Home » Communal tension post-Lilong incident reveals unending cycle of division inherent to narrow identity politics

Communal tension post-Lilong incident reveals unending cycle of division inherent to narrow identity politics

by Rinku Khumukcham
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Communal tension post-Lilong incident reveals unending cycle of division inherent to narrow identity politics

In addition to the ongoing series of tragic violent incidents, communal tension flared up between the Meitei and Meitei Pangals communities following the killing of four people in Lilong yesterday. In response to the violence, the state has imposed an indefinite curfew as a precautionary measure. Encouragingly, civil society organizations representing both the Meitei and Meitei Pangals communities have united to call for peace and tranquility. Furthermore, there have been no reports of any further violence between the two communities. So far, the appeals for peace from both the civil society groups and the government have proven effective.
The good news is good sense has prevailed thus far among the two communities. However, the bad news is that Manipur has become a classic example of the never-ending divisions perpetuated by identity politics. Ongoing armed ethnic assertions by NSCN factions have significantly influenced the political landscape of Manipur. Similarly, the Kuki and Zomi communities have also played a role in shaping the state’s affairs through their armed insurgent groups. Now, the communal violence between the Meiteis and the Kuki-Zo community has created yet another ethnic division that may prove difficult to mend, similar to the longstanding tension existing between the Naga and Kuki-Zo communities. The recent communal tension following the Lilong incident highlights the potential for another ethnic divide if caution is not exercised.
Now, the question is: how long will these divisions be allowed to persist by those who possess good sense? Are we as a people left to imagine a state where there is only one identity? At this age and day, why is a homogeneous state as dreamed is fed to be envisioned? This continuous process of division began during British colonial rule, during which separate laws were introduced for the hill communities and the Meitei people in the so called valley, influenced by their practices in Assam. This practice continues even today, with a division between the valley and hill regions along geographical lines and to some extent along ethnic lines in the administration of the state. The central government’s policy of engaging in peace negotiations with non-state actors whose demands are primarily focused on their narrow ethnic interests has indirectly fueled these identity-based assertions among different communities. These narrow identity-based assertions further erode the idea of a united Manipur that was envisioned during the political movements of the first half of the twentieth century.
Successive central governments have often failed to appreciate the risks involved in promoting identity-based states within the Indian union, particularly in their policies for the northeastern region. Instead, they should focus on providing effective governance to address the vacuums where these armed assertions of narrow identity politics have thrived, contributing to the ongoing cycle of violence. The absence of adequate governance is often perceived as one identity group attempting to suppress another, exacerbating tensions and conflicts. Unfortunately, instead of addressing the lack of governance and lawlessness as a systematic problem, it is often blamed on one particular community. By framing the issue in communal terms, the true culprits who exploit the system’s loopholes to rob the public escape scrutiny. This focus on communal ideas blinds the common people, causing them to point fingers at one another, while those who profit from the absence of effective governance and lawlessness continue to line their pockets.
To achieve lasting peace and unity in Manipur, it is essential for the central government to prioritize effective governance, address the underlying issues that fuel identity politics, and promote a harmonious coexistence where multiple identities can thrive within a single state. This approach will safeguard the vision of a united Manipur that has been cherished throughout its history.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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