Mayhem in Manipur

A new twist in the ongoing violence in Manipur shows the ugly face of India

The sense of rage gripping India, since Friday, when a video recording went viral, which showed women of the Kuki community in Manipur being paraded naked by men from the Meitei, is apparently continuing, with two of the accused having their houses destroyed by women. That those women include Meiteis indicates that it is not seen as a communal issue but as a gender issue also. The explosion in Manipur shows that the Bharatiya Janata Party has presided over an increased heightening of communal feeling which has led to such an outcome. It should be remembered that the Manipur government is led by the BJP and the fighting is between the Christian Kukis and Hindu Meiteis. This is of a pattern with the BJP’s Hindutva ideology, which sees iNdian identity as Hindu identity, and views with suspicion all those that belong to another religion. The BJP had been concentrating on anti-Muslim activities, and even in the north-east, where Manipur is, its most striking action had been over the National Citizenship Register, with as many Muslims excluded as possible, and expelled to Bangladesh.

However, the Manipur example also lays bare the problems of Indian secularism, which is constructed on the basis of quotas and reservations. The reservations pitted the Meiteis, who were demanding the reservations given to the Kuki, of which 50 tribes are scheduled, and thus have quotas reserved for them in various jobs and in admissions. The Meiteis are a majority in Manipur, so reserving seats for them as tribals does not really make all that much sense, but the whole of India is busy with caste identity, and whether or not there are reservations for that caste. Reservations exist both at the state and central levels, and while a member of a certain caste have to compete on open merit for a central government job, he may compete on a quota at the provincial level. The Raj used this system to administer recruitments and admissions in India, and the system continued after Independence. In India, it has given rise to caste-based politics, as various parties appeal to voters on the pledge to get their caste designated a Scheduled Caste, an other Backward Caste, or a Scheduled Tribe, so as to get a share of reservations. Now the result has been both bloodshed as well as bestiality.

Pakistan is fortunate not to have castes, but it does have provincial quotas. They have not fractured the state as viciously as In India, but need to be watched both carefully and suspiciously. 

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].

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