Indian government urged to act after violence breaks out again in Manipur

Paramilitary soldiers patrol past a vandalised church in Imphal, capital of the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, May 14, 2023.(Photo: Associated Press/Alamy)

Violence has broken out again in the Indian state of Manipur, giving rise to concerns about more loss of life as India's general elections got underway on Friday.

There were reports of a gunfight between armed Meitei and Kuki groups in Tengnoupal district on 12 April, resulting in injuries to three Meitei insurgents, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports.

In another incident on the same day, a Meitei-owned sawmill in Kakching district was burnt to the ground. 

On 13 April, two Kuki militants were killed in clashes in the Kuki-majority Kangpokpi district, which borders the Meitei-majority East Imphal district. Their bodies were reportedly badly mutilated. The Indigenous Tribal Leaders' Forum has condemned the killings in a statement, while alleging that Meitei militants were aided by central security forces.

India holds its general election across several phases, with Manipur set to vote on 19 and 26 April. Kuki sources told CSW that their community was considering collectively voting 'none of the above' on the ballot paper to register their discontent with how prolonged violence in the state has been handled by the authorities and national government.

Around 200 people died, many of them Christians, when violence broke out between Kukis and Meiteis in Manipur last year. Over 70,000 people were displaced and many churches were targeted.

CSW's Founder President Mervyn Thomas said it was "very worrying to see that the ongoing conflict between the Meiteis and Kuki communities in Manipur has still not come to an end".

"Distrust and escalating division between the communities have only been exacerbated due to the lack of commitment by the central government to intervene in any meaningful way," he said.

"With general elections on the horizon, and no clear solutions to the situation in the state, there appears to be no clear pathway to integrating these communities, or any plans for development.

"We urge the government to prioritise the needs of the people of Manipur and bring a complete end to the conflict which has resulted in the loss of lives and livelihoods, internal displacements and regional instability."