The ethnic clashes that broke out in Manipur in May 2023 have brought into focus the complexity of identity politics in the state. What began as an opposition by tribals living in the Hills to the demand of the Valley-based Meiteis for Scheduled Tribe status turned out to be linked to the problem of illegal migrants, refugees from Myanmar, and to the proliferation of poppy cultivation and ‘narcoterrorism’.
Conflicts between ethnic groups are not new in Manipur. But the violence in 2023 was shocking for the sheer viciousness on display. Any effort to find explanations to this conflict only throws up more questions. Why is there such immense anger in the people of the state? Is this a religious or an ethnic conflict? How do varying interpretations and perceptions of Manipur’s history affect the present? What role did extremist Meitei organizations and Kuki-Zo militants play in the violence? Why were the police and paramilitary forces—of which huge numbers are deployed in Manipur—unable to bring the situation under control? Are there any corporate interests behind this violence? Why did it take several months for India’s national leadership to break their silence on the issue? Will peace and normalcy be restored in Manipur?
Human rights lawyer Nandita Haksar has known Manipur for more than two decades and has written extensively on various aspects of its history. In this urgent book, she explores with clarity and insight, and also courage, a complex geopolitical problem, exposing the bankruptcy of identity politics in the state, never losing sight of those that have suffered—and continue to suffer—the most in this conflict.