Exclusive domains out of pluralistic Manipur!

Will it turn out to be an anticlimax or something else? The United Naga Council  or UNC in short has unambiguously and openly stated that the Nagas do not support the Kukis’ demand for separate administration. It is indeed a serious setback for the proponents of separate administration or separate Kuki State or separate Kuki Union Territory. “...Hence the demand of separate administration which incorporates the so-called new districts is necessarily opposed.” These are the exact words of the UNC.  It is quite evident from these words that the Nagas’ open opposition stems from contested territories or overlapping imagined homelands. In addition to the Meiteis’ vehement and steadfast opposition to any challenge to the integrity of Manipur, the proponents of separate Kuki state or administration must now overcome another formidable obstacle. Following a meticulous plan which was executed quite efficiently and swiftly, Meiteis settled in Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Moreh were driven out and all their homes razed to ground. Even the grounds where Meitei houses stood once were levelled using bulldozers so as to erase all signs of Meitei settlements. The banner of separate administration or separate State was raised just a few days after launching the pre-meditated offensive. If one connects the dots of the whole sequence of the violent crisis, it reveals that the offensive was aimed at driving out Meiteis from these Kuki dominated areas and transforming them into Kuki exclusive domains. Are Churachandpur, Chandel, Tengnoupal, Pherzawl and Kangpokpi now Kuki-Zo exclusive? Perhaps, Churachandpur is. As for the other districts, there are still many other communities and not all of them subscribe to the idea of separation from the state of Manipur. The UNC also made it clear that the creation of new districts in 2016 remains alive and is still an unfinished issue. Remember, Kangpokpi was carved out of Senapati while Chandel was bifurcated to give birth to Tengnoupal. If the creation of new districts is still an unfinished issue, demanding a separate state or administration encompassing these contested areas will only complicate the issue.
If the UNC’s opposition is any indication, driving out Meiteis from Kuki dominated areas is not enough for pursuing a separate State or an imagined homeland of Kuki-Zo peoples. It has been quite some time since the demand for a separate autonomous territorial council for the Kuki and Zo communities of Manipur is articulated through different platforms and media. In 2020, the Kuki National Organisation (KNO), one of the two conglomerates of Kuki militant groups under Suspension of Operation or SoO pact with the Government of India and Government of Manipur, was demanding a Kukiland Territorial Council to be modelled after the Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam. Contextualizing on the violent crisis which erupted on May 3 which has all the elements of being pre-meditated and pre-planned, the Kuki-Zo legislators went a step ahead by demanding a separate state. The new districts were created only in 2016. Now they are demanding a separate state, encompassing many of the new districts. What they will demand next is anybody’s guess. There was a strong objection when the new districts were created, and the opposition would be much fiercer if any separate state or administration must be created encompassing these new districts. Moreover, there is another force which opposes tooth and nail all such politics of exclusivity. At the same time, the protagonists of pluralistic and united Manipur must study how these sub-nationalist discourses took birth and was given relevancy. Polarised politics and fragmented homeland imagination based on ethnicity can turn out to be suicidal for all communities. Ethno-centric politics, as we have seen today, can only breed violence and hatred. Sacrificing a pluralistic Manipur to serve any ethno-centric politics is simply unimaginable.