Explained: What Led to Violence in Manipur over the Court Order for ST Tag to Meiteis and Eviction Drive
The northeastern state of Manipur has recently been in a state of unrest following an eviction drive by the BJP-led government that was perceived to be targeting a specific tribal group. The drive, which began in February, initially sparked only small-scale protests but led to larger-scale protests on May 3rd after the Manipur High Court issued a direction to the state to pursue a 10-year-old recommendation to grant Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the non-tribal Meitei community. The situation is now returning to normalcy after the Army was called in and people were evacuated to safer places. Here’s a breakdown of what led to the violence:
Meitei Community and its Dominance in Imphal Valley
The non-tribal Meitei community dominates the Imphal Valley, which lies in the center of Manipur, accounting for more than 64% of the state’s total population and sending 40 of the state’s 60 legislators. They are mostly Hindus and Muslims. The remaining 33 tribes are classified into various major and sub-tribes of the Naga and Kuki community, who are mostly Christians.
HC Order and Demand for ST Status for Meiteis
On April 19, 2023, after hearing a petition by eight people representing the Meitei Tribe Union, the Manipur High Court directed the state government to submit a 10-year-old recommendation to the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry for the inclusion of the Meitei community in the ST list within four weeks. The court referred to the ministry’s letter from May 2013 to the state government, seeking a specific recommendation, along with the latest socio-economic survey and ethnographic report. The representation for the ST status was submitted by the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur (STDCM) in 2012, with the Meiteis arguing that they needed the ST status to preserve and save their ancestral land, tradition, culture, and language of the community.
Violence Triggered by HC Order
The Manipur High Court’s direction to grant ST status to the Meitei community triggered violence in the state. Many tribal groups fear that granting the status will lead to the non-tribal Meitei community acquiring the rights to their land and resources. This led to the May 3rd protests, which resulted in the Army being called in and people being evacuated to safer places. The situation is now returning to normalcy.
The violence in Manipur was triggered by the court’s direction to grant ST status to the non-tribal Meitei community, leading to fears among the tribal groups that they would lose their land and resources. The situation is now returning to normalcy after the Army was called in and people were evacuated to safer places.
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