UCA News

Church group initiates peace talks in India’s Manipur

For the first time, Christian and Hindu leaders sat across the table to find ways to end the one-year-old strife
A child takes a nap inside a relief camp in Manipur on July 25, 2023. There is no end in sight to the one-year-old violence in the northeastern state.

A child takes a nap inside a relief camp in India's Manipur on July 25, 2023. There is no end in sight to the one-year-old violence in the northeastern state bordering Myanmar. (Photo: AFP)


Published: May 22, 2024 11:27 AM GMT
Updated: May 22, 2024 12:00 PM GMT

Led by a Church group, warring tribal Christians and Hindus in India’s northeastern Manipur have met for the first time to end the one-year-old sectarian strife that claimed over 220 lives.

“We had seven representatives each” from both the communities, said a Church official associated with the meeting held in the neighboring Assam state on May 17.

Over a dozen influential leaders from the Meitei Hindu and Kuki-Zo Christian communities were party to the first-ever meeting held at Bosco Reach Out, a Salesian house, in Guwahati in Assam.

Observers say the state administration, led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has failed to end the violence that started on May 3 last year.

“The leaders spent almost a day discussing ways to restore peace after the government failed to make any headway,” a Church official who attended the peace meeting told UCA News on May 22.

He described the meeting as a "significant breakthrough” as the leaders of both sides agreed to reach out to their respective people “with a positive mind.”

“Surely, their efforts will yield positive results,” said the Church official who did not want to be named.

The All-Manipur Christian Organisation, representing all Christian denominations in the state, initiated the meeting.

The Imphal diocese, based in the state capital, covers the entire church in the state, and it is headed by Archbishop Linus Neli.

Pastor Simon Raomai, president of the Christian organization, said at the May 17 meeting representatives of both communities stressed that "people of Manipur want peace, not violence.”

On May 21, he told UCA News that he could not divulge the names of representatives who attended the meeting. “We will let you know the details later,” he added.

The violence started in the hilly state bordering civil war-hit Myanmar over conferring the tribal status on majority Hindus to avail benefits under India’s affirmation policy. 

Christians protested against the court order directing the state government to include wealthy Meitei Hindus as tribal people, which would entitle them to avail quotas in government jobs and education.

The tribal status would also allow Hindus, who mainly reside in the lower valleys, to buy land owned by indigenous Christians in the hilly districts.

Hindus make up more than 51 percent, while tribal Christians are nearly 41 percent of Manipur’s 2.3 million people.

The sectarian conflict killed over 220 and displaced more than 50,000 people, a majority of them Christians.

More than 350 churches and other Christian institutions were set on fire and damaged by the violence.

The state government led by Chief Minister N Biren Singh has been accused by Christians of favoring Hindus since the sectarian violence started in the tiny state.

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An excellent initiative. God bless all concerned
Asian Bishops
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