Hindu extremism provokes ethnic cleansing in Manipur

16 September 2023

By Bernie McAdam

When a video of two women paraded naked by a mob in the Indian state of Manipur went viral in July, it shone a light on the crimes of Modi’s India.

Prime Minister Nahendra Modi’s Hindutva (Hindu supremacist) regime has spawned an alarming increase in attacks on ethnic minorities, Muslims, Christians and Women. The assault which happened on 4 May drew no response from Modi until July, then as news broke internationally of the attack on two Kuki Christian women by a gang of Meitei Hindu men, he belatedly was forced to issue a condemnation ‘as it has shamed India’.

The north eastern state of Manipur is ruled by Modi’s party, the BJP, and the state government is undoubtedly facilitating a campaign to ethnically cleanse the Kuki-Zo people using spurious arguments about the need for forest conservation, ‘illegal’ migration and poppy cultivation. This has resulted in around 60,000 displaced people and over 7,000 houses burnt down, with over 100 deaths plus hundreds of villages and churches razed to the ground. As is usually the case in similar conflicts, it is women who bear the brunt of this violence.

The activities of Biren Singh’s state government have infuriated several tribal groups. In particular, the orders to evict 38 villages in a protected forest area have sparked protest. The settlements were construed as illegal and its residents ‘encroachers’. Protests against these eviction drives have been attacked by the police.

Kuki-Zo people have also been the target of Meitei militias who appear to have looted at least five armouries, no doubt with the police turning a blind eye.  

The immediate trigger of the current violence was the order of the Manipur High Court to the State Government to recommend the Meitei’s community appeal for inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes list to India’s Union government. The Meiteis are the dominant community in Manipur and this new status will enhance their already powerful position to benefit in education and jobs, but also give them land rights to ‘settle’ in Kuki areas—or more accurately, to drive Kuki people out.

Faced with this oppression, it is little wonder that Kuki-Zo people have increasingly been demanding total separation from the Manipur state. There is a long history of Kuki insurgency in Manipur and also conflict with the Nagas who have had their own insurgency and demands for self-determination. Socialists should of course support demands for self defence and self-determination where oppression exists. However, a successful struggle to overthrow Modi and the BJP will require an offensive of the entire Indian working class.

The disparate strands of opposition in Indian society requires a united fightback of all Indian workers and farmers, to overthrow the Modi government and the capitalist system it defends. Only a struggle to abolish capitalism, which alone is responsible for the chronic poverty, communal violence and women’s oppression can open up the whole of the Indian subcontinent to workers’ power and socialism.

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