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Senior BJP MLA Paolienlal Hoakip calls Manipur violence”targeted ethnic cleansing”

IndiaSenior BJP MLA Paolienlal Hoakip calls Manipur violence"targeted ethnic cleansing"

Manipur’s respected senior BJP MLA Paolienlal Hoakip describes the violence in Manipur as “targeted ethnic cleansing.”

While mobs kill 100 and burn down 25 churches in Northeastern India, it is said that ethnic tensions have festered for decades, and leaders in Manipur say religious extremism is fueling the extreme aggression.  BJP MLA Paolienlal Hoakip made a startling statement by saying, “The Manipur violence is ethnic cleansing, Chief Minister Biren Singh is anti-Kuki, he must go.”  He reinstated that he was not anti-BJP or antinational but only standing up for the Constitutional provisions as part of his duty

The recent violence in Manipur stems from disputes over land and special privileges, which have created divisions between religious and ethnic communities in the state. The protests by tribals against the Meitei community have resulted in over 100 deaths unofficially reported with more Kuki tribal deaths than Meitei deaths, and around 35,000 Kukis had to seek shelter in various camps such as Manipur camps, Assam Rifle camps, and Army camps.

In a very intense interview with Karan Thapar, the famous Indian journalist, an interviewer with The Wire, Haokip said, “State governments, not only BJP but various governments over the years have neglected various provisions of the Constitution that provided for the rights of the tribals whether it be on land or whether it be in administration.”

He went on to say that the Hill Areas Committee and supervisor have been rendered powerless.  While part of the blame goes to the elected MLAs from the hill areas but a larger part of the blame goes to the state governments over the years for denying the role of the Hill Areas Committee.

He said that for instance, when protested forests were constituted, the standing committee which precedes the Hill Area Committee was never consulted.  This neglect has been the backdrop between the hills and the valley.

He said some leaders in the present government and some sections of society in the dominant majority community had started building a narrative targeting the Kukis as poppy planters, illegal immigrants, etc.

Karan Thapar brought out the point that it was the order of the Manipur High Court uploaded on April 19th that sparked off the present trouble.  The High Court made the decision of the inclusion of the Meitei community under the scheduled tribe category within four weeks without consulting the tribals.

He said, “BJP leader Dinganglung Gangmei filed a petition in the Supreme Court to say there is no proposal to include Meiteis in the scheduled tribe list pending with the Central Government nor has such a proposal ever been sent by the state to the Centre and yesterday, the Chief Justice said that the High Court doesn’t have the power to give such an order.”

Paolienlal Hoakip informed Karan Thapar that people and national media assume that the clashes were caused by the court order, but it was not.  While the court order made its declaration, saying that the government should expedite the matter.  After that, the tribal students were apprehensive that this new declaration which favoured the Meithei community could end up challenging their rights on their ancestral lands and properties.  To display their concerns, on May 3rd, they organized a peaceful solidarity march which went off peacefully.

Hoakip said that the radical Meitei organizations that have been nurtured by certain sections of the Meitei population called a counter blockade.  However, the tribals had just conducted a peaceful march.  The night before the 3rd, several blockades were organized as a countermeasure that sparked angry passions in the valley.  After the peace march on the 3rd, they were picketed at the borders in Churachandpur, and other areas and started harassing them and burning areas.

Hoakip also specified it is not all the Meiteis who acted on violence but a specific radicalized group who have been nurtured by people in power over the years.  He stated emphatically, “It is an ethnic cleansing, clear and simple,” on Karan Thapar’s questioning.

He also stated that the national media tried to portray it as a Hindu-Christian riot, which it was not.

Hoakip believes it is a pogrom because all the settlements within the Kuki areas within the Imphal Valley have been set on fire resulting in deaths, Kuki settlements have been targeted, and villages burned down.  He said he is very sorry to say this, but there was ground evidence that the Manipur police commandos protecting and making way for the Meiteis and firing teargas at the Kuki villages. The Meitei volunteers were allowed to carry out arson, loot.

He said when you cannot trust the state forces, who do you turn to?

Hoakip pointed out that Kukis are likely not to settle for any talks as long as Chief Minister Biren Singh is in power.  He said that a president’s rule is preferred in Manipur or a change in the leadership would appease a lot of anger in the state.  Even many Meiteis do not like the way things are handled.  While Meitheis blame the chief minister, they are afraid to voice this in the open.

He revealed that the revival of Meitei Sanamahi is the root of communal disturbances.  Karan Thapar highlighted that Biren Singh was elected in the first term because he seemed to be reaching out to Kukis and Nagas, which was why he was elected in the second term.

Hoakip stated that the previous government was a coalition one and there with influence from all sides but this time the BJP got 32 seats on their own.  On being asked whether Biren Singh is anti-Kuki, Hoakip openly revealed “Honestly, yes, even many Meiteis confirm this.”

Meitei Grievances

Firstly, Karan Thapar raised a few points about Meitei grievances such as Meiteis in Kuki areas are almost kept hostage, and not allowed to leave, to ensure the safety of Kuki areas.  However, Hoakip said that the Kukis are not holding them hostage but want a simultaneous exchange of Kukis and Meiteis from their respective territories.

Secondly, the Meiteis who are around 53% of the population cannot buy land outside the valley which is only 10% while Kukis and Nagas own 90% of the land; however, the tribals can buy land in the valley which is clearly an imbalance which does sound unfair to many.

Hoakip raised the point that India is governed by the Constitution which protects tribals and their land because tribals have lower access to education with a low economy.

Thapar expressed that the Meiteis were a scheduled tribe prior to the merger with India in 1949. Hoakip responded by saying the Meiteis were a princely state before the merger with India with a long history of kings. He called such a developed wealthy community wanting to be called schedule tribes while is their right, may be missing the point.

The tribal people saw the new law as a way to encroach on their ancestral lands.  He said later that the tribals can be restricted from buying in the valley if they need to change the laws. However, at this point, it would be difficult to assess what final decisions would arrive in this matter.  Presently, the tribals have been subjected to loot and arson.

Grim Situation

The situation is grim with Meitei Leepuns equipped with arms and weapons while Kukis have fewer weapons, there is a fear of further violence in Manipur.  There is a worry if the state forces not trusted and central forces not being there long, there is an apprehension that the ethnic cleansing process would start again on a massive scale.

With the close connection with Kukis and Mizos, troubles could spill over to other states in the North East destabilizing them.  However, Paolienlal Hoakip expresses confidence that trouble would not brew in the North East states as Mizoram is a Christian-majority state and the church has a huge role to play in the governance of the state and he did not think they would allow violence to happen to Meiteis in Mizoram.

Karan Thapar reminded him of the MZ threat which said that if the situation continued, they would not be responsible for what happened to Meiteis in Mizoram.

In a horrific incident, one of many, David Hrangchal from the Kuki tribe living in Lilongwith his wife and family. David was kept in a sack bag.  While his wife and children managed to escape, and were rescued by the Pangals, and are presently in Lilong, David was beaten to death in the sack bag.  His wife at that time said that David’s body is now in the hospital.  There is anger, confusion, and sorrow all around.

What started as sparks ended up as a raging fire in Manipur, but while it looks like communal violence of Meiteis mainly against the Kukis, where Naga settlements were not touched because of the Naga alliance with the BJP, is it also a plan to create divisions between Kukis and Nagas to put suspicions between the two Christian communities?   Another point is this is the first time that the state forces were seen openly helping the Meiteis which turned the horror into a pogrom, unlike previous times when these were just personal clashes between the two communities. As one Kuki said, “Everything done in the dark will be brought back to light.”  They are calling for light and justice.

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