BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
“I have a Meitei friend who protected a Kuki boy for five days. He hid the boy in his Sintex tank on his roof and fed him food every night. This is one example of many that show the indomitable spirit of the people of Manipur,” says Joshua (name changed on request).
After days of incessant rain, the sun smiled for hours, but, for Joshua, a retired police official from Manipur in Goa, it is difficult to forget the gloom in his home state Manipur because of the machinations involved.
“The feeling is terrible. When the BJP formed the government in New Delhi in 2014, we noticed a change. Violence was prevalent in Manipur before, but slowly we started seeing a positive change, and we were happy. But this orchestrated violence is taking us back to hell,” reflects Joshua, as he plays with a tissue paper and sips his tea in a coffee shop in South Goa.
“Hinduism and Christianity are the major religions in Manipur, although there are also Muslims. According to one 2023 Google statistic, the Hindus and Christians constitute around 41% each, while the Muslims are around 8.40%”, reads a report of Archbishop Andrews Thazhath, President of the Catholic Bishop Conference of India (CBCI).
“The main ethnic groups are the non-tribal Meiteis, who mainly live in the Imphal Valley and the tribal Nagas and Kukis, who mostly live in the hill area. It is reported that the Meiteis, who were following nature worship called Sanamahi were converted to Vaishnavism/Hinduism… during 1704 to 1725”, states the CBCI report released on July 26, 2023.
“Everybody has been a victim. People from both tribes are suffering. Meteis suffered as retaliation, and Kukis because they were attacked. The most innocent are the ones that have been displaced,” says Joshua, who travels through the states in the North East, in an attempt to reach out to the needy.
Joshua is a Naga from Manipur and believes his tribe, which lives on the plains, is left untouched because “the Meteis are left with no other option” and is convinced that “the attack on Kukis is orchestrated”.
“Two councils – Arambai Tengol and Meiteil Leepun – were purportedly formed to keep the traditions of Sanamahi alive, with the blessings of Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh. Both these outfits are responsible for the terror that is being unleashed. There is proof of this, and that is why the administration has collapsed,” says Joshua convincingly, his face turning red.
The attacks in Manipur, which started on May 3, were planned and are being executed to extend the political ambitions of those in power.
Joshua asks, “How does one explain why the houses of Nagas living next to houses of Kukis are left alone and only Kuki houses are being attacked?”
In the BJP, people who speak against Muslims and Christians are incentivised and it is the Metei Christians who are in a more precarious situation because they have nowhere to run away. Silence is their only resort.
“More than thirty Meitei pastors are in hiding and all churches are burnt. When you destroy the Church, it shows there is a larger game plan,” reasons Joshua, who during his tenure as an IPS officer, strove to end violence in the North East.
“The security apparatus functioned effectively enough for multinationals to set up shops in Manipur and other North Eastern states. This premeditated violence has ruined it all,” moans Joshua as he twirls his empty cup of tea.
President’s Rule in Manipur will help de-escalate tension “only if the intention is genuine” thinks Joshua. “Otherwise, they will continue to attack covertly because the administration has willfully been allowed to collapse,” he says.
As the sun begins to set, spirits turn low after listening to stories of suffering and viewing pictures of the pain of the people of Manipur.
“Once the ban on the internet is lifted, many more videos of women being attacked and raped will surface. The video that went viral was obviously filmed by a Meitei who wanted to boast. Do you think a Kuki could film his own being dragged and raped?” asks Joshua.
“Such acts have torn the soul of the affected and revenge is bound to follow. This is going to be a painful time,” concluded this former cop, as he moved to spend his night trying to reach out to those suffering in Manipur from his solitude in Goa.