80 Christians die after being displaced by violence in Manipur

A mass grave in Churachandpur district for Kuki-Zo people killed in an ethnic violence in Manipur state, India.
A mass grave in Churachandpur district for Kuki-Zo people killed in an ethnic violence in Manipur state, India. | The Christian Post

MANIPUR, India —Tens of thousands of Christians from the Kuki-Zo tribal community in India’s northeastern state of Manipur continue to be displaced, more than eight months after the onset of ongoing violence. During this period, at least 80 individuals, including women and children, have died due to inadequate healthcare and substandard living conditions in makeshift shelters in one district alone.

The conflict between the Kuki-Zo and the majority Meitei community, which is largely Hindu, over land rights and identity has been ongoing since May 3, 2023, resulting in at least 158 deaths and displacing nearly 41,000 Kuki-Zo individuals, according to the Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum.

Of these displaced individuals, at least 21,000 are in more than 110 relief camps in Churachandpur district, which is inhabited by the Kuki-Zo people. Mary Beth, who works with the Churachandpur-based Rural Women Upliftment Society, told The Christian Post that at least 80 displaced individuals, including women and children, have died primarily due to the absence of specialist doctors and essential medicine.

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Most of these victims had pre-existing conditions like asthma, cancer, renal issues and diabetes, and couldn’t afford to move to another state, Beth said, adding that the government’s aid, consisting of only one blanket and mattress per family, was grossly insufficient for the needs of the displaced families, averaging four members each.

Despite the state capital of Imphal being less than 40 miles away, no medicine or goods have been transported to Churachandpur since May 3, 2023. This has forced locals to rely on supplies from Aizawl, the capital of the neighboring Mizoram state, located roughly 220 miles away on hilly terrain.

The violence, despite military presence, continues to victimize people daily, with Meitei civilians reportedly blockading key routes to hinder security personnel. The local police, dominated by the Meiteis, have been accused of attacking the Kuki-Zo community.

Some young Kuki-Zo residents, known as village volunteers, have taken up arms for self-defense.

The violence began on May 3 over a contentious state high court order asking the state government to consider extending special economic benefits and quotas to the Meiteis, which would also allow them to purchase land in Kuki-Zo territories. Currently, the affirmative action is only for the state’s tribal communities, including the Kuki-Zo.

The violence has also led to destruction of over 7,000 Kuki-Zo homes and more than 350 churches. Some Kuki-Zo women were gang-raped.

On Dec. 20, a mass burial was held for 87 of the Kuki-Zo victims of violence in Churachandpur.

The state government’s response to the violence has been severely criticized.

In July 2023, the European Parliament passed a resolution urging the Indian government to urgently restore peace in Manipur.

“There have been concerns about politically motivated, divisive policies promoting Hindu majoritarianism, and about an increase in activity by militant groups,” the resolution stated. There are also “accounts of partisan involvement by security forces in the killings have increased distrust in the authorities.”

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