A Kuki armed vigilante group watches on the rival Meitei community from a bunker in Churachandpur. Image: Aakash Hassan

Ethnic violence spirals in India’s Manipur state


India’s northeastern state of Manipur, which shares a border with Myanmar, close to China, is gripped in ethnic violence. More than 140 people have been killed in pitched battles raging between the majority Meitei community and the minority tribal Kuki-zo community.

At least 60,000 people have been displaced, and homes of hundreds of families, shops, and churches have been burned by angry mobs since the violence began in early May. The reason for the clashes was a court ruling entitling the majority community to economic benefits, quotas in government jobs, and education. 

The tribal Kuki people reside mostly in hillsides and the majority Maeitei community lives in the lowlands and the valley.

Both the communities have formed their own armed vigilante groups, who patrol their areas welding automatic and double-barrel rifles, while some keep vigil through sand-bag walled bunkers. People venturing into each other’s areas face violence. 

There are around 350 makeshift relief camps, set up in government offices and schools,  across the state. Peoples in these camps live without proper state support, adequate food, and living conditions.

The Indian government has deployed thousands of additional troops to the region to bring the situation under control. However, the incidents of violence keep occurring every now and then, bringing the region to the brink of a civil war.

The European Parliament recently passed a resolution urging the Indian government to take immediate measures to restore peace in Manipur. The resolution, supported by a significant majority, also emphasizes the need for the Indian government to address the issue of mob violence and ensure compliance with international human rights obligations. It also called for independent monitors to conduct investigations into the situation and urged political leaders to refrain from making inflammatory statements to rebuild trust among the communities.

The following photo feature captures the aftermath of the ethnic violence and vividly portrays the impact of the conflict, reflecting the sorrow, resilience, and hope of the affected communities amidst the challenges they now face.


Aakash Hassan

Aakash Hassan is a freelance journalist, who regularly contributes to The Guardian. He has covered human rights and politics in Kashmir and India for media outlets like The Intercept, South China Morning Post and Al Jazeera. He was recently nominated to the final list of One World Media Awards 2022 in the 'New Voice' category.

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