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Role of Myanmar-based drug lords, 'illegal immigrants' suspected in Manipur violence

The official claimed that the state's drive for detection of 'illegal migrants' from Myanmar was another factor for the violence
Last Updated : 15 May 2023, 02:48 IST

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Amid a high level inquiry into the ongoing Kuki-Meitei clashes in Manipur, the BJP government in the state is increasingly pushing its claim that Myanmar-based drug lords and "illegal immigrants" from the neighbouring country were behind the violence that have already claimed 71 lives.

A senior government official in Manipur told DH that even as the protest against the move to offer ST for Meiteis was projected as the reasons leading to the clashes on May 3, the Myanmar-based drug lords and opium growers in the Kuki-dominated hills of Manipur lit the fire.

"Satellite imagery have detected largescale cultivation of opium in the forests and hills of Manipur and so Chief Minister N. Biren Singh intensified the drive to destroy poppy cultivation under his War on Drugs campaign. Over 18,000 acres of poppy cultivation has been destroyed so far since 2017. This have badly affected the poppy cultivation and narcotics drug business run by Myanmaris in Manipur.

The poppy could not be harvested this year due to the crackdown and so the drug mafias and the poppy growers lost a lot of money. So they were looking for an opportunity to create trouble and stop the drive against drugs," said the official, requesting anonymity.

He said one acre of opium fetch at least Rs. eight lakh to a farmer. "The poppies are taken to Myanmar through the porous India-Myanmar border, where the same is processed to produce heroin before being smuggled to other South East Asian markets," he claimed adding that the drugs traders has backing from the insurgent groups and some local politicians.

The poppy cultivation has been mostly detected in Kangpokpi, Churachandpur, Kamjong and Chandel districts, he said.

The official claimed that Biren Singh government's drive for detection of the "illegal migrants" from Myanmar, who settled in the hills of Manipur was another major reason leading to the violence. He said a total of 2,187 "illegal migrants" have been detected in 41 villages in Tengnoupal, Churachandpur, Kamjong and Chandel districts, during a recent verification drive conduced by the state government.

"The civil unrest in Myanmar resulted in large-scale influx of immigrants from Myanmar. This caused a sense of fear among the people, mainly among the Meitei and Nagas. But some Kuki organisations became unhappy after the government formed a cabinet sub-committee for detection of the illegal migrants," he said. Manipur government recently decided to set up some camps to house the illegal migrants from Myanmar.

Talking to DH over phone on Sunday, Paotinthang Lupheng, president of All Tribal Students' Union, Manipur (ATSUM), however, rejected Manipur official's claims. "All these are false and fabricated. The government is siding with Meiteis and is targeting the Kukis. The clashes are still on in some places and the situation may worsen again," he said.

Violence erupted in Churachandpur district on May 3, hours after a "solidarity march" was organised by the ATSUM to protest a move for granting ST status to the Hindu Meiteis, who constitute about 53 per cent of Manipur's population. The Kukis are against the move.

At least six students' unions representing the Meiteis, however, in a joint statement blamed the government for lending a blind ear to their long demand for introduction of NRC to detect the "illegal migrants" and crackdown on opium cultivation and illegal activities of the Kuki insurgent groups, who have been in suspension of operation with the government. The unions are- All Manipur Students’ Union, Manipuri Students’ Federation, Democratic Students’ Alliance of Manipur, Kangleipak Students’ Association, Students’ Union of Kangleipak and Apunba Ireipakki Maheiroi Sinpanglup.

They demand that the Centre should cancel the suspension of operation agreement with the Kuki insurgent groups, seize their weapons and initiate legal action for their involvement in illegal activities. There are at least 25 such insurgent groups in ceasefire.

Army, on the other hand, have stepped up vigil against the Meitei insurgent groups, who are still out of the peace process and may add fuel to the communal fire.

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Published 15 May 2023, 01:50 IST

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