Northeast India: A Journey of Volatile History and Ongoing Challenges
Northeast India: A Journey of Volatile History and Ongoing Challenges

With Manipur clashes in the picture, the whole North-eastern region speculates over AFSPA and UCC

Northeast India, a region of cultural diversity, has a long history of conflicts and insurgencies. Since British rule, the area’s unique tribal composition has created challenges in integrating it with the Indian land. The recent violent clashes in Manipur between the Meitei-Kuki tribes came to the surface because of the horrifying viral video of women being sexually assaulted.

Women’s bodies have been the site of assault and violence in civil riots like these, and even though this needs to be dealt with stringent actions, the central questions of prevalent hostility among the tribes remain unanswered.

The question of will the Manipuri tribes be given Scheduled Tribes (STs) status by the central government or what impact the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) will have has been brushed under the carpet by the officials for now.

Northeast India: A Story of Volatile History

Northeast India’s complicated history dates back to the colonial era when the British imposed their ideologies on the region’s diverse cultures. The British forced the Kuki population to convert to Christianity, often leading to resistance within the tribes trying to protect their unique traditions. The area has also had inadequate representation in the Indian Parliament, contributing to feelings of alienation and the rise of separatist movements. With over 475 ethnic groups and 400 languages spoken in the Northeast, the diverse cultural landscape often clashes with India’s uniformity efforts.

The merger of the Kingdom of Manipur with India sparked protests and laid the foundation for the emergence of insurgent groups.

Currently, the Meiteis comprise 60 percent of the population and are restricted to occupying only 10 percent of Manipur’s total land area. On the other hand, the rest of the region, comprising hill districts, is inhabited by tribal communities, mainly the Kukis and Nagas, who hold Scheduled Tribe (ST) status. However, there have been instances of violent expulsion of all Kukis from Imphal, and, notably, no Meiteis can be found in Churachandpur or other hill districts predominantly dominated by the Kuki community.

Interestingly, the Meitei community dominates the political power landscape in the state. So, this disproportionate division of power between the social groups makes it even more challenging to bring in UCC.

What was Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)?

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, introduced in the 1950s, granted sweeping powers to the armed forces to deal with emergencies and insurgency in specific areas. While initially aimed at controlling the Naga nationalist movement, it was extended to other states like Manipur and parts of Arunachal Pradesh due to secessionist and nationalist movements.

In the past few years, the security scenario in the Northeast has shown improvement, leading to the withdrawal of AFSPA from specific regions. However, in Manipur, the situation remains complex.

Uniform Civil Code Proposal and North-eastern Hostility

The proposal for a Uniform Civil Code aims to standardize personal laws for all citizens regardless of religion, to promote gender equality and secularism. This has been resisted by orthodox Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and other minority groups who have maintained their customs since colonial times. The drafters of the Constitution, recognizing the complexity of the matter, chose to include it in the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) rather than as a Fundamental Right.

India’s tribal population, a minority at approximately 9 percent, is spread extensively showcasing a wide range of traditions.

Moreover, implementing a uniform code in a region as diverse as the Northeast is even more complex, as local traditions hold cultural and religious importance. The UCC stands to streamline the laws of marriage, divorce and inheritance, and the indigenous tribes of Manipur fear these changes. Further, this could set off old grievances and fuel further hostility in the region. Different religions in the area add to the challenges in peaceful integration under the UCC.

So, now the question that threatens the integrity of Northeast India and especially Manipur, is whether the government will take appropriate actions to sustain the ongoing movements and implement UCC. Even though the proposal is in its initial stages, it has faced opposition from ethnic groups nationwide. Moreover, it challenges the current government’s position in the General Elections 2024. Currently, Manipur and Centre are controlled by the same party, and people are concerned about whether UCC will lead to a majoritarian rule or at least be inclusive in its approach.

As the region moves towards reconciliation and development, the Indian government must adopt a sensitive and inclusive approach to address genuine grievances. Only through meaningful dialogue and collaboration can lasting peace and integration be achieved in this magnificent and diverse part of the nation. If not, the secessionist agendas and the demand for separation from the Indian mainland can grow louder.

Read More: Unmasking the Richest Family of India’s Showbiz Empire


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here