Manipur & beyond : Where it’s safe to be a Muslim!

There is no doubt in any sane mind that the N Biren Singh government in Manipur has failed. It failed to act when women were publicly disrobed, raped and a video clip showing two women being paraded naked in the presence of policemen became viral. Again it failed when 4,000-odd weapons were forcibly snatched, along with ammunition from its police armoury.  The men in khaki too failed as they did not offer any resistance at all while Manipur has been on the boil for close to three months. There are allegations that the policemen were complicit in allowing the criminals to loot the weapons. It also failed to protect citizens when over a hundred people had been killed and thousands displaced.

The barbarity of the crime – the Chief Justice of India questioned: What if there had been no video? It is up to the government to ensure the safety of citizens more so when it knows that the North-East, for decades, has been a hotbed of insurgency. To cite cases of violence in other states in the same breath as the Manipur incident is an insult to the women. Manipur is an instance of an absent government and an ineffective Police. Manipur incidents reflect badly on the state government and its police force.

Tehelka’s Special Investigation Team embarked upon a journey to understand the fault lines in Manipur as the situation went from bad to worse. During the investigation, Tehelka SIT uncovered an intriguing revelation — how Muslims in the strife-torn state have emerged as a unique bridge between warring Meitei and Kuki communities.

Our Cover Story in the current issue, ‘It is Safe to be a Muslim in Manipur’ finds that Muslims in Manipur are now friends of both Kukis and Meiteis. Locals point out that a border has been delineated around the Imphal valley, situated in the heart of Manipur where Meiteis cannot go up onto the mountains and Kukis down to the valley. Those violating this unwritten rule risk the possibility of getting killed. This physical gulf between Meitei and Kuki communities can only be traversed by those who are neither friends nor adversaries of the two communities. It is here that members of the Muslim community have emerged as a unique buffer and it is safe to be a Muslim in Manipur these days. Little doubt those visiting strife-torn states keep a Muslim acquaintance or a Muslim driver for their safety.

After nearly three-month-long ethnic violence in Manipur, the lines of division have become sharper with both communities expressing mistrust, anger and even hate against each other. In this atmosphere of hate and mistrust, Tehelka exclusively touched on an issue which no other media organization has raised so far. The common refrain is: “It is safe to be a Muslim in Manipur”!