As a long time Scroll reader and contributor, I feel it was necessary to point out some glaring issues in two of your reported pieces from Manipur.
As I’d asked on Twitter, some parts of this reporting (“Feminist icons or violent vigilantes? The contentious role of Meira Paibis in Manipur’s conflict”) – which otherwise was fairly well done compared to half-baked stories like the ones run by BBC and DW – felt like wilful omissions.
“In more recent times, with the insurgency on the decline, the women have assumed a more vigilante role, playing referee on a range of domestic issues, from land disputes to lovers’ tiffs.”
I haven’t heard of a single case reported where Meira Paibis has played referee to “lover’s tiffs” but aside from that I don’t see how this sentence is written without being qualified or backed up. I thought this omission or oversight was particularly disappointing considering I had painstakingly reported on their vigilantism for Scroll back in 2019.
What they have been known to do is act like Bajrang Dal vigilantes harassing men and women if they are seen together in public places, attacking defense lawyers on rape cases and setting disputes on behalf of their respective leikas as I’d reported in my detailed report for Zubaan. The author appears to have cited many Meitei researchers but not from my work or Teresa Rehman who wrote a book on the 12 Meira Paibis? This kind of sourcing can only be seen as a shoddy attempt at a balancing act.
“On July 15, Lucy Marem, a Maring Naga woman, was killed near the foothills of Keibi Heikak Mapal village in Imphal East district, after a group of women allegedly handed her over to armed miscreants.”
The “armed miscreants” or Arambai Tenggol have been named by the United Naga Council but the author and editors appear to have omitted this and considered it not worthy of mentioning their alleged role.
This piece (“In Manipur, the Assam Rifles and state police are training their guns on each other”) is the prime example of not reporting a conflict from the desk considering it reveals nothing in terms of facts but ends up platforming propaganda and speculation without nuance. This reporting needed to be done from the buffer zones seeing the actual response of Assam Rifles and other paramilitary forces as well as the Manipur state commandos.
Though you have quoted an Army source saying the Manipur police have colluded with the mobs, there appears to be no link backs to your own reporting and others on the collusion of the state commandos/police with mobs in clearing Kuki localities in Imphal or the sexual assault on tribal women. There seems to be no context offered of overwhelming evidence, both testimonies and on video, of the state commandos colluding with the Meitei mobs (or Arambai Tenggol, to be precise). No such direct evidence exists of the same on Assam Rifles and Kukis.
Again, no such context or background is offered on the allegation of the Assam Rifles allowing the influx to happen given the orders passed by the Centre to “politely turn them away” or that CM Biren Singh himself went on the record to “welcome civilians from Myanmar” even though they were either detained near the border or imprisoned in Sajiwa jail.
Lastly, the “mercenary” angle, while an interesting argument, needed deeper reporting before being published as irresponsibly as it was, particularly at a time when the minority community is under siege on all sides. Why wasn’t there any response from the ITLF, SoO or any Kuki-Zo expert? My sincerest request to not run these stories that simply platform heavily bigoted narratives without context or qualification. – Makepeace Sitlhou
Please do not forget that war on drugs is all show (“Why Manipur’s civil war is being linked to the narcotics trade”). Chief Minister N Biren Singh has been protecting the drug marketeers, especially the biggest ones, who are from the Valley. See the case of T Brinda, former assistant commissioner of police, narcotics, Manipur. She was transferred out a few years ago by Biren Singh to protect a big drug lord. Disgusted, she resigned and has joined the Janata Dal (United). Opium is grown in the Valley too. The fight is about land more and narcotics is an excuse. – Romesh Bhattacharji
Narendra Modi is too headstrong to respond to any criticism or suggestion (“Ramachandra Guha: Why hasn’t Manipur Chief Minister Biren Singh been sacked yet?”). He is perhaps the only prime minister who has never tried to call an all-party meeting on the situation in Manipur. I doubt if he has spoken to anyone else apart from his partner in crime Amit Shah. He is in love with himself and even thinks all the world leaders respect him. They have got huge defence orders – the highest ever in the term as the prime minister of India. America’s relations with India are strategic because and the Quad is just a front against China. China’s main area of conflict is in the north – in Ladakh – and so far not in the Bay of Bengal. Modi’s rare appearances in Parliament are not to speak on policy but merely to target the opposition. – S N Iyer
I appreciate the author’s appeal to the Meitei community to speak out against the violence in Manipur (“Opinion: Meiteis must speak up against the Manipur violence – as writer MK Binodini would have done”). I have three comments:
First, “the Nagas have been silent”. I don’t think this is entirely true. The Forum for Restoration of Peace in Manipur was formed on May 22, consisting of people belonging to the Naga and Pangal communities. Its convenor Ashang Kasar has also been outspoken about the violence.
Second, “on the other hand, the Kukis, in self-defence and perhaps retaliation, have also attacked the Meiteis and their property. It is said they have been supported by insurgents and, on occasion, by armed militants from across the border. They have denied this, but even if it is true, it is in self-defence and their position is nowhere equal to the dominant Meitei community.” I don’t agree with how this paragraph downplays violence against Meiteis as only self-defence. Given the geographic separation that has happened, it is not possible for Kukis to have acted only in self-defence. This doesn’t take away from the author’s main point that the Kuki community’s position is nowhere equal to the Meitei community, which has the support of the chief minister and state machinery. While appealing to members from a community to speak for peace, it is better to acknowledge the violence against them, than to downplay it.
Third I found some typos:
a. The name of the BJP MLA who was attacked is Vungzagin Valte.
b. “On July 15, Lucy Marem, was bludgeoned to death despite her identifying herself as a Naga on July 15.” The date is mentioned twice.
c. “But before the process of reconciliation begins, the Kukis have a right to legal and political justice” This sentence ends abruptly, without a full stop. It feels like it was part of a longer paragraph, but only the first sentence is present. (Note: These corrections have been made). – Varun
Next, there will be FIRs against those who write books and articles that scientifically and logically justify the theory that the Aryan migration occurred from the steppes of Central Asia to the Indian subcontinent in 1800 BCE (“FIRs against author, two academicians in Manipur for allegedly distorting state’s history”).
– Ramesh Ramachandra