The three judge Supreme court bench headed by the Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud announced the setting up of a committee of three former women high court judges to supervise the relief and rehabilitation of people affected by the Manipur violence.
In an order passed on 7 August 2023 the Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said that former Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice Gita Mittal will lead the committee, and the committee will also include former Bombay High Court Judge Shalini Phansalkar Joshi and former Delhi HC judge Justice Asha Menon.
The Supreme Court also announced the setting up of 42 Special Investigation Team (SITs) to probe Manipur violence cases.The SITs will be headed by Deputy Inspector General (DIG) rank officers from various states . Each DIG will head 6 SITs.
Violent clashes broke out between the majority Meitei community and the Kukis in Manipur on 3rd May 2023 and in the continuing violence more than 150 people are feared dead.
Ethnic Composition of Manipur
According to the 2011 census , Meitei constitute around 53% of the state population and are mainly concentrated in the Imphal Valley. They are mainly Hindus and occupy around 10% of the state land . They are considered as plain peoples in Manipur.
The Kukis are tribals ,mainly Christian and constitute around 25 % of Manipur population . Another dominant tribal population in the state is that of the Naga's . They constitute around 15% of the state population .
The Kukis reside in the hilly forested areas of Manipur. The meites community politically dominates Manipur's politics, more educated and also better represented in business and politics of the state than Kukis and Nagas.
Start of Current conflict in Manipur
The current conflict started in Manipur after the Manipur High Court in April 2023 passed an order and asked the state government to send a recommendation to the Centre within four weeks to include Meitei under the Scheduled Tribe category.
This was opposed by the Kuki community who felt that the already dominant Meitei will now monopolise government jobs.
Violence first erupted on 3rd May 2023 in Torbung area in Churachandpur district during the 'Tribal Solidarity March' organised by the All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM) to protest the High Court judgement . The violence escalated and more than 150 people have been killed in Manipur.
Possible reason for recent conflict
Meitei demands for Scheduled Tribe Status
The Meitei are recognised as a “socially and economically backward class” in Manipura and some of them are recognised as Scheduled Caste. The Kuki’s are included in the Scheduled Tribe(ST) category.
The Meitei want ST status . According to the Meiteis , before Independence they were considered as tribes but after Independence they were considered as an OBC(Other Backward Class) because they were Hindus..
In Manipur, Meitei or any non-tribal person cannot buy land in the hill districts where Kukis and Nagas tribes live . But Kukis and Nagas are free to buy land anywhere in Manipur including in areas where Meitei lives.
The Meties believe that with ST status they can buy land s anywhere in Manipur including the forested area where the Kukis live . The Kukis believe that if this happens then they will be evicted from forested areas which have traditionally been theirs.
This is being opposed by the Kuki’s and Nagas in Manipur . They say that the Meitei already dominate the politics of Manipur and if they are granted ST status the Meitis will now monopolise the government jobs.
Fear of Change in Demography
The Meitei fear that Kukis are attempting to change the demography of the state . Kukis are also found in Myanmar. After the crackdown against them by the military leadership in Myanmar they have crossed the border and illegally settled in Manipur.
They look similar to the Manipuri Kuki’s and the Meitei fears that with the continuous influx of illegal Kuki immigrants from Myanmar the demographic balance will change in the state in favour of Kuki’s.
It is alleged that the illegal Myanmar’s Kuki migrant population are engaged in poppy cultivation in the hilly area of the state . The recent government crackdown against the illegal poppy cultivation is also said to be a factor behind the recent Kukis protest.
Chief Minister of Manipur : N Biren Singh