A story of the Jewel and the Crown of India

Manipur the “jewel of India” and Kashmir the “crown of India” have been in news since the independence of India. Both the states, one of which has been demoted to a Union Territory since August 2019, and the other, are for all practical purposes, have several things in common, in spite of being separated by a road distance of more than 3000 kms.

Both the states came under the Indian dominion after independence of India from the British empire. Both Jammu Kashmir and Manipur were being ruled by monarchs. Maharaja Hari Singh, a Dogra ruler and Maharaja Bodh Chandra, a Meitei, respectively. Both the kings wanted to remain independent as countries.  Maharaja of Kashmir signed the accession paper on 26th October 1947 in Delhi and the Maharaja of Manipur in October 1949 in Shillong, against their wishes.

Both places have antelopes as their national animals. The Sangai which is the apple of the eye for the Manipuris, the beautiful Siroy Lily, the game of polo, dance, sports and films, the Hangul the beautiful Kashmir stag, the lotus along with the natural beauty of the lakes of both the valleys. Both these national animals are protected species since they were about to get extinct in around 1950’s.

Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir both have had turbulent past with Japanese and British forces at war on their land, while the occupation of Jammu and Kashmir by successive invaders from Central Asia, Afghanistan and other neighbouring countries including Pakistan is well known. This turbulence is still simmering in Kashmir though under control but is at its peak in Manipur. Jammu and Kashmir since august 2019 has been demoted to a Union territory (UT). The law-and-order conditions have certainly improved and the tourism to the valley has picked up enormously benefitting those involved in it.  By virtue of the G 20 tourism meeting held in Srinagar between May 22nd to 24th a few main roads – the airport road and the road to Gulmarg – have been done up with new signages and the city is being beautified in parts under the “the smart city project”. There is, however, no sign of the UT being restored to a state and no talk of an election despite the delimitation process being over, long ago. The common man has no representative of his own to redress local issues.

Manipur on the other hand still is a state, despite the fact that all the communities there are asking for the removal of the chief minister and imposition of the President’s rule because of the ongoing ethnic violence.

Manipur state consists of the valley and the surrounding hills. Imphal, the capital, is in the valley and is inhabited mainly by Meitei’s also known as Meetei’s, the dominant ethnic group of the state. They are also residing as a sizeable population in the states of Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram. There population as per the 2011 census is 53% residing in 10% of the area of Manipur. They speak Meitei language which comes under the sub-family of the Tibetan-Burman language. It has been added to the 8th scheduled of the constitution of India in 1992. They mostly follow Hinduism but 16% traditionally believe in Sanamahi religion and around 8% follow Islam, also called Pangals in Meitei.

The Kuki’s, in Manipur live mostly in the hilly regions. Churachandpur is their main stronghold although they have many other districts like Chandel, Kangpokpi, Tengnoupal, and Senapati districts. They constitute about 18% of the population of Manipur. The Kuki people practice Christianity as their main religion today, with some sizeable minorities adhering to animism or other religions like Judaism or Islam.

The current problem reflects total mistrust between Meitei’s and Kuki’s with lot of violence happening after 3rd June when Kuki’s came for a march to Imphal protesting against the high court’s decision of granting a scheduled tribe status to Meite’s in the state. This has led to the death of more than 130 persons. There are no Kukis left in Imphal and likewise no Meiteis in the hill areas, which is more than 90% of the land in Manipur. The 3rd community, the Nagas, constituting around 24% of the population is neutral and quiet, but has a long-standing demand of being a part of the Nagaland state. The tribal group is basically an ethnic group inhabiting Manipur, Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura and Nagaland. They are also residing in Bangladesh and Myanmar and allegedly slip into Manipur from the adjoining borders of Myanmar.

The very sad division of Meiteis and Kukis has led to the Jewel of India become like the “Hope Diamond” which is blamed for a list of tragedies which includes stabbings, murder and insanity. While the happenings of Jammu and Kashmir have led the Crown of India becoming like “the Kohinoor diamond”, which has the legacy of its owner living a life full of bloodshed, violence and betrayal. Let a wise sense prevail on the establishments which govern these ornaments of our country. Both deserve much better.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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