at least for the first two months that it succeeded in influencing a large section of the media and also in articulating several narratives which projected the offenders as victims and the victims as offenders. The media campaign managers of the offenders deserve accolades and commendation, at least for their highly zealous and aggressive working style. The first narrative said that the violent crisis was a clash between tribals and non-tribals. The second narrative claimed that it was between Christians and Hindus, and the third one ran like it was between the majority and the minority. The media campaign was so successful in the initial phase that even the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the alleged persecution of minority Christians by majority Hindus.
The Kuki narrative went on changing as the other party, though belatedly, launched counter narratives, and the narratives started crumbling one after another. The tribal versus non-tribal narrative fell flat after it was highlighted that a large section of the tribal community was not involved in the crisis in any manner. Likewise, the Hindu versus Christian narrative crumbled given the fact that a major Christian community of the State did not see the violence as an attack to their faith. The majority versus minority narrative dissipated into thin air after the Union Home Minister pointed out on the floor of the Parliament that illegal immigrants from Myanmar had a hand in the violent crisis. The demand for separate administration raised by the 10 Kuki MLAs which subsequently became a common slogan for many organisations was also no less aggressive. The violent crisis was not even 10 days old when the 10 MLAs raised the banner of separate administration. Even after the Union Home Minister had rejected the same demand, the exponents of separate administration have been doggedly pursuing the same using different terms like Union Territory, separate State and separate DGP and Chief Secretary. If one juxtaposes this demand for separate administration with the violence, a very clear picture emerges. By launching concerted, well-coordinated and sometimes simultaneous attacks quite aggressively, Kuki militants and their supporters were 100 per cent successful in driving out Meitei people from Kuki dominated areas like Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, Moreh and also from many peripheral areas of the valley districts. Not long after, the exponents of separate administration were claiming that population separation of Meitei people and Kuki people had been completed. It looks like the exponents of separate administration had a fair idea in advance of how the Meitei people would react to their offensive. In another word, the months long violent crisis is not any spontaneous outburst of pent up anger or grievances but it has all the elements of a pre-mediated and well-planned politico-military offensive, backed by well-oiled and highly aggressive propaganda machinery.