The still eyes have been waiting for almost 74 years to gain back those rights, which protect the customs, land, beliefs, and socio-religious life of the Meitei Community, but unfortunately ruthlessly taken away on October 15, 1949, by the implementation of the Manipur Merger Agreement. A struggle to preserve cultural and traditional identity began in 1949 and continues till today. This battle of almost 74 years made the lives of the Meitei community vulnerable.
The violence that erupted between the Kuki Christian Tribe and the Meitei Hindu Community on May 3, 2023, seems to be a part of a well-established narrative planned by the Kuki Christian Tribe. To understand the nitty-gritty of this narrative, it becomes even more essential to understand the history of why only the “Tribes among Tribes of Manipur” called “Meitei Community” was left out of the Schedule Tribe List.
The Manipur Merger Agreement of 1949 was formally signed between the then Government of India and the Maharaja Bodhachandra of Manipur, his Private Secretary Sanasam Gourahari Singh, and ADC Mayengbam Anand Mohan Singh. The Manipur Merger Agreement dated October 15, 1949, Article VIII states :
“……The Government of India shall also undertake to make suitable provisions for the employment of Manipuris in the various branches of Public Services, and in every way encourage Manipuris to join them. They also undertake to preserve various laws, customs and conventions prevailing in the State pertaining to the social, economic and religious life of the people.”
The life of the Meitei Community changed forever after the Manipur Merger Agreement because all tribes of Manipur were added to the ST list, except the Meitei Hindu Community
The life of the Meitei Community changed forever after the Manipur Merger Agreement because all tribes of Manipur were added to the ST list, except the Meitei Hindu Community. It is seen in the pages of history that the Meitei Community was one of the most dominant and prominent tribes of Manipur. The traces can be found in the Census of India 1911 , Census of India 1921, and Census of India 1931. In fact, in the Census of 1931, the Meitei Tribe is mentioned as a “wholly Hindu Tribe”. The quest to attain their rights gained concern over a period of time. The Meetei Community submitted various representations to the government of Manipur and the government of India but failed to receive any response. After many requests and representations, the Government of India directed the State of Manipur, vide letter dated 29.05.2013, asking for a recommendation on whether the Meetei Community should be included in the ST list. But to the utter shock, even after ten years, the Government of Manipur failed to reply to the letter dated 29.05.2013 of the Government of India. The Government of India again on May 31 2022, directed the Government of Manipur to submit the recommendation on the status of the Meetei community’s ST Status but did not receive any reply. Suffered from the attitude of the Government of Manipur, the representatives of the Meitei Community filed a case, “MUTUM CHURAMANI MEETEI AND OTHERS V STATE OF MANIPUR AND OTHERS”, in Manipur High Court praying to direct the Manipur Government to file the reply to the letter dated 29.05.2013. After hearing in length, the Hon’ble High Court of Manipur issued an order dated 27.03.2023 and directed the Government of Manipur to file a reply within four weeks of receiving the order. To the utter shock, as soon as the time of expiry of the four weeks came nearer, the voices from the Kuki Christian Tribe started rising against the order of the Hon’ble High Court of Manipur. On 20.04.2023 Hill Area Committee passed a resolution denying the order of the Hon’ble High Court of Manipur on the ground that they were not made the party.
In consequence, on 03.05.2023, students from Kuki Christian Community gathered for a so-called peaceful protest and within a few hours, Manipur’s Meetei Community was Burning. The Hindu temple was burned, houses were looted, and females and children were threatened, resulting in a clash between both communities. Interestingly, without any delay, the Kuki tribe approached the Hon’ble Supreme Court and filed a Writ Petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India with the case title “MANIPUR TRIBAL FORUM DELHI V STATE OF MANIPUR AND OTHERS”. The Writ Petition in Supreme Court is filed by Manipur Tribal Forum Delhi, based in Delhi and formed in 2015, very strategically takes the attention of the Hon’ble Supreme Court on the violence erupted in Manipur, leaving the demands of the 74-year-old struggle of a community behind. The petition specified the damage done to the churches, houses, and villages by the Meetei Community and demanded protection by Meetei Community. Suddenly, attention from the 74-year-old struggle of the Meetei community got shifted to a tribe that in the name of peaceful protest, turned violent. In the order passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the government of India is directed to file the status report on the situation of Manipur violence before the next hearing date, which is 17.05.2023.
It is awakening that the Manipur High Court only directed the government of Manipur to file a reply to a letter dated 29.05.2013 which had been pending for almost 10 years and resulted in such a severe level of violence. It is clearly drawn when seen from a larger frame, that the so-called peaceful protest, which was scheduled for 03.05.2023 and turned violent, is a planned narrative to pressurise the government of Manipur to recall the order dated 27.03.2023 passed by the High Court of Manipur.