State failure vis-a-vis ethnic cleansing
After a pre-planned, premeditated and sustained offensive was launched on May 3 at Churachandpur, the Chief Minister admitted there were security lapses as well as intelligence failure. The Government’s failure to apprehend the sinister intention and objective of the so-called Tribal Solidarity Rally, particularly the one planned and taken out at Churachandpur was indeed a very big failure of the State. This failure of the State proved to be very costly to thousands of innocent citizens. The infamous Churachandpur rally of May 3 turned out to be a launchpad for a sustained politico-military offensive. It is also equally perplexing and shocking that the State (State here refers to both Imphal and New Delhi) and its armed forces did not make any attempt to stop the rally, participated by armed hoodlums and automatic rifles-wielding combatants, from making its way to Torbung Bangla. Once they reached Torbung Bangla, it was total mayhem. Hundreds of houses were vandalised and burnt down within minutes. Again, neither the State nor its armed forces made any attempt to stop the mayhem. The same night (May 3), thousands of Meitei houses were burnt down in different Meitei localities of Churachandpur district. This arson and violence in Churachandpur marked the beginning of a diabolic process of ethnic cleansing. The offensive was so swift and well coordinated that within days all the Meitei people were driven out of Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Moreh. The attack at Torbung Bangla and Churachandpur sparked mob violence in Imphal and several houses belonging to Kuki-Zo communities were targeted. Although many houses were vandalised and torched, a large number of houses belonging to Kuki-Zo communities are still standing intact or partially damaged, thanks to tight security measures taken up by the State. This is perhaps the one and only bright spot the State can claim. But this bright spot is paled in comparison to what happened in Churachandpur. Is there any Meitei house still standing in any locality of Churachandpur? All the Meitei houses were burnt down repeatedly over a course of several days until they were completely reduced to ashes. This was not the end. Even the foundations of each and every Meitei house were levelled to ground using heavy machinery like bulldozers and earth movers, thereby completely erasing every trace of Meitei settlement. This is indeed a classic case of ethnic cleansing. No doubt, ethnic cleansing has been going on in Manipur and it is happening in Churachandpur, Moreh and Kangpokpi.
Ironically, ‘ethnic cleansing’ is the catchword of the proponents of separate administration but it is their own people who are actively engaged in cleansing Meitei people off Kuki dominated areas. What is more detestable than the ethnic cleansing is the silence or inaction of the State. What was the Churachandpur district administration doing when all the Meitei houses were burnt down and razed? Mind you, the Meitei houses were burnt down and razed not in a single day but over a course of several days. Did the Churachandpur civil administration just sit back and watch the ethnic cleansing silently? Or did the civil administration seek help of the armed forces, who are deployed in thousands in Churachandpur district? If yes, why did the armed forces not respond? Were the armed forces not cooperating with the civil authority? Had the armed forces intervened, many Meitei houses would still be standing. As demonstrated by the rampant destruction of every trace of Meitei settlement in Churachandpur, the district administration did not either seek the armed forces’ help or the armed forces did not respond to the civil administration’s call for help. Either of these two cases has serious implications. If it is the first case, the top officials are too inefficient or complicit in the grave crime of ethnic cleansing. Or is the Churachandpur district administration not answerable to Imphal? Is Churachandpur district administration a separate entity, not subordinate to Imphal? If it is the second case of armed forces not responding to the civil administration’s call for help, some serious questions arise. Are the armed forces above the popular government? Are they not here to assist the civilian government? Is Manipur or certain parts of it under military rule? In either case, it is a tragic failure of the State.