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Indian Church leaders seek help as Manipur burns

Christians, nearly 41 percent of state’s population, embroiled in sectarian flare-up that has killed at least 12 people
Smoke billows from a house allegedly burned on May 3 by the Meitei community protesting to demand inclusion under the Scheduled Tribe category, in Churachandpur district of India's Manipur state

Smoke billows from a house allegedly burned on May 3 by the Meitei community protesting to demand inclusion under the Scheduled Tribe category, in Churachandpur district of India's Manipur state. (Photo: AFP)

Published: May 05, 2023 06:12 AM GMT
Updated: May 06, 2023 02:06 AM GMT

Church leaders in India have sought the federal government’s help following riots in a northeastern state which has claimed at least 12 lives and seen many churches vandalized.

A shoot-on-sight order was issued by the Manipur state government it imposed a curfew on May 4 following the deaths in unrest across the state. 

Soldiers were deployed in large numbers to enforce the curfew to bring the flare-up between tribal and non-tribal groups under control in Manipur, which borders Myanmar. 

“The situation is out of control. We urge the federal government to step in immediately. Else, I am afraid the people of Manipur may witness things that have not happened in the past,” Reverend Zuankamang Daimai of the Manipur Baptist Convention Center, told UCA News on May 4.

“In the last two days, more than 50 churches have been vandalized and more than 5,000 Christians displaced. Our people are in shock, praying for peace. The situation here has gone from bad to worse,” Daimai, based in the state capital Imphal, said.

The violence started after the state's top court asked the state government on April 19 to recommend to the federal government within four weeks to allow the demand of Meitei community to list them among Scheduled Tribes.

The Meitei people, a majority in the state, have been demanding this special status to help them enjoy rights to farm on forest land, low-cost bank loans and government jobs under India’s affirmative action plan called the reservation quota.

“Christian here are living in constant fear"

Tribal people say the Meitei community is quite well-off and more privileges would be unfair.

The Meiteis are mostly Hindus, while rival groups comprise indigenous people, and most of them are Christians who mainly live in hill districts. Tribal people make up 40 percent of the state population of 3.5 million and Christians account for more than 41.29 percent of them.

“Christians here are living in constant fear after the curfew was imposed. The Meitei group acts as if it is above the law while minority groups are hiding for their lives,” Daimai said.

The problem is that the majority Meitei group does not want others to excel,” he added. 

Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore in a statement expressed concern over the targeting of Christians in the state.

“It is with deep concern that we note the resurgence of persecution of Christians in Manipur,” Archbishop Machado said on May 5. The archbishop has already filed a petition in India's top court, seeking action over violence against Christians in the country.  The Supreme Court is currently hearing the case.

A mass rally was organized on May 3 by the All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur which turned violent in the Churachandpur district and other places and many houses were set on fire. In the capital Imphal, there were several incidents of violence against tribal people. 

Churches and temples were damaged and ransacked and vehicles were burnt in places like Checkon, New Lambulane, Sangaiprou, and Game Village and internet services are suspended.

“We urge all parties involved to exercise restraint” and work towards peace, Allen Brooks, spokesperson of United Christian Forum North East India, representing the Christian community in India’s seven northeastern states, said.

“We extend our condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives in the unrest,” he added.

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11 Comments on this Story
DHANANJOY LAISHRAM
Please don't spread false news ???? it is not a war between Christian and meitei . We know some church has been burnt down but it was not started by meiteis . At first kukis started burning meitei houses . Meiteis worship their gods inside the house . Meitei worship their supreme god Sanamahi inside the house . Burning a meitei house is like burning a meitei temple . But let the past be past , let's try to bring peace ???? and let's not believe in any fake news and spread fake news . Please...
ASH
Y r u writing biased comments & spreading more fire ? U seem ignorant of Christian trials too worshipping daily in their houses besides their Sunday church worship. & don't spread fake news of who attacked first. The world is filly aware of the fact that since the rule of the radical Hindus, the rss/bajrang dal backed always act above the law in leading violence against non Hindus in India.
AMAR
Very unpleasant to hear about the vandalism of Churches.But let me tell you something, the conflict is not among two religion rather it is among two communities i.e Meitei and Kuki Community.There are other Christian communities in the states who have not been harmed or neither they are involved in the destruction of mandirs like the kuki community were involved in the destruction of famous Koubru Shiv Mandir. So please don't give religious angle to this unfortunate turn of event.May peace prevail soon.
KK
Please don't write any stupid article,never attack on Christianity,don't try to create larger religion war, kuki planted popi drug all the hill Govt destroyed popi. And reserve forest and protected forest area Govt notice to clear, that's why they are not happy, tribal want 90% land of Manipur and we occupied 10% even in valley they can do anything, but only we are restricted in hill areas, so meitei demands ST status for meitei, but we never fight with their community, we demand to Govt, but they don't go to Govt instead they protest against our community, they started burning meitei community temple, and mandir, and they started burning houses, our run for the life, they were well prepare and process. But we never knew anything, they like war and bloodshed from the generation, don't blame meitei people's, kukis are fighting with nagas from 100 of years we meitei are the people's rescue them and help them from the generation, often they demand kuki land this Kand that land, we meitei never done that, so who's the fault, don't creat stupid article and never try to destroy. If you are Christian think and do the right, Buy everything what you are spreading and writing are absolutely wrong, it will creat never ending war.
DHARMEN
Pls refrain on any biased comments .. we all need to live together with binding force of love and respect .. each communities worship place were burnt and heart sentiments but this need to be restored.
MASHIUR
Kukis now need separate kukiland ...it's time demand....
N NANDINI DEVI
Please don't spread fake news... This issue is not about any religion issue.. Please don't try to bring this issue into religion rivalry. Try to share the news which will bring peace between both community (Meitei and Kuki).
JC_CHENGLEI
Don't spread fake news!!! The conflict is not between Hindu and Christian! Don't bring religion into this. The matter is serious!!
SYLVIA
Terrible to hear that Manipur is going through such difficult times once again. As a Christian hearing about Churches being burnt up and synagogues and mandirs are being burnt up too, I am afraid if we have lost our Indian democracy and Freedom of personal faith. What will be next? Our personal life? I call upon all brothers and sisters in India who still believes in Peace and Unity in Diversity to pray and intervene for Manipur in any way possible big or small so once again this lovely state of multi-communities flourish again and bring pride to our country, India! Jai Hind!
RKSANDHU
When churches were scamming people into conversions, these Christians had nothing to say, now they are claiming attack by meitei community. Christians are 41% because of yhe conversion scams. The govt is dealing with the issue in the best way deem fit.
ISAAC GOMES
According to first-hand information from a Manipuri friend who called me up yesterday (and whose family members are injured and stranded in Manipur) and various news reports including Anandabazar Patrika of Bengal of 7th May 2023, violence and arson erupted on the night of Wednesday 3rd May in Choorachandpur (Manipur). The Meitei which is the predominant ethnic group of Manipur has been demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status Manipur. In protest against their demand All Tribal Student Union of Manipur (ATSUM) took out a procession on Wednesday. The conflict which started from thereon, escalated and the situation went out of hand of the police. Houses have been set on fire over larges areas and extensive damage has been caused. Many tribals have been forced to leave their house and landed properties. It could be that Meitei people might take forcible possession of these properties. The army and Assam Rifles personnel are on the roads and lanes of Manipur. They are also monitoring the situation by use of air surveillance and drones. According to an army source, some insurgent groups living in Manipur valley region are the main obstacles to peace in the northeastern state. So it is necessary to monitor their movements. The army source said that since the valley areas of Manipur are surrounded by mountains, it is not possible to carry out ground surveillance there. Apart from that, the army wants to be careful about the fact that illegal infiltration does not take place through the border of Myanmar. Only two months ago there was a demand by a politically-backed group in Assam that the Scheduled Tribe (ST) status of all tribals (in the North-east) who had converted to Christianity and Islam, should be cancelled. Is this a sequel to that demand? The political alignment gives this indication.
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