In the past few weeks, the decisions and peace-promoting initiatives of the Narendra Modi government regarding the Manipur ethnic riots have only reignited old controversies instead of defusing the volatile situation. This has led to a growing sense of frustration among the people, particularly those residing in Nagaland and Mizoram, over the central government’s failure to restore law and order even 47 days after the initial outbreak of violence on May 3. What has further aggravated the situation is the casual handling of the ongoing deadly group clashes. The spiral of violence was allowed to continue for days, eventually spreading not only to Manipur’s neighbouring states but also reaching Myanmar. While the Indian government officials reportedly reached out to authorities in Naypyitaw to prevent the supply of weapons and assistance to the armed Kuki tribes in Manipur from their relatives in Myanmar, experts familiar with the region’s politics remained skeptical of Myanmar’s control over armed tribal groups along its border with India, even during more stable times. On a positive note, the West-backed rebel National Unity Government (NUG) in Myanmar, appealed to Kuki and related tribal groups to refrain from getting involved in Indian politics or supporting one warring group against another. They also urged the tribals to abstain from engaging in the rampant drug and human trafficking trade prevalent in the region.
Currently, tensions continue to simmer among tribal and non-tribal communities, accompanied by occasional ambushes, despite the increased deployment of army, Assam Rifles, and other units, as well as intensified patrolling and search operations. Significant amounts of weaponry and arms have been seized during these operations by state and central law enforcement agencies. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has suffered a significant blow to its political credibility in the present situation. Apart from Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who enjoys the full backing of the BJP leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah, there is no prominent leader in the region with comparable support. Many felt that the BJP leadership made a grave error by explicitly stating that they would address the Manipur incidents only after the Karnataka Assembly elections. This declaration was made clear to a delegation of Kuki BJP MLAs and other tribal leaders who sought protection against alleged attacks by non-tribal groups, while the state administration remained indifferent.
Although Union home minister Amit Shah took appropriate action during his two-day visit to Manipur, including setting up a committee to monitor the situation and rejecting the tribal demand for a separate Union territory, the announced arrangements did not yield satisfactory results. Some members of the monitoring committee even resigned. The central BJP leadership entrusted Sarma with the crucial task of engaging in political dialogue with all parties involved to alleviate tensions in Manipur. However, the ruling chief minister and the tribal opposition parties have yet to find common ground or establish minimum mutual trust. The BJP now faces the daunting task of salvaging its credibility in the Northeast region, which has been severely undermined due to a combination of indifference, flawed policies, and perceived administrative inefficiency. The party’s failure to effectively address the Manipur ethnic riots and its subsequent handling of the situation have exacerbated the already tense and volatile environment. Restoring peace, rebuilding trust, and prioritizing the welfare of all communities in Manipur must become the central government’s immediate focus.