Unequal Grounds for Protest in Manipur – A Tale of Two Rallies

Unequal Grounds for Protest in Manipur – A Tale of Two Rallies

The recent rallies in Imphal and Churachandpur highlight a stark disparity in how protests are managed in different parts of Manipur. While demonstrators in Churachandpur were allowed to express their grievances freely, those in Imphal faced significant obstruction from the police. This unequal treatment raises important questions about the role and reach of state and central authorities in different regions of Manipur.
On one hand, Churachandpur, a stronghold of the Kuki-Zo tribal community, witnessed a peaceful rally organized by the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF). Thousands marched, demanding the creation of a Union Territory as a solution to the ongoing ethnic conflict.
In contrast, a simultaneous rally in Imphal at Ima Keithel faced a different fate. Police presence was heavy, and their primary role appeared to be obstructing the protest. This disparity in handling protests between Churachandpur and Imphal reflects deeper issues within Manipur’s governance and the influence of different governmental layers.
Churachandpur, it seems, falls under a peculiar jurisdictional ambiguity. The reach of the Manipur state apparatus is notably weak here, allowing the central government to have a more pronounced presence. This could explain why the protestors in Churachandpur were able to demonstrate without the heavy-handed interference seen in Imphal. The central government appears more willing to allow expressions of dissent in areas where its direct influence is stronger or where the state government’s reach is limited.
Imphal, on the other hand, is the administrative and political heart of Manipur. The state apparatus is robust and vigilant, and any form of dissent is met with immediate scrutiny and control. The strong presence of state police at the rally in Imphal is a testament to this. The state government, dominated by the Meitei community, seems more invested in maintaining a tight grip on the capital, where any show of dissent could quickly escalate and disrupt the perceived order.
This selective enforcement raises critical questions about the impartiality and fairness of governance in Manipur. Why is it that the central government seems more lenient in Churachandpur but allows the state government to act with a heavy hand in Imphal? This inconsistency suggests a nuanced power dynamic where the central government’s interests might align differently based on the region’s ethnic and political landscape.
The Kuki-Zo community’s demand for a Union Territory reflects their deep-seated disillusionment with the state government’s ability to address their concerns fairly. The perceived partiality in handling protests only reinforces their belief that their grievances cannot be adequately addressed within the current state framework. The state government’s harsher stance in Imphal could be seen as an attempt to suppress this growing demand for a separate Union Territory, fearing it might ignite similar calls from other disenchanted groups.
For the central government, allowing peaceful protests in Churachandpur might be a strategic decision to placate the Kuki-Zo community while maintaining overall control. By contrast, clamping down on protests in Imphal could be a way to signal that which side they are on.
This situation highlights the need for a more balanced and equitable approach to governance in Manipur. The central and state governments must collaborate to ensure that all communities feel heard and respected. Heavy-handed suppression in one area while allowing free expression in another only serves to deepen divisions and fuel resentment.
The way forward should involve meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders, recognizing the unique challenges and aspirations of different communities. Only through fair and consistent governance can lasting peace and stability be achieved in Manipur. The current approach of unequal treatment risks perpetuating the very conflicts it seeks to control.

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