Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

6/16/2023 India (International Christian Concern) — The far eastern Indian state of Manipur does not often feature in international headlines. Located over 2,000km from New Delhi in a rugged region filled with jungles, its long history of ethnic and religious tensions has too long been ignored. Recently though, with violence raging across the state, that has changed, and the area has come under intense scrutiny by the Indian government and international observers. 

Reports from journalists and NGO workers on the ground suggest that more than 377 churches and 17 temples have been destroyed in a region split along ethnic lines and on religion. 

The Meitei people, who constitute the majority of Manipur’s population and are overwhelmingly Hindu, tend to live in the valley areas of Manipur while the Kuki, most of whom are Christians, are concentrated in hill areas set aside for them as an indigenous tribal group.  

Early reports show that dozens of Meitei churches are among those destroyed by Meitei attackers, suggesting that Meitei mobs and militias are targeting communities based not only on their ethnicity but also based on religion. 

The immediate cause of the current unrest lies in a recommendation made by the Manipur High Court that the executive branch of the state government make the majority Meitei people eligible for Scheduled Tribe benefits, including access to land traditionally reserved for the minority Kuki community and other historic indigenous tribes. The Meitei have been pushing for this for over a decade, but they have not historically been considered an indigenous tribe and have not traditionally desired Scheduled Tribe status given certain stigmas associated with that designation. 

In response to the court’s recommendation, Kuki youth and youth from other indigenous tribes protested. Meitei attackers responded to the protests by burning a site of cultural significance to the Kukis, sparking widespread violence from both sides that continues to this day. 

As it has in other areas undergoing unrest, the Indian government has blocked internet access in Manipur to control the flow of information throughout the area. While this may make it more difficult for attackers to coordinate with each other, it also makes it nearly impossible to obtain verified information from the area. Still, the widespread destruction of houses of worship is well accepted and illustrates the complex nature of a conflict too easily simplified into a purely ethnic terms. 

A long-term solution to the violence in Manipur must do more than quell the immediate violence—it must address the root issues at stake, including religious tensions where applicable. Though religion is not the only issue at play, it is a serious one and cannot afford to be ignored moving forward. 

For interviews, please contact [email protected]